Climate Change Lobby to open new chapter in Tampa Bay area this Saturday

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Chipotle customers may soon have to deal with consuming their burritos without guacamole. That's because the Mexican fast-food chain has announced that it could temporarily suspend sales of guacamole and some salsas due to an increase in food costs brought on by climate change.

"Increasing weather volatility or other long-term changes in global weather patterns, including any changes associated with global climate change, could have a significant impact on the price or availability of some of our ingredients," Chipotle officials said.

Perhaps that might persuade some doubters that climate change is going to start affecting Americans on an everyday basis.

It's been almost five years since one part of Congress attempted to do anything substantial to combat climate change. In June of 2009, the Democratic-led House of Representatives narrowly passed a measure creating a cap-and-trade system that set a limit on overall emissions of heat-trapping gases while allowing utilities, manufacturers and other emitters to trade pollution permits, or allowances, among themselves.

The bill was praised by President Obama as a “a bold and necessary step," but it went no further, dying in the Senate.

But there is a bipartisan grassroots group pushing for a measure that would impose a carbon a tax of $25 for every ton of carbon put out by most sectors of the economy, including electricity generation, manufacturing, and transportation. It's called 
Citizens Climate Lobby, with chapters all across the country. This Saturday, the Tampa Bay area chapter will formally open with a workshop scheduled to take place at the Friends Meeting House 130 19th Ave. S.E., in St Petersburg.

"The important thing is it's revenue neutral, which means that 100 percent of the proceeds from the oil and gas and coal industries get divided among all American households, and that allows them to make the transition to clean sources of energy, and that in turn has an economic wide effect," says Abhaya Thiele, a Gainesville resident and member of Citizens Climate Lobby who is helping to coordinate Saturday's event.

According to the Congressional Budget Office, a carbon tax of $25 per ton of emissions would cut the federal deficit by $1 trillion over a decade. For years it's been the most concrete proposal that could address the issue of climate change in the U.S., 

Last year, Barbara Boxer (D-California) and Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont) introduced a measure in the Senate that would place a fee on carbon pollution emissions, which in turn would fund investments in energy efficiency and sustainable energy technologies such as wind, solar, geothermal and biomass. The proposal also would provide rebates to consumers to offset any efforts by oil, coal or gas companies to raise prices. It didn't go anywhere.

Theile says that the issue has been talked up by economists, academics and some newspaper columnists over the years. But CCL's focus is to bring more attention to the proposal by writing letters to the editor, penning op-eds, meeting with editorial boards and most importantly, meeting with members of Congress and/or their staffs.

'The unique perspective of Citizens Climate Lobby from my point of view is that it focuses on solutions," says Theile. "I believe it's an achievable solution," she says, adding that the goal is to get federal legislation passed in 2015.

Theile has been an environmental activist for years — first in Charlottesville, Virginia and then in Gainesville. She says she learned about CCL while attending a speech by longtime NASA scientists Dr. James Hansen at a climate rally in D.C. that inspired her to find out more about the organization.  

Again, the workshop for the Citizens Climate Lobby will take place this Saturday afternoon at 1 p.m., at the Friends Meeting House 130 19th Ave. S.E., in  St Petersburg.


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