IT’S OBVIOUS how co-owned wealth dividends would benefit the middle class, but not so obvious how they’d affect climate change. However, the effect would be considerable—and beneficial.
Charging for use of our co-owned atmosphere, and paying that money to all Americans equally, is a simple and logical way to curb the greenhouse gas emissions that are destabilizing our planet. Two bills introduced in Congress in 2010 would have done just that, and one of them was re-introduced this year.
The so-called “cap and dividend” approach to carbon pollution is similar to cap and trade, but better. Both approaches seek to “internal- ize” the unpaid costs of carbon pollution, but cap and trade is full of loopholes and giveaways, while cap and dividend is not. What’s more, cap and trade would lose middle class support as fossil fuel prices rise, while cap and dividend would gain middle class support as dividends benefit them more than higher fuel prices hurt.
More broadly, if the environmental movement is to become a movement again, it will have to align with the middle class rather than polluters. Linking dividends to reducing pollution is the way to do that.