MEREDITH — Town warrants do not usually address global issues, but an exception will play out on March 11.
Warrant Article 16 asks voters to “take action on climate pollution.”
It is advisory only, urging lawmakers to take action.
“We the town of Meredith hereby call upon our State and Federal elected representatives to enact carbon-pricing legislation to protect New Hampshire from the costs and environmental risks of continued climate inaction,” the warrant article states.
“To protect households, we support a Carbon Fee and Dividend approach that charges fossil fuel producers for their carbon pollution and rebates the money collected to all residents on an equal basis.”
Meredith resident Rick DeMark, a volunteer with the Carbon Cash-Back Coalition, said 40 people signed a petition to get the issue on the town warrant. A total of 25 signatures were needed.
DeMark said climate pollution needs to be reduced and that carbon fees and dividends are the cheapest and fairest way to do this, while creating jobs, saving lives and protecting household purchasing power.
“The bottom line here is to motivate innovation and get away from fossil fuels,” DeMark said. “Until a value, a fee, is placed on carbon, there’s no incentive for the emitters to change.”
State and federal legislation
State and federal legislation has been introduced that would assess a fee on carbon-based fuel at the first point of sale or extraction, with most of the money to be rebated to consumers.
The state legislation, New Hampshire House Bill 735, was tabled. Opponents said it would disrupt the economy, hurt consumers and not reduce carbon emissions. The federal legislation is pending.
A fiscal impact statement in the state bill said 95 percent of the revenue collected would be disbursed to residential, commercial and industrial energy users and greenhouse gas reduction programs.
The applicable New Hampshire annual greenhouse gas emissions are estimated to be 15 million tons of carbon dioxide equivalents. Fees on these emissions would generate nearly $800 million in revenue by 2023.
A NASA statement says:
“Multiple studies published in peer-reviewed scientific journals show that 97 percent or more of actively publishing climate scientists agree: Climate-warming trends over the past century are extremely likely due to human activities. In addition, most of the leading scientific organizations worldwide have issued public statements endorsing this position.”
The U.S. National Academy of Sciences, the American Meteorological Society and the American Medical Association are among those organizations that have issued statements saying human-caused climate change is occurring.
The 10 warmest years in the 140-year record all have occurred since 2005, according to NASA.
Rep. Michael Vose, R-Epping, who is on the state House Science Technology and Energy Committee, said in an interview Thursday that NASA is incorrect.
"The people who put together the 97 percent consensus claim used dubious data," he said. "It has been extensively examined and debunked by people who have examined it closely."
Vose said a carbon tax would affect so many products that dividends would not keep pace with consumer costs. He also said that consumers must have fuel oil to heat homes and gasoline to power cars so it's unlikely demand for such products would decline enough to significantly reduce greehouse gas emissions.
Vose spoke against the bill at a hearing in Concord.
“The collapse of the New Hampshire economy is what this carbon tax will likely induce,” he testified. “Since surrounding states will not have adopted this tax, energy prices in those states will become lower than those here.
“People will drive to neighboring states to buy cheaper gas. Renters, especially those who commute out of state to work, will move there because apartment utilities will be lower. Since all goods and services vendors in New Hampshire will be subject to the carbon tax, the price of everything will go up. This inflation will cut back on other expenses, such as labor. Jobs will be lost. Companies may eventually be forced to relocate out of state. New Hampshire will fall into a death spiral of economic chaos.”
Towns and cities
Citizens Climate Lobby coordinator John Gage said 29 towns have accepted petitions to put the climate pollution article on local ballots, including Plymouth, Holderness and Rumney, in addition to Meredith.
He said subsequent efforts will target cities and other towns.
"A total of 46 countries already have a price on carbon emissions and some, like the EU, are considering applying border carbon adjustment tariffs on imports from countries that don't match their price," Gage said.
"This is the same approach that the federal bill uses to protect US jobs and strongly encourage all other countries to match our carbon price.