Climate column: The trim tab of our economy
I like to think of us as a town of mariners. It's not exactly accurate, I know. Many Lake County residents have never been out on Lake Superior (a lamentable fact that we keep working on with our local sail rides).
Still, most people in Lake County are connected to the lake in some way. We fish, work around ships or have ancestors who did those things. We note the wave height and check out the break wall in a gale. We feel warm, moist air in the summer and cool, moist air in the winter. We kayak or go boating along the shore for the pleasure of it.
So I feel OK about using a mariner's metaphor in this column about climate change solutions. Consider that a boat is our nation in regard to its use of energy — which is to say, its economy.
Fossil fuels have largely driven the direction of our economy for a long time. We have built up a great deal of momentum in this and changing direction significantly can feel overwhelming.
Now, imagine that this boat is headed for a big cement wall. It may destroy the wall, but in doing so, it will certainly be damaged, and may founder. This is the situation in which we find ourselves with our accelerating global temperatures. We are poised to founder without a significant change in direction.
Any mariner will tell you that this is not the time to argue about who is at fault. What we need to do is change direction and avoid catastrophe. Relying on currents to slowly and laboriously alter the course would do the trick, if we had hundreds of miles of space to turn and lots of time. The actions of thousands of individuals, working alone, can accomplish this type of energy shift.
But the cement wall is not that far away, and our speed is not slowing significantly. We need to find an easier and quicker way to turn. There is one! And here's the mariner's analogy: A trim tab is a relatively tiny blade attached to a boat rudder. It is designed to increase boat efficiency under various conditions.
A small adjustment on the trim tab will tweak the angle of the rudder. The rudder turns the boat, and the boat changes course. The stronger the tweak of the trim tab, the sharper the change in direction.
If you are working hard on your own to lower your carbon footprint, and your efforts seem inconsequential to the size of the problem — in short, you are unable to turn the boat on your own — consider working to tweak the trim tab instead.
What's the trim tab of our economy? Carbon fee and dividend legislation. It's got sponsors from both parties, and a name: the Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act (H.R. 763). It is a good bill; it's simple, transparent and predicted to effectively drop emissions, create more jobs than it shrinks and save lives with a cleaner world. It allows the market, i.e. our own choices, to solve the problem.
This bill is the trim tab. Passed into law, it will make all the work everyone is doing much easier. It uses forces already in motion to turn the rudder. With it, we have a shot at avoiding the cement wall. Adjusting the trim tab is smart politics, and supporting it is in the hands of our new congressman, Pete Stauber. He can be reached locally at 218-481-6396.
Katya Gordon is a Two Harbors resident and volunteer for the Citizens' Climate Lobby, which meets monthly in the Two Harbors/Duluth area.