Business is getting behind a carbon tax, and that’s good for Nevada

The Strip in 2019. General Motors recently announced it will produce only zero-emission vehicles by 2035.(Photo by Wesley Tingey on Unsplash)

With increasing frequency, business leaders are taking a stance on combating climate change. Today they’re responding to the increased public attention, confirmed by Yale University’s recent studies showing that close to 80 percent of Americans, including conservatives as well as progressives, want action on climate change.

Businesses are heeding the call to action. They’re seeing the ample evidence that our changing climate is contributing to ever more calamitous weather events: hurricanes, floods, wildfires and more. Here in Nevada, the worst effects are continuing drought and ever-increasing temperatures. The health and social impacts on Nevada’s citizenry are enormous, especially on poor communities and those of color.

Besides the tangible costs, there are the intangibles of extreme distress as people are forced to relocate when their home area becomes unlivable. Nevada is seeing an influx of these “climate refugees” escaping the damages caused by wildfires and mudslides in surrounding states.

Businesses are recognizing the financial consequences to our economy of extreme weather events. Billions of dollars have been spent on environmental reparations, infrastructure repairs, and insurance reimbursements. Insurance companies are paying out enormous sums in claims, and they are raising their rates for all of us to compensate for this outlay. Critics who think any climate plan, including Nevada’s recently released Climate Initiative, will be too expensive to implement, fail to acknowledge that the costs of dealing with the environmental, economic, and human health effects of extreme weather events are already huge and can only get worse if unaddressed.

Until recently, the business community was mostly silent, fearing the economic burden that could result from climate legislation. However, that now appears to be slowly changing. Many companies have pledged to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050 by transitioning to renewable energy; they are fully expecting a price or tax to be put on carbon pollution and are gearing up for that expectation. The 200-member Business Roundtable now supports placing a price on carbon, as does the five-member bipartisan Commodities Futures Trading Commission, citing “havoc in financial markets from climate change.”

Just last month the U.S. Chamber of Commerce stated they support “market-based solutions for addressing climate change” including a tax on carbon. Even more recently, Larry Fink, chief of the very influential BlackRock, in his annual letter to CEOs is asking companies to “disclose a plan for how their business model will be compatible with a net-zero economy.” He defines this as limiting global warming to 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial averages and eliminating net greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.

General Motors recently announced it will produce only zero-emission vehicles by 2035. As new lithium mining operations may be coming to Nevada,  Eric Norris, mining outfit Albemarle’s president for lithium, recently said “the environmental footprint of the (lithium mining) operation and the sustainability of the operation are very important… Our customers…want sustainable production.”

Business leaders understand that addressing climate change presents opportunities for them. Not only will it slow its ever-worsening advance, but also spur creativity, innovation and new technology. That in turn will create plenty of new jobs. Nevada already leads the nation in renewable energy production, and these also are industries in which good jobs are fully expected to increase as businesses transition away from climate-damaging fossil fuels. We have extensive renewable energy resources here but we’re not capitalizing enough on it. As the demand increases, we can become a prime exporter of renewable energy, and result in even more good jobs. These, like the energy, will be sustainable and not subject to the boom and bust cycle of the construction and hospitality industries that are so damaging to our economy. Energy will always be needed, no matter what, and it may as well come from Nevada!

The business community is beginning to realize that climate legislation which includes a price on carbon will be good for the economy, good for people, and good for the planet. We can expect to hear more good news from them as the Biden administration pursues climate legislation.

Rita Ransom
Rita Ransom is a Southern Nevada volunteer with Citizens' Climate Lobby.