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Letter: Climate change a national threat

A State of the Union traditionally offers a candid assessment major problems, a positive vision of how things might be, and guidance for Congress on how to address those issues. However, President Trump's speech was notable because of what he did not say. Not once did he utter the words "climate change."

Yet, polls show that recent climate-related events increasingly have led Americans to regard this as a major threat to lives and livelihoods, our communities and even our national security. Climate change is our true national emergency.

The reasons for such a glaring omission reflects the political ideologies of those who surround Trump as advisers, cabinet members and financial donors. It also arises from this president's own limited abilities to read, listen, comprehend and draw reasoned conclusions.

Once we accept, however, the overwhelming scientific evidence on the "what and why" of climate change, a clear direction forward appears.

Basically, policies can be of two types. Some can move us toward reducing future greenhouse gas emissions, while others can help us adapt to the consequences of the climate changes that already have occurred or are likely.

Although Trump made no mention of either, both of these types were noted in the "democratic response" that followed.

A House Speaker of years past famously remarked that "all politics is local." To this we might add that all climate change policies should be nonpartisan. They must be based upon science, environmental and economic, and provide us with forecasts of likely outcomes under different scenarios of action or inaction.

One such analysis appears on the web pages the Citizens' Climate Lobby. Specifically, the study reports on the impact that a revenue-neutral, carbon fee and dividend (CFD) would have on the U.S. economy over the next 10 and 20 years.

CFD is only one example of the first type of policy, but it is very similar to an actual bill introduced into Congress last month. As a regional economist myself, and one who has used econometric methods in his own work, I found this study's predictions to be not only revealing, but beyond my professional criticism of its design or empirical methods.

This study is also interesting because it offers forecasts of the impacts of a CFD at both national and regional levels.

Nationally, the estimates suggest that after 20 years alone, there would be a 50 percent reduction of carbon emissions from 1990 levels, while creating an additional 3 million jobs over what would otherwise occur, and 250,000 fewer deaths from reduced pollutants in the air. And regionally, for Wisconsin and four other states, the impact in each of these three areas, and other areas, is even more favorable than it is for the nation as a whole.

If all politics is local, and climate change is nonpartisan, our elected representatives at all levels might wish to take note. And hopefully, then act.

Robert Schlack

Bayfield, Wis.