We are writing in response to Isaiah Schrader’s ’21 March 5th op-ed, in which he criticizes both Students for Carbon Dividends — also known as S4CD — and the Carbon Dividends Plan. The article includes a number of misleading or inaccurate assertions, and we welcome this opportunity to set the record straight.
First, Schrader calls the plan a “sham,” a characterization which flies in the face of reality. In fact, the Carbon Dividends Plan, which centers on a revenue-neutral carbon tax, is supported by the broadest climate coalition in American history. This includes virtually every leading editorial board in the country: The New York Times, Chicago Tribune, Bloomberg, USA Today, Nature, The Boston Globe, the New Haven Register and the Washington Post; thought leaders across the political spectrum: Janet Yellen, Ben Bernanke, Larry Summers, Steven Chu, Laurene Powell Jobs, Stephen Hawking; and several of the largest and most respected environmental groups in the world, including Conservation International and the World Wildlife Fund. It is also supported by virtually every living chair of the president’s Council of Economic Advisers in the last half-century from both sides of the aisle, 27 Nobel Prize-winning economists — the largest number to endorse any policy, ever — and over 3,500 economists across the country — the largest statement of economists in the history of the profession.
That is an unbelievable amount of bipartisan brain power. One is of course welcome to hold different or complementary views — a diversity of perspectives is something we encourage — but the Carbon Dividends Plan is about as mainstream as it gets. Notably, the national list of supporters includes more than 30 Yale economists, as well as Provost Ben Polak, School of Management Dean Edward Snyder, Nobel Prize-winner Robert Shiller and many more.
Second, Schrader calls the plan “ineffective,” a claim similarly untethered from reality. The truth is that the Carbon Dividends Plan would be exceptionally good at driving emissions reductions. According to an independent analysis from the nonpartisan and highly respected nonprofit, Resources for the Future, the plan — with a starting carbon price of $40 per ton — would exceed the high-end of the U.S. commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions under the Paris Agreement. And that is just at a minimum. As the price on carbon continues to rise — an essential element of the plan — the emissions reductions would be even greater.
Given all of this, the Carbon Dividends Plan has the unique distinction of being both environmentally ambitious and politically viable. It is unclear if any other climate plan with mainstream traction can make that claim. Environmental ambition without political viability does nothing to stop climate change.
We are in dire need of creative solutions. The movement for carbon dividends is not your run-of-the-mill climate operation, but that is exactly the point. In the words of the World Wildlife Fund, “Perhaps what’s most critical – and in shortest supply – is radical cooperation.” That cooperation does not preclude, and in fact is meant to encourage, a broader conversation about climate solutions. The Carbon Dividends framework is a valuable starting point that can be built upon with subsequent measures to protect our environment.
As Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse ’78, D-RI, recently remarked, discussions within the climate community often feel like a “circular firing squad.” Instead, the planet would love nothing more than for its inhabitants to stop fighting and work together to find real solutions. That is what we, and the over 50 Yale members of S4CD, are working to achieve. We are not just committed to making a point — we are committed to making a difference.
Billions of people will be impacted by climate change, and few -— if any — issues could be more important. We invite, and highly encourage, all of you to lean in on climate policy. Our security and prosperity depend on it.
Dani Schulman ’20, Co-President of the Yale Student Environmental Coalition, Jordan Cozby ’20, Former President of the Yale College Democrats, Epongue Ekille ’21, S4CD Core Team, Jack Pleasants ’21, S4CD Core Team