Today’s guest is Mark Reynolds, Executive Director at Citizens’ Climate Lobby.
Executive Director Mark Reynolds’ tenure at Citizens’ Climate Lobby has been marked by exceptionally rapid growth, with the organization doubling or tripling in size every year.
During his years as a private sector trainer and consultant, Citizens’ Climate Education Executive Director Mark Reynolds worked to maximize personal and organizational effectiveness in a variety of fields. Today, he uses those skills to empower ordinary citizens to educate influential stakeholders about the benefits of national climate solutions. As a globally-recognized expert on helping disparate interests find common ground on energy, public policy, and the environment, Mark has appeared before the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication, AREday, and Power Shift. He oversees a training curriculum that reaches tens of thousands of supporters every year, has been a frequent guest on TV and radio shows, and has written op-eds on climate solutions for 85 print journals, including the Houston Chronicle, the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Des Moines Register, the Austin American-Statesman, and the Salt Lake Tribune. Mark also serves on multiple advisory boards including Climate Advocate Platform and Climate Cost Project.
In today’s episode, we cover:
CCL founding story and their areas of focus
The growth CCL has had under Mark’s leadership, and why Mark feels that is
Polarized government and implications for getting things done
Details of their carbon fee and dividend proposal
Where things stand today and where they need to go
Some headwind with their proposal and carbon pricing in general
The CCL playbook and plan of attack
Discussion on how bills get signed into law and what this bill would need to get signed into law
Learnings from Waxman Markey
How people can help
Parallels Mark draws to cigarette smoking
GND and price on carbon
If Mark could wave magic want to accelerate their efforts, what would he change and why
Links to topics discussed in this episode:
Citizens’ Climate Lobby: https://citizensclimatelobby.org/
Marshall Saunders: https://citizensclimatelobby.org/about-ccl/citizens-climate-lobbys-founder/
Citizens’ Climate International conference: https://citizensclimatelobby.org/2019-conference/
Collective action: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Collective_action
David Jolly CCL interview: https://citizensclimatelobby.org/a-former-republican-congressmans-take-on-the-midterms/
Theda Skocpol: https://scholar.harvard.edu/thedaskocpol/home
Grover Norquist tax pledge: https://www.businessinsider.com/who-is-grover-norquist-pledge-signers-list-fiscal-cliff-republicans-tax-2012-11
Climate Leadership Council: https://www.clcouncil.org/
Jonathan Haidt TED talk: https://www.ted.com/talks/jonathan_haidt_on_the_moral_mind?language=en
Frank Luntz: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frank_Luntz
Frank Luntz’s call for climate action: https://grist.org/article/the-gops-most-famous-messaging-strategist-calls-for-climate-action/
You can find me on twitter @jjacobs22 or @mcjpod and email at firstname.lastname@example.org, where I encourage you to share your feedback on episodes and suggestions for future topics or guests.
Enjoy the show!
Jason Jacobs: Hello everyone, this is Jason Jacobs and welcome to my Climate Journey. This show follows my journey to interview a wide range of guests to better understand and make sense of the formidable problem of climate change and try to figure out how people like you and I can help.
Jason Jacobs: Today's guest is Mark Reynolds, Executive Director at Citizens' Climate Lobby. Citizens' Climate Lobby is a nonprofit, nonpartisan grassroots advocacy organization focused on national policies to address climate change. I've now hit carbon pricing from several different angles here on the pod, but given that CCLs carbon fee and dividend proposal seems to be getting real traction on both sides of the aisle. I had to get Mark's perspective.
Jason Jacobs: We cover a lot in this episode including anything you'd want to know about Citizens' Climate Lobby. Anything you'd want to know about their specific proposal, some of the objections that they have heard on both sides of the aisle, and how those concerns tend to differ on each side of the aisle. And we also talk about not only the steps that much cultural occur to get their specific bill into law, but a good tutoring session for me on how to get bills into law in general.
Jason Jacobs: I thought Mark was really insightful, and I hope you do as well. Mark Reynolds, welcome to the show.
Mark Reynolds: Thank you.
Jason Jacobs: I appreciate you coming on. As you know I've been on this Climate Journey and I've talked to several people now that are focused on this general area of price on carbon, people like Adele Morris at Brookings and Joseph Majkut at Niskanen and Alex Flint from Market Solutions and Steve Gan, who I talked to pretty early on in the Climate Journey and of course worked with you, suggested that you would be a great guest. And while I've learned a lot about the price on carbon and carbon tax. I still have questions, and you guys are right at the forefront of all of this. I'm very honored and excited to have this discussion with you.
Mark Reynolds: Thank you. I'm honored to be part of the group of people that you just mentioned.
Jason Jacobs: Great. Well, for starters I know a bit, but for listeners benefit what is Citizens' Climate Lobby?
Mark Reynolds: Our founder's name is Marshall Saunders. He's initially from Waco, Texas, which I think most of the leaders of big environmental groups are from Waco.
Jason Jacobs: Is that true?
Mark Reynolds: No.
Jason Jacobs: I was going to say I've never met any. We're just getting to know each other Mark, but you just gave us a little peak right from the outset and to your sense of humor. I like it.
Mark Reynolds: He spent 20 years setting up microcredit loans, which you go to the poorest of the poor people in the world, and you loan them small amounts of money so that they can start a small business in their community, which really could be as small as building chairs or selling a few eggs. And what happens in microcredit is really, really poor people lift themselves up out of poverty and then 98% of the loans end up getting repaid. Once you start the process, it's a really remarkable program for having the most extremely poor people in the world much better off.
Mark Reynolds: He'd spent about 20 years doing that. He's initiated over a million microcredit loans. And then he realized with most things, climate change was going to impact the most vulnerable first, and that there was a very good chance that his work to alleviate extreme poverty was going to be undone by climate change. Now, the good news was the entire time he'd been working on extreme poverty, he had been doing it with an organization called RESULTS.
Mark Reynolds: And RESULTS was a grassroots organization like ours. And what they proved was that if you organize by Congressional districts, your Member of Congress actually has to see you, that if you do organize locally, you're trying to influence a specific community, you can actually get Congress to do some really interesting things. 35 years ago-
Jason Jacobs: What do you mean they have to see you?
Mark Reynolds: Well, if you live in the district and you call up the office of your Member of Congress and you say, "I'd like to see you." There point of view is that, if you live in district they basically have to see you. It's not like it's a law, it's just that their relationship with constituents is they start from the perspective that if the constituent asked to see them, they're going to see them.
Mark Reynolds: What RESULTS proved is that if you had a lot of constituents contact your Members of Congress, you could get interesting things done. 35 years ago what they started to do was to ask Congress to increase their appropriation for poverty programs. And the U.S. used to give about $25 million a year, giving over a half billion a year for quite some time and at one point over 2 billion in tough budget times. And if you asked Member of Congress why that is, they say, "It's because the RESULTS volunteers are so successful."
Mark Reynolds: Marshall said to himself was, "What the climate needs is, it actually needs a grassroots organization." There are plenty big, heavily funded environmental groups, but what we need is an organization that's going to build support in the district, if members make the tough vote they know they're going to feel support in the district. In 2007, what he simply said is, "I've seen a model that actually works for grassroots support called RESULTS. I'm going to replicate that in the climate area."
Mark Reynolds: 2007, he founded Citizens' Climate Lobby. When I came to the organization in 2009 there were six groups and about 25 active volunteers, and there are now over 500 chapters and 146,000 supporters. We've experienced quite a bit of growth over the last 10 years of trying to build actual grassroots support industry.
Jason Jacobs: And what does that mean 146,000 supporters? How do you define supporter?
Mark Reynolds: Supporters very simply defined us somebody who goes on our website and says, "Yes, I've support what you're doing." We try and measure what percentage of those people are engaged. That is their regular meeting with our Member of Congress, or they're doing outreach events, or are there regularly tweeting on our issue, or they're getting published in their local newspaper.
Mark Reynolds: Somewhere between 30 to 35% are active at any given time. The 146,000 supporters, those are just people that went to our website and said, "Yes, this is something that wants support." What we try and focus on those people are actually busy making things happen.
Jason Jacobs: Got it. And how big is the full time staff?
Mark Reynolds: There's 35 full time staff and 20 more part time.
Jason Jacobs: Great. And then you have this huge web of volunteers that you can kind of dial up or dial down based on how their mobilization can be most effective or how does it work?
Mark Reynolds: Well, there's several things we do. One thing we do is every June we have a conference in Washington D.C. and this last June we had 1,531 people. These were volunteers who came on their own dime to D.C., there is a hundred Senate offices, there's 435 House offices though that's impossible 535 meetings. On Lobby Day we met with 529 offices. One of the big things we do every year is we have a June conference, and we try and see every member of Congress.
Mark Reynolds: Additionally, every month we have a call, and on that call we have a guest speaker. That's lots of scientists, a lot of economists, sometimes people who are messaging experts on climate. We learn a little bit more about climate. We have these short talks that we practice, it could be people ask the question, "What if the U.S. does something and China doesn't?" And then we get into collective action.
Mark Reynolds: That's a big part of what we do is once a month, the second Saturday of each month we have a call, it's by zoom you can see the speaker, and the speaker tells us some more things that we learned about climate change.
Jason Jacobs: I listened to the one you did with David Jolly, by the way. I listened to it yesterday, I've got a sense of what that's all about. And I'll link to that in the short notes as well so that any listeners that want to get a sense of what these are all about we'll have a chance to do so.
Mark Reynolds: Yeah, he was fantastic.
Jason Jacobs: He was great.
Mark Reynolds: Yes, and definitely worth listening to and a very, very thoughtful guy. You see him on the cable show some time and he's always the one making the most insightful comments.
Jason Jacobs: You are good too, that gave me... Not that I didn't already have a high degree of confidence that this was going to be a great interview coming in, but even higher after listening to that, especially because that was remote. I knew that you were experienced with the digital tools as well.
Mark Reynolds: Well, thank you for saying that. We do try and work hard and make sure that calls 40 minutes once a month then it's the main access our volunteers have to the organization. We try and make sure that those are 40 meaningful minutes.
Jason Jacobs: Great. And you were saying that you have the annual meeting once a year and that there were 1200 something people that showed up in D.C., and you were, I think you were starting to go on and explain some of the other work that the organization does and how the large distributed volunteer base gets mobilized.
Mark Reynolds: Yeah. The volunteers very organized in their community, and they're focused on doing things like getting published regularly both on social and traditional media. They're very interested in and do a lot of work to reach out to local influencers. For instance, they've gotten some major cities like Chicago, Philadelphia to sign on in support of what we're doing. They've gotten large corporations, the Silicon Valley leadership trust signed on in support of what we're doing. And while that does include organizations like Microsoft and Facebook, it's also 200 organizations.
Mark Reynolds: What they're working on is tying to make sure that in every single community there's local support being built. In 2009 the House of Representatives passed a bill called Waxman-Markey and then nothing got done in the Senate. There's a political scientist at Harvard whose name is Theda Skocpol. She wrote over a hundred page paper about why we failed to get something over the finish line in the Senate and ultimately get a national carbon price.
Mark Reynolds: And there were really two criticisms on Harvard paper. One, is she said, "All the support for legislation at that point existed Inside the Beltway, and it needed to be back in district." And that's what we've been building as the Industry Support. And then the second thing she said is, Whatever you do to price carbon, that means individuals costs are going to go up. What you should do with the income that's generated from any scenario that you use is you should send it back to American households, which is also a part of our proposal."
Mark Reynolds: We do build a support in district and that's really the majority of what our volunteers are trying to do is to make sure that their member of the House, that there are two Senators that if they make the tough votes for climate, that they'll feel a lot of support back home.
Jason Jacobs: And from a federal standpoint, I know that the federal is important to your efforts, but is it federal is important, but that's someone else's problem to solve and where our lane is on state and local specifically?
Mark Reynolds: No. Our focus is on federal. We think that the United States leading on this issue doesn't just have huge implications for the U.S. it also has the rest of the world. There's a lot of countries like Canada that have already adopted national carbon pricing mechanisms, but we think if the U.S. doing it will send a signal to the whole world that it's really safe to move forward. We focus entirely, the staff's effort is almost entirely on a federal basis. We have picked a few States where we thought it would be useful to support them and we've done so, and then we don't provide any guidance or support for local issues. We think they're really important.
Mark Reynolds: We just are an organization that believes a lot in focus. And then if you're trying to do something really big, like having a bunch of Republicans saying a carbon tax is a really good idea that you can't do that in five or six other things, or other really important things that other groups are working on. We just think the price is so crucial that you've got to give 100% of your focus to it.
Jason Jacobs: Your focus federally, but going district by district one vote at a time to secure the vote at the federal level.
Mark Reynolds: That's exactly right.
Jason Jacobs: Got it. Interesting. I think that that makes a lot of sense. And one of the things that I've seen in my travels so far is that some people say that that price on... Some of the knocks I've heard on price on carbon is that it will never get done. Another knock is that it won't be enough. Barely anyone knows says that it wouldn't help in some capacity, but one tricky thing though is that there's a lot of different kinds of initiatives and groups that are working on different flavors of carbon tax.
Jason Jacobs: And some of them have even said, on this podcast for example, "That if it doesn't look a certain way, then they don't support it." And given all of that, what's the Citizens' Climate Lobby position? I know you have a specific proposal that you're working on, but how do you think about that topic?
Mark Reynolds: Well, a lot of things. First of all, the fact that it's hard to bad. [inaudible 00:12:43]. It's difficult. We've taken on a big problem, nobody's going to like every single feature of it, but it needs to be done. Actually in January, the Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act was introduced. That's the first bi-partisan climate pricing bill in a decade. And that didn't just happen overnight. That was 10 years of our building support. There are now 59 co-sponsor, and it's a lot of Democrats were on the Green New Deal.
Mark Reynolds: Karen Bass, who's the chairperson of the Black Caucus. Far ranging support Francis Rooney, a very conservative Republican from Florida. Last week additional carbon pricing bills came out, that was a really, really good thing. What start, you're starting to see is the dam is starting to break in Congress on carbon pricing and in particular now that you have more Republicans not just on our bill, but other carbon pricing bills.
Mark Reynolds: The whole story about how impossible it is, and you'll never get it done is really starting to fall apart. And it was always going to be a hard lift. We just always believed we needed to hang in there. And that there are a lot of other important things that need to get done, and we're really glad that other organizations are working on it, but I don't think you can find an economist that doesn't believe that the price is the single most important factor. Most people work in this issue are familiar with the statement that 97% of climate scientists are convinced based on the evidence that manmade global warming is happening.
Mark Reynolds: There's almost that same degree of consensus amongst the economists that the most efficient way to deal with the problem is a carbon dividend. There are over 3000 American economists who signed onto a statement last year, the biggest statement ever by American economists saying, "This is the most efficient way to go." And that included all the four living former federal people. There's a lot of proposals, people always like theirs. But I think that there's, this is clearly the consensus center based proposal. There's going to be things more to the left, there's going to be more things to the right, but we believe if you want something lasting you have to have something that appeals to the center.
Jason Jacobs: And what are some examples of a more left reaching proposal in a more right reaching proposal, and what gives you confidence that the dividend back to the people is the right one?
Mark Reynolds: First of all, I think you can look at the Green New Deal is something that there's a lot of enthusiasm from the left and none from the right. Or then you could take, there's an organization that was founded three years ago called the Climate Leadership Council, and they have a very similar fee and dividend proposal except for them they add in a huge regulatory rollback and let oil companies off the hook for past misdeeds. I would call that a very right proposal.
Mark Reynolds: There's a lot of reasons that I think that our proposal draws support from the middle. A, we don't pick winners and losers and that should give support from the right. Also, many well, not many, almost every-
Jason Jacobs: Winners and losers with with specific technologies you mean?
Mark Reynolds: Exactly, and with specific technologies. And then also almost every Republican in the House has signed something called the Grover Norquist tax plans, which says that they won't vote for any new fee tax that grows government. And since this doesn't, they can still honor the Grover Norquist pledge and then support this proposal.
Mark Reynolds: On both the left and right who comes out best in this proposal are the people at the lower ends of the economic spectrum because people usually think of people's carbon footprint in terms of energy use. But really for most of us, most of our carbon footprint is in what we buy. The people at the lower end of the economic spectrum actually come out with additional cash in their pocket. This ends up being something that has a lot of appeal on the right and a lot of people on the left because it protects so many good constituencies.
Jason Jacobs: Does your proposal actually get into specifics of the formula for how to determine who gets what money?
Mark Reynolds: Yeah, treats everybody equally. It's just another one of those things where if some people get a bigger check back than others you're not going to get any votes from Republicans. And we believe you have to get votes from Democrats and Republicans, while it heavily favors people of the lower end of the economic spectrum, you and I are going to get the same check that Bill Gates gets. It's that way given everybody's treated evenly and fairly, people can't argue about it helping one group over another.
Jason Jacobs: And that's at a federal level. It also doesn't distinguish between heavy mining States and States where the big fossil fuel for example, isn't as prevalent.
Mark Reynolds: Yes, that's correct. Every household is treated exactly the same.
Jason Jacobs: And when I talk to people that are pushing for a carbon tax they say, "We've turned a corner, there's new momentum." The story that it'll never happen is crumbling. And when I talk to people who are against it they say, "It'll never happen. It's not close to happening, iIf it ever would happen." Even the ones that say it would be a benefit say, "That will never be the political will. It's a nonstarter on the Republican side especially."
Jason Jacobs: And where does one look for the objective truth of where things really stand and where we are, what needs to happen, and then how far we are from those things coming to fruition.
Mark Reynolds: Well, first of all, it'd be nice if you could say there's an objective truth. Everybody's got a point of view on this, we should start with everybody starts from their own bias, right?
Jason Jacobs: I've heard you talk about that before. I think it was at an internal company meeting that you published on YouTube where you talked about how important it is to be empathetic to the worldviews of others and know that just because it's yours doesn't mean it's the right one.
Mark Reynolds: Yeah. And I don't want to get too lost. I'll come back to what you just said, but for instance, one of the people who's been on our call, who's coming back again soon is Jonathan Haidt, who did a lot of the development work in Moral Foundations Theory. And what Moral Foundations Theory shows is that the moral views through its conservatives and liberals see the world are different.
Mark Reynolds: And if you understand that Moral Foundation, it gives you a much better understanding of how to deal with people who don't see the world exactly the way you do. For instance, in Jonathan Haidt's Ted talk, he talks about how important authority is to Republicans and with a Democrat. If a Democrat throws a stick he says to his dog, "Fetch please." That doesn't happen over on the conservative side.
Mark Reynolds: But anyway, I think that where you should look to see if there is actual evidence that-
Jason Jacobs: Does the dog get a trophy for bringing it back as well?
Mark Reynolds: Everyone gets the same trophy, participation trophy [inaudible 00:19:20]. I think the evidence you should look for is their support on the Republican side is, Francis Rooney, a very conservative Republican from Florida is on the Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act. Two other Republicans signed on to carbon pricing bills last week in the House. I think that what you should look to see is there actual votes.
Mark Reynolds: I think one other place to look also is, we started something called the Climate Solutions Caucus several years ago. Thinking that to get solutions we first needed to get Republicans and Democrats talking to each other across the aisle. And at the end of last year we had 49 Republicans and 49 Democrats who were talking to each other on this issue. I think that shows that there is more and more support that Republicans will lead on this issue.
Mark Reynolds: Also, I think everybody reads the same polling. The Frank Luntz group showed that for Republicans under 40 75% of them support being doing something aggressive about climate change. I know I can't speak publicly for specifically, which Republican senators have said is privately, but we know many Republican senators have said that if they don't get serious on climate in the future they're not going to win any elections.
Jason Jacobs: You mentioned the Frank Luntz group, he's an example of a high profile Republican who... I don't know, how recently was it that he switched gears in terms of views on climate and the importance of acting?
Mark Reynolds: I don't know when he switched gears either, but he was testifying before Senate last week and before Senator Schatz committee, and I think that would be worthwhile for anybody to take a look at that. And they brought up that 19 years ago he was the one who was trying to create some confusion by, he was the one who said, "You should go from calling a global warming to climate change because that was more benign." And he's obviously learned a lot about the seriousness of the science and clearly came around.
Mark Reynolds: I don't know when that was, I don't know if he had a Bob Inglis moment, former Republican from South Carolina who when he decided to run for office again, his son said to him, "Dad, I'll support you, but you've got to clean up your act on the environment." I don't know if it was a moment or if it was just the plethora of science showing how overwhelming the science is on this.
Jason Jacobs: Or Jerry Taylor from Niskanen. We're seeing these examples more and more. They're still few and far between, but they're happening and it seems the people that are switching gears and seeing the light is accelerating. I wish we were further along than we are, but at least it's heading in the right direction.
Mark Reynolds: Yeah. But since you mentioned Jerry Taylor, for those of you people who don't follow him, the Niskanen Center that he founded always puts the most thoughtful pieces out on this and written in a way that appeals to both sides of the aisle. I'm a big fan of following anything they write.
Jason Jacobs: And one thing I've been wondering that seems you've got pretty unique insight into is, you hear a lot of talk in the media and certainly on social media about how polarized things are in Washington, but is it really as polarized as the outward face necessitates or are people more collaborative and align across the aisle behind the scenes?
Mark Reynolds: I think that's kind of a hard question to answer, but we've certainly been working on getting people to work together. Clearly there's plenty of evidence for being polarized, but we have 45 Democrats and 45 Republicans working across the aisle. I can tell you this, for Republican offices who've been accused of being deniers, when they meet with our volunteers 4% of them push back on the science. There's almost no pushback on the scientific consensus. It's really about can you get a solution that works for everybody.
Mark Reynolds: The other side of that argument is this from our perspective, we try to not stay interested in the explanations that have us do nothing. And I think that's the difficulty of getting too interested in it's too polarized. That's an easy explanation to not get engaged. If you don't want to be engaged, I think the easy way to do so because it's easy to make the argument and you can get plenty of people to agree with you is to say, "It's too polarized. Nothing can be done."
Mark Reynolds: I think it's much harder to take the stance of, okay, that's the way it is, but we've got to get something to work. We've got to keep at this. We as an organization try to stay interested in what are the views of thing that get us to engage not are the ones that get us to not engage.
Jason Jacobs: Then when you speak to the team for example, is your advice then as we have the 2020 election looming of course, and it seems it's an important one, but you almost downplay it and say, "Sure. Getting him out and getting someone who's more, who's less of an outward denier in would be beneficial, but either way we put one foot in front of the other and we keep up the fight." Is that the message that you try to instill or I don't want to put words in your mouth.
Mark Reynolds: No, we've pretty much stayed out of elections. We've always encouraged our volunteers. We think it's a part of your civic duty to get involved, we think as citizens that everybody should get involved, and we wish more people would engage and get involved and no matter how partisan or nonpartisan it is.
Mark Reynolds: As an organization, we say, "We're always going to work with who gets elected." We as an organization have stayed out of elections and chosen that whoever actually gets through the process we're going to work through with that person. We're going to develop a meaningful, respectful relationship with them and we're going to figure out how we can get to solutions with whoever it is to get selected.
Jason Jacobs: Got it. And whatever positions you guys have personally in terms of your political views, there's no party line as it relates to the Citizens' Climate Lobby is what I'm hearing.
Mark Reynolds: Yeah. Really interesting. We have only have one rule as an organization and that is that when you meet with an elected official, the basis of that meeting is going to be admiration, respect and gratitude for their public service. And I think that's one of the reasons that the organization has doubled or tripled in size every year for the last 10 years is because I think people would like to feel that they can actually treat people the way they'd like to treat them.
Mark Reynolds: There's some line of thought that says, "The only way you get anything done is by being angry and shaking your fist." There might be something to that, but we've chosen not that. We've chosen more to have Gandhi and Martin Luther King the role models, who by being peaceful, I actually get really, really big things done. And we choose to try and treat people in a way that we hope they'd be treated. And we certainly think there's enough people who are in the business of trying to degrade politics and politicians and people they disagree with. It's fine if there's at least one group.
Jason Jacobs: And if you thought hypothetically that the upcoming presidential election that there was one outcome for example, that was far more beneficial for your cause would you say that publicly or keep it to yourself?
Mark Reynolds: I'd have to see exactly what that was. I don't mean to dodge the question, but I'd have to see what that actually, I'd have to evaluate it on what actually we were talking about.
Jason Jacobs: Got it. I guess I'll ask you a direct question then, which is, do you think that getting Donald Trump out of office is important for the climate fight?
Mark Reynolds: Absolutely, absolutely. That he got his out of Paris, that he's been disparaging of anything related to climate, that he says things that are not evidenced or science-based is not helpful. He's been very, very weak on this issue and having somebody else in that position would be really good for climate.
Jason Jacobs: Because another confusing thing that I've noticed is that the majority of the people in the climate fight are not on the right side of the aisle, unfortunately. Although hopefully as you said, "We're making progress there," but they say to a point before about polarized and we're not going to get anything done at the federal level. And he's got to go because we're playing defense to not only are we not making progress, but we're playing defense to prevent him from unwinding all the progress we've been making.
Jason Jacobs: But then when I talk to people on the right side of the aisle who are in the climate fight, and as you know there are some, their stance is more actually that's a lot of talk. But behind the scenes really nothing bad has been happening, and we've been continuing to make progress and things are coming around, and they'll continue to come around whether he's in that seat or not. I don't know. What's your view on... I guess you kind of said it, but anything to add there?
Mark Reynolds: I just think that we have to be very rigorous in this world making people give their evidence anytime they make an assertion. What's the actual evidence? What are the facts? What are the source of the facts? Information matters. Experts matter. I think that everybody's got to be asked to give evidence for anytime they make an assertion. I don't think we can accept a world that just says whoever's got the best adjectives wins.
Jason Jacobs: And then in terms of the varieties of opposition to the carbon tax has it mostly been from the right or has there been opposition on both sides of the aisle? And also what does that opposition look like? Is it neatly segmented or is there a big long tail of reasons?
Mark Reynolds: For the most part the attack for our proposal is mostly been from people like Grover Norquist and Heartland Koch funded industry. It's been pretty specific and targeted.
Jason Jacobs: Got it. Then the left side of the aisle overwhelmingly supports?
Mark Reynolds: On the left, there's a lot of people who have a lot of priorities and they're working on what they think they should be working on. And they tend to be more focused on what they're doing. There's a lot of support for the Green New Deal. Some people have signed on the Green New Deal, have signed on to our bill, some haven't. But one thing that's been great about that is how much attention it has drawn to the issue. When push comes to shove, it's always a, it's a tricky thing to sign onto a bill because it's not a concept anymore. It's actual legislation and there's provisions in there that some people might like and some people might not like.
Mark Reynolds: I think the fact that there are 59 co-sponsors, that's the, I can't even think of any bill since Waxman-Markey that's gathered that much support and we're not even a year in. This is still very young, two thirds of the way through the year. We've got almost 60 co-sponsors already. I think that's an evidence of a lot of support in this particular House or legislation. We would certainly love to get a companion bill in the [inaudible 00:29:41] as fast as possible.
Mark Reynolds: Senator Kearns, who we think is the most likely lead on that offered a democratic only bill last week, which was a very nice piece of legislation. But we'll be really excited about it when we can get a Republican co-sponsor on it.
Jason Jacobs: And this next question is as much about kind of getting bills signed into law one-on-one as it is about your specific bill. Forgive my ignorance on the topic, but what are the steps from there? 59 co-sponsors, which sounds like a lot. How does it go from where you are in into law? There are many different paths or is it very clear what steps need to happen?
Mark Reynolds: Well, it's been referred to three committees ways and means, energy and commerce, and foreign affairs. The first in a traditional Congress, you'd hold hearings and then you'd have votes in the hearings and then you would get that to the floor. My own view is that Speaker Pelosi is not going to push it hard until she sees the chances of success in the Senate. I think that she probably... Again, I haven't, she hasn't said this to me, this is my own speculation, but I think that she looked at what happened with Waxman-Markey, where she pushed very hard to get enough votes to pass it in the House and then there weren't enough votes in the Senate and she lost a lot of members in the 2010 election.
Mark Reynolds: I think that we won't see her strong support. I'd be happy to be surprised until she sees a chance to see something get done in the Senate. Under a traditional scenario you would see hearings on the House, and then something would go to the floor debated and then passed. You get something in the Senate and then they would have some type of reconciliation process that reconciled the two bills. I certainly hope something like that can happen fast.
Jason Jacobs: And how does that work from a timing standpoint? Can all that come to fruition at any time if the stars align, right? Or is there a certain minimum duration of time that needs to happen just due to voting cycles and rules and things like that?
Mark Reynolds: Traditionally yes, but I'm pretty sure we passed a pretty big tax cut last year where the bill was introduced one day and it was passed the next. Under traditional scenario it would take a lot of time. But we've been in kind of a not normal cycle recently.
Jason Jacobs: And if people listening to this like what they're hearing and want to support your effort what should they do?
Mark Reynolds: If they go to our website, what will happen is they'll get invited to a short introductory call, they can learn a little bit more about what we're doing, but also get introduced to their local chapter. If you live anywhere in the United States, it's pretty likely that there's a chapter really close to you. And in fact, if you have people listen from Canada, we're in a lot of Canadian writings also. We were actually in a lot of countries around the world, but we're strongest in the U.S., if they went to our website and sign on as a supporter they would be connected to our local chapter, and they could see if this is something that makes sense to them and that they want to support what's happening to local activities.
Mark Reynolds: The most important thing is that people are in action, that they're doing something. And there's a lot of things that people are doing inside of here and outside of CCL also. But taking action is really, really important. And we've got a big tent. We have a lot of Democrats, we have a lot of Republicans, we have a lot of old people, we have a lot of young people, we have retired military people. We're a very diverse organization. There's a lot of room for people no matter where they are, no matter what their view, no matter what their background to be able to participate here.
Jason Jacobs: And one thing I read recently is that there's concern that with a carbon tax that potentially there's a chance that it'll just raise a crap load of money, but won't actually make a dent in emission since the economics are such that the big oil will just keep right on a meeting and just pay. What do you think about that?
Mark Reynolds: I think that you've been hearing a lot recently about we need to innovate our way out of the problem. And I think that's correct. The question is, are they incentives in place right now to tell enough people who are going to drive the culture of our energy market that the future of our energy is in clean renewable energy. And obviously those incentives are not in place or we would have made in making this transition more quickly.
Mark Reynolds: It's remarkable what's happened in how much more efficient and less expensive renewable energy has gotten. But what the point of a carbon fee or a carbon tax to do is really descendant incentive throughout the entire economic system that says, "If you produce breakthroughs in technologies that help clean renewable energy, you're going to become a gazillionaire and that's fine with us." That really is the main point of putting a straight forward fee or tax on carbon is to create an price signal and economic incentive for the entire country. And for that fact, the world to understand that the clean renewable energy is the energy of the future. And that price point there is just to make that happen more quickly.
Jason Jacobs: It's basically just to, I think they call it pricing the extra [inaudible 00:34:39], where if there's something that's doing harm that's not factored in, it needs to be factored in some way, which in itself might not be the full solution, but at least will directionally start pointing people towards the things that will get us out of this mess that are either at or closer to zero carbon energy sources.
Mark Reynolds: Yes. There's actually a British economist whose name was Pigou, and they call it Pigovian taxation. And one of the things the economists will point to, another example like this is cigarette smoking. Over half of Americans used to smoke and now it's less than 15% and if you talk to economists they'll say, "Sure, education helped." But it was really pricing cigarettes out of the hands of particularly new smokers that created the whole shift for the country. And you're right, it's an example of where the cost isn't just to the individual, but a society.
Mark Reynolds: You and I would pay higher taxes for Medicare and we would pay higher insurance premiums if more people smoked. This is a perfect example of where there's a cost to society that you don't feel when you fill up your car with gas. And what we want to do is, as you said is, "Internalize those externalities." One of the nice things about looking at this issue from an economist point of view is Greg Mankiw, who teaches at Harvard was George W. Bushes, economic advisor. He started the Pigou Club.
Mark Reynolds: And you have a lot of really well known, respected conservative economists who understand this variant concept of the importance of pricing externalities that should give people a lot of cover to vote the right way.
Jason Jacobs: Where is the misalignment or murkiness between the philosophical underpinnings of the Green New Deal and the work that you're doing?
Mark Reynolds: I think that mainly in that we have a lot of detail in the Green New Deal as I think where it should be at this point is very much still on the aspirational and broad strokes. And I think that as you see... I think any New Green Deal that actually get realized will include a carbon price. I think by design they want it to be broad and aspirational and not include things like price, as to get caught up in the details early. But if something like a Green New Deal, we're actually the fulfilled a carbon price would be an essential element and it will be really exciting to see the other things that roll out as more specific proposals become part of the Green New Deal.
Jason Jacobs: The articles that have been written talk about how they're at odds those are misguided in your view. And that one is essential to the other, but that it's just more difficult maybe to assess in these early days because the Green New Deal is still in such a nebulous form?
Mark Reynolds: Well, isn't it always easier to get published or to be heard if you always see what's in conflict with things. Nobody wants to say, "Hey, people are getting along." And you're going to love hearing the stories. It's always going to be easier to get the pieces published that show where there's conflict in there. We'll always be working with conflict, working with people it's messy. It's hard, it's complicated, but and it's always going to be easier to get the pieces noticed where you show conflict. That's always the easy route for any of us that want to get heard or published.
Mark Reynolds: But if you really look at the fulfillment of both a carbon price and the Green New Deal, I don't see how a Green New Deal fulfills on itself without a carbon price. There's just, you're not going to find an economist in the world who tells you that you're going to get there without the price.
Jason Jacobs: And if you look at the different elements there's the tax itself. And then there's the what do you do with the proceeds? With your proposal the proceeds go get dividend and back to the people and everybody gets treated equal. There's a number of other proposals out there. If someone said to you, you can point your finger and a carbon tax will get passed, but it can't be yours, which one would you choose and why?
Mark Reynolds: Well, first of all, let me just say, we prefer to call this a carbon fee. And let me just say why? Former Secretary of State George Shultz, is on our advisory board and I think he's been involved with some really big policy issues in the past. One of the things he said in one of our meetings is, "Taxes grow government." You shouldn't call this attacks because it doesn't grow government. That's why we prefer to call it fee and dividend. And I just want to because I use the word tax also a lot, but we call our proposal carbon fee and dividend.
Jason Jacobs: That's important, words matter. Thank you for clarifying.
Mark Reynolds: Yeah. Words matter. Thank you. Our ultimate loyalty is to a livable world. That's what we gauge everything against. Sometimes people think our raison d'etre is for carbon fee and dividend. It's not. It's just we believe it's the most efficient way to a livable world, but are ultimately what we hold ourselves to account too as are we doing the things that get us close as fast as we can to handing back this planet the way to our kids and grandkids.
Mark Reynolds: I have three grandkids. My grandson Elliot is four. He has identical twin brothers who are two Charlie and Oliver. I love the planet I grew up in, I grew up near the Rocky mountains and I spent every summer with my backpack disappearing into the mountains and just loving this planet. And what we want to do is make sure that they have a beautiful place too to live in like you and I grew up in, where we're doing everything we can to make sure that they can have the same kind of inspiring experiences out in the Rocky Mountains.
Mark Reynolds: When I was out in the Rocky Mountains, it was like time would disappear and I always wondered why it was so hard to bring that to the city. That was always a kind of dilemma I had with myself, is can you bring that kind of magic to the city? I don't know if you can or can't, but I certainly want to make sure that all those beautiful places that had been so important to all of us are around for future generations.
Jason Jacobs: I'm going to ask the question a slightly different way, but your proposal takes the fee and dividend and dividends it back to the people. Is it more... How much are we losing if we go from that to another proposal that's got a different flavor but that's still gets a price on carbon over the line. I know you're working on this one because you think it's the one it sounds like that has the highest probability of getting over the line and can have the biggest impact, but is the most important thing that we get a price, and it doesn't matter the form, and you're just working on this one because it has the best chance. But if you thought another one had the best chance and let's get that one over the line, or is it specifically that this is the one that will do the work and nothing else hold a candle?
Mark Reynolds: There's two pieces of that. One is you have to have something you can get done. The other thing is durability. It passes this year, and it's gone in two years then what was the point? And one of the things that Dr. James Hansen, who I think most people would say, it's been our country's leading climate scientists for a long time. One of the reasons he said the dividend is so important is if it's not obvious that you're mitigating people's costs they're not going to support it.
Mark Reynolds: What he says is, "It's not just that you have to mitigate their costs, but it needs to be obvious to them." For instance, I live in California, California has something called AB 32. I get an occasional credit on my energy bill because of AB 32, nobody knows that. California missed this huge opportunity for Goodwill towards the bill because nobody's aware of it.
Mark Reynolds: If you got a check every month, which you would get electronically just like people get their social security checks, it would be obvious to you that if you felt some costs going up, that you had an immediate way that it was being mitigated. And we think that's absolutely essential. We need something that the public will support because they will see that their increase in costs is being offset by what is going into their accounts. It's not that we're dogmatic about it that's the only way to go. It's just that we haven't seen anything else that has that kind of lasting appeal.
Jason Jacobs: And if you could wave your magic wand and change one thing to accelerate getting this bill over the line, what would you change and how would you change it?
Mark Reynolds: Wow. That's a good question. I don't get asked that kind of question very often because I don't-
Jason Jacobs: I'm trying my best over here.
Mark Reynolds: I kind of forced myself to stay grounded in the actual world we're dealing in. But if I could wave a magic wand, I think, this is what I think would do it. It seems that if people understand the degree of the scientific consensus then they're all for action. And a lot of Americans think this is like a 50, 50 issue that there are some scientists who believe it in some who don't. I think if I could wave a magic wand, it would simply to have the vast majority of Americans understood that the overwhelming consensus on this is that almost every single climate scientist says, "We've had a problem." It's ours, it's serious. There are solutions. I think my magic wand would have the public simply understand the scientific reality.
Jason Jacobs: And what do you think is inhibiting their ability to do so?
Mark Reynolds: Well, there's been a pretty good misinformation campaign. Some of the people who were trying to disrupt the science here used the same play bag that the tobacco people did, which is they said, "You can't outright just prove it." You just have to put some questions, you have to make arguments like the planet's been going through natural cycles and that makes sense to a lot of people. It's not like you try and say there's no science at all. It's the same playbook that was effective in holding off the scientific consensus on cigarette smoking was held off for some time.
Mark Reynolds: And that's been primarily funded by the Coke related industries. And certainly they have some financial interest in delaying this inevitable change as long as they possibly can, but they've got a lot of money and they're able to pay some people who are very good at making it seem like the scientific consensus is not the scientific consensus.
Jason Jacobs: And are there specific people or groups that have been doing the lion's share of this information and if so, would you be comfortable naming them? Sure.
Mark Reynolds: The Heartland Institute, that's been its primary reason for existing and the Competitive Edge Institute. Those are two organizations that's really the, almost the only thing they do is trying to disrupt the scientific consensus.
Jason Jacobs: And what do you think would be the most impactful way to combat that?
Mark Reynolds: I think that one thing that is already combating it is, well two things. One is young Republicans accepting the science. And two, people have felt like this is a distant issue and that we don't need to worry about polar bears drowning somewhere down the road. But now with so much flooding and that the heatwaves are shattering previous records and where I live in California, it used to be that we had a fire season, we have a fire season that's all year now.
Mark Reynolds: I think the things that people thought would be distant are now hitting them. And you look at the struggle with the farmers in the Midwest with all the flooding that happened. They're about to lose an entire year of production, things that seemed distant are now immediate and that combined with younger Republican's accepting the science on this, I think are both strongly pushing us in the right direction.
Jason Jacobs: Got it. I think what I'm hearing from you is that it's not necessarily that we need to do anything different, it's just that the planet will take care of it for us, unfortunately.
Mark Reynolds: Well, there's that, but here's the other thing people can do. In this world trusted managers really matter. And by trusted managers we're not just talking about military religion. If people listened to this would talk to their friends who don't accept the science on this and just talk to them as a friend it makes a huge difference. And most people trying to avoid this issue because it can be so contentious.
Mark Reynolds: But you talking to your friends who don't accept the science and because they're your friend and they'll listen to you more than the listen to a magazine or a newspaper or a scientist that can help them.
Jason Jacobs: Now a fun one. If you had a big pot of money, let's say $100 billion, and the only strings attached is that you only get it if you allocate it towards the thing that would be most impactful in the quest to decarbonize our global economy, where would you put it and how would you allocate it?
Mark Reynolds: I'll give all the money in my organization.
Jason Jacobs: Come on, give me your real answer. That can't be the answer. I should make, you just caused me that. You know what, technically I think that can be the answer, but I feel like I need to make a new rule now to and to prevent future guests from doing that.
Mark Reynolds: Yeah. [inaudible 00:47:11], we are a nonprofit and we do accept donations, [inaudible 00:47:16]. But the most recent IPCC reports that we had to do two things. They said one is we need to significantly lower emissions and that same thing we need to figure out how to extract CO2 from the atmosphere. It's really one of the things that most quickly reduced emissions and then at the same time what are the things that significantly start to extract emission? We do need to plant a gazillion trees and we do need better farming practices and we do need technologies that for a reasonable amount of money can actually pull amounts of a CO2 out of the atmosphere.
Mark Reynolds: I think that you always have got to take a scientific approach on this. And last IPCC report said, "Reducing emissions is not going to be enough."But there is one of the thing I want to add about that also. In 2011, Robb Willer published a paper called, Apocalypse Soon? Dire Messages Are Counterproductive on Global Warming. And while it's easy to understand the science about this and probably somewhat uneasy and understand the support amongst economists.
Mark Reynolds: There's consensus now with the social scientists and the social scientists have told us we've got to live with solutions. We can't just give people gloom and doom. We've got to give them ways of moving forward where they're solutions. And that's a really crucial piece also is we need to be talking people about solutions, not just the problem.
Jason Jacobs: You just made me think of one question I forgot to ask, which is, you mentioned that it's the, its heritage and it's the... What's it's called, the competitive the other group that's-
Mark Reynolds: Competitive Edge [inaudible 00:48:47].
Jason Jacobs: Oh, got it. Sorry. Yeah, Heartland and Competitive Edge. But one thing we didn't talk about is big oil and gas and the utilities. What's their role in all of this, if any?
Mark Reynolds: If you go to their websites, what you'll see is they say, "Yes, we know this is a problem. We know it was using our product is what caused global warming and we want market based solutions" If you look at the Climate Leadership Council, the organization that I mentioned that has a very right-leaning orientation to the problem, four of the major oil companies who have signed on to support their proposals.
Mark Reynolds: I think it's crucial that we get their support, they understand they would prefer a market based solution over a regulatory solution. They're much more supportive than something that we've been promoting. Then the myriad of regulations that they deal with on a federal and local level. But I do think that they have a big obligation to be a big help in getting the solution over the finish line too.
Jason Jacobs: Are they generally opposed to any type of price on carbon or?
Mark Reynolds: No. The oil companies have been supportive of a price on carbon for a long time. First of all, what it does is it eliminates one of their competitors coal. Coal being the dirtiest form of energy. The first thing price on carbon does is... The coal industry has been being finished off by themselves and natural gas for awhile. We've gone from over half million coal miners to now about a hundred thousand and that happened for two things. One is, big coal figured out how to automate their processes and natural gas kick their butt in the market.
Mark Reynolds: And that industry's really been undone by themselves and natural gas. And given coal still burns so much dirtier than everything else a price on carbon it essentially helps the oil companies reduce the number of coal miners very quickly. Now, let me just say something. That's one of the things we like about our proposal is because coal miners don't lose their job overnight. There's a generational transition where they can see, oh, there are other kinds of jobs that I can get in this community, where it doesn't mean dad going down and coming out with black lung disease, but that doesn't happen immediate. It happens where there's a chance for that family that's probably been in coal mining their entire life to make a generational switch and say, "The future of this family is in a different kind of industry than coal mining."
Jason Jacobs: And given that words matter, I've heard from some Republican climate people that when they hear about carbon tax or a carbon fee and dividend they don't like it because they want a more market based approach, but is a carbon fee and dividend a market based approach in your view? I just want to clarify the words.
Mark Reynolds: Yeah, I would say it's the most market-based because what it does is it simply says, it's almost a libertarian proposal because here's what it says, "We're going to correct an existing market failure and then we're not going to decide who comes out ahead on this. The market's going to decide this." It says, it's a simple again, this is one of the things former Secretary of State Shultz says, "When your a problem is big, you have to do this most simple, most transparent solution. And this is the most simple and the most transparent. It's simply corrects an existing market failure and says, okay, let's watch the market innovate our way out of this."
Jason Jacobs: And you've already said for people that believe in this proposal that they can donate or they can volunteer for your organization. But if we take a step back, what about the listeners that maybe aren't set on carbon fee and dividend, but but are really concerned about climate change and they feel like they want to help in some way, but they don't necessarily understand the issue and they don't know where their skills or dollars can be most impactful? What advice would you have for them in terms of how to figure out how to help, where to help?
Mark Reynolds: Yeah, that's a good question. I would say get involved. Try some things, try some organizations, see what's a match for you, see what lights you up, they're local groups, they're state-based groups, there's other national groups, but the main thing is I would say is get engaged. Go do something, find an organization that's a fit for you and give them a little bit of your time.
Jason Jacobs: And Mark, is there anything that I didn't ask you that I should have or any parting words that you would like to leave with listeners?
Mark Reynolds: They can go to CitizensClimateLobby.org and find us very easily. There's somebody in your community. We are closer to getting something done than most people realize and my partnership does exist.
Jason Jacobs: Well tell you, this was a remote interview and I couldn't see you. Sometimes I do remote ones where I could see, but we had some problems with the other software, but I felt like this was really personal and intimate, and I learned a ton, and I feel like I know you now, but I'm really happy with how this episode came out. You've been a great guest and thank you so much for coming on the show.
Mark Reynolds: It's been a real pleasure, Jason. Thanks a lot.
Jason Jacobs: Hey everyone. Jason here. Thanks again for joining me on my Climate Journey. If you'd like to learn more about the journey, you can visit us at my climatejourney.co. Note that is .co not .com. Someday we'll get to .com, but right now .co. You can also find me on Twitter at @jjacobs22, where I would encourage you to share your feedback on the episode or suggestions for future guests you'd like to here.
Jason Jacobs: And before I let you go, if you enjoyed the show, please share an episode with a friend or consider leaving a review on iTunes. The lawyers may be say that.
Jason Jacobs: Thank you.