Should carbon producers fund cleanup from future superstorms?

 File photo (Shutterstock)

File photo (Shutterstock)

What if companies had to pay in order to be able to emit carbon into the atmosphere and that money was used to fund preparations for and emergency responses to extreme weather events, such as floods, storms, and droughts?

That’s the solution proposed by US Strong, a nonprofit formed after Superstorm Sandy to call attention to the increasing number of extreme weather events and their rising costs.

The cost of Superstorm Sandy to the nation has been estimated at roughly $70 billion, of which New Jerseyans will likely have to pay some $8 billion to 13 billion out of their own pockets, according to a report released by the group Monday.

The federal government is expected to send New Jersey roughly $20 billion in aid for storm cleanup. Private insurance will add a few more billion to the pool.

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But many homeowners, small businesses, and towns will have to cough up rest of what’s needed to piece the shore back together again.

US Strong thinks these costs could be better covered if Congress created an Extreme Weather Relief and Protection Fund.

“Let’s put a whole bunch of different revue streams on the table,” said Curtis Fisher, the National Campaign Director for US Strong, in a media conference call to explain the report’s findings. “But one of those things has to be that we can be pricing the cost of carbon pollution and that money can be brought back to solving the problem’s it’s causing.”

Previous attempts to make companies pay for the carbon they release into the atmosphere have stalled in Congress, most notably the American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009, commonly known as the Waxman-Markey Bill. But US Strong is hoping that expensive storms like Sandy might now make this conversation more palatable.

“The fact that this is here and now, versus some next century prediction of what the sea level is going to be is a total different reality in terms of politics,” said Fisher. 

However, given the current partial government shutdown, it’s unlikely this idea will find its way onto the Congressional agenda anytime soon.

Fisher acknowledged it could take many years to pass this legislation. 

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