Initiative 732 is about our moral responsibility to our children and future generations to protect them from the adverse effects of climate change.

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THROUGHOUT history, birds have been indicators of health and environmental threats. Canaries were used in coal mines to detect fatal carbon monoxide. Similarly, eagles alerted us to the detrimental effects of DDT.

Now it’s time to pay attention to how birds are responding to a changing climate. The National Audubon Society’s research shows that climate change is the No. 1 threat to birds, including 189 species at risk here in Washington. During the past 50 years, more than 60 percent of North American wintering bird species, like the rufous hummingbirds my children adore watching, have shifted their winter ranges northward. Soon, they may have nowhere left to go. To me, a future without these tenacious creatures is unimaginable.

Of course, we know this isn’t just about birds. This is about our moral responsibility to our children and future generations to protect them from the adverse effects of climate change. We are already behind in the fight against climate change, and we will pay for the impacts of fossil-fuel pollution through increased health problems, wildfires, drought, storm damage, coastal destruction, ocean acidification and other problems. Audubon Washington supports Initiative 732 because it provides swift and effective action to reduce carbon pollution.

I-732 is simple. It would accelerate the shift to clean energy, such as solar, wind, and hydropower, by putting a price on dirty fossil fuels that pollute our air and water, threaten our forests, harm our kids and damage our climate. It would return the money polluters pay to everyone’s pocket by lowering other taxes. I-732 would lower the sales tax by one percentage point, saving the average family hundreds of dollars per year. It would eliminate the business tax on manufacturers, keeping good jobs in Washington. And it would fund an “earned-income tax credit” that would provide up to $1,500 each year to 460,000 low-income working families in our state.

I-732 would tackle the root cause of climate change while making our tax code much fairer. Sightline Institute, a respected independent sustainability think tank, called I-732 “the biggest improvement in the progressivity of Washington’s state tax system in 40 years.”

Everyone would benefit from the reduction in the regressive sales tax, but low-income families would get an additional double bonus of financial and health benefits from the earned-income credit and from reduced fossil-fuel pollution that disproportionately burdens low-income communities and communities of color with maladies like childhood asthma.

I-732 would also boost jobs and clean energy in the state. A study by Regional Economic Models found that five years after adopting I-732, the state would see an increase of more than 10,000 jobs and grow its GDP by an additional $500 million — while having “minimal net impacts on the cost of living.” British Columbia implemented a similar carbon tax in 2008 and has significantly reduced per capita gasoline consumption while growing its economy at a faster pace than the rest of Canada. Today, the B.C. carbon tax is a model for the rest of Canada and for the world.

Sightline also determined that the assertion that I-732 might take away funding for education and other critical social services is false. “As an argument against I-732 … the ‘revenue hole’ case is a red herring,” Sightline reported.

The real risk to the state budget isn’t I-732, it’s the ravages that climate change will inflict on our families, our communities and our economy. Unless we take action now, these climate impacts would adversely affect our way of life for generations, at a price estimated to reach $10 billion every year after 2020.

I-732 is endorsed by leaders on both sides of the political aisle and by more than 50 University of Washington climate scientists, who wrote in an open letter that “I-732 is a simple step in the right direction.”

As someone who was undecided about I-732 initially, I was convinced by the insightful comments of Audubon members. Over and over we heard the same refrain: We must do something now about climate change. Ultimately, this urgency led me to embrace the monumental opportunity to put a price on carbon pollution and take action that would benefit birds and people.

For me, supporting I-732 is the way I can look my children in the eye and tell them I have done everything possible to ensure a stable climate for their future, one where they can continue to watch the hummingbirds.