EVANSVILLE — Retired software engineer Tom Ballard was looking for something to do with his time when an acquaintance told him about the Citizens' Climate Lobby.
Two years later, Ballard will be among three Evansville area residents traveling to Washington, D.C., to lobby Congress in support of legislation designed to address climate change.
"I've been aware for some time that scientists say climate change is happening, it's real, and humans are the cause of it," he said.
Tackling the problem was a daunting prospect for Ballard, especially in light of the political divisiveness of climate change and other issues. Finding the Citizens' Climate Lobby changed that, he said.
"It gave me hope that something could be done about climate change. I became convinced that this is something I should be working on," Ballard said.
Ballard and the others will be among about 1,400 participants at the nonpartisan, nonprofit organization's national conference June 9-12 in Washington to hear various climate scientists and speakers.
On the final day of the conference participants will visit Congress en masse to meet with their various representatives and senators or their staffs. The goal is to build bipartisan support for carbon fee and dividend legislation proposed by the nonprofit organization as a solution that could appeal across the political spectrum.
The legislation would enact a per ton fee on carbon dioxide and equivalent emissions of other fossil fuel gases contributing to the greenhouse effect linked to global warming and climate change. The fee would increase every year and be returned to citizens as a dividend meant to offset the increased energy costs that utilities would pass on to ratepayers.
Ultimately, Ballard said, such legislation would provide an economic incentive for conservation and to change to renewable energy sources — and it would not involve added government since the fee would be given back to citizens as dividends, a component that could appeal to conservatives.
Part of the organization's work has been creating a Climate Solutions Caucus in the House of Representatives to engage both Democrats and Republicans on the topic and build support for a solution.
There are currently 78 representatives who have joined the caucus since it formed in 2016, half of them Republican. It is set up so that a representative of one party cannot join until a member of the other party also joins.
Lobbying is only part of the organization's mission. Ballard said another part is to engage local citizens and leaders in a grassroots campaign to educate people about climate change, with a goal of creating a local group in every congressional district.
The Evansville group already has about 15 members, Ballard said.
Persons interested in linking up with the local group in their area can do so via the Citizens' Climate Lobby website.
Ballard said the Evansville delegates will meet with Buschon's legislative aide while on Capitol Hill next week, partly to discuss the Indiana Climate Change Impacts Assessment released by Purdue University this year.
The report was the first in a series of indepth reports about climate change effects on the state from the Purdue Climate Change Research Center.