Climate Dispatches: Where does climate action stand post-election?
The purpose of this ongoing series of “Climate Dispatches” is to share with our neighbors how climate change affects our community and how we can all make a meaningful difference.
I don’t know about you, but for me this election has been dispiriting. Your favorite candidate for president may or may not have won, but one thing we can say for sure is that this country is more divided than it’s been in living memory. For those of us who are concerned about climate change, and that’s probably the majority of you reading this article, this situation is especially worrisome. Climate change is a complex problem that will require a coordinated and robust response at the federal level, and hopefully much, much sooner than later. As this author writes, it looks like we’re heading for divided government again. Granted, who controls the Senate won’t be determined until Jan. 5 when both of Georgia’s senators are elected in runoff elections. Almost no one is predicting that Democrats will win both of those seats, which is what they would have to do to match the number of Republican Senators.
So what next you ask? That depends to some extent on whether Republican Senatorial leadership will be interested in listening to the voices of younger voters in the Republican Party who are overwhelmingly interested in action on climate change. If so, this may be one issue that Republicans and Democrats can agree to address, at least to some extent. One priority of both parties will be to address the flagging economy in January, so hopefully Congress can agree to put some of our stimulus spending towards bolstering jobs in areas of the economy that would also mitigate climate change. For instance: building out the EV charging network, electrifying buildings, making buildings more energy efficient, reinstating tax incentives for car makers that have already gone through their allotment (Tesla), building more bike lanes, expanding public transit, upgrading the electrical grid, building very high voltage transmission lines and extending tax credits for renewable energy projects. All of these policies would have a beneficial effect on mitigating climate change and creating jobs, but they almost certainly will not be enough on their own to get us to where we need to be. Another possibility for bipartisan cooperation would be to put a price on carbon. That issue will be addressed in a subsequent Climate Dispatches column. But putting a price on carbon along with some of the stimulus options outlined above would go a long way to putting us on the right path.
If Republicans go back to being the party of “no” that they were during the Obama years, climate action will have to come solely from the White House. Biden has already come up with a long list of executive actions that he will move forward with if Republicans aren’t interested in compromise. This has drawbacks. We could have a repeat of what happened when Trump came to power. He rolled back many of the environmental efforts of the Obama administration as well as those of other administrations (over 100 environmental safeguards removed and still counting). So this could easily happen again when a Republican president takes office in the future. Another concern with this approach is that our 6-3 conservative Supreme Court may reverse Biden’s executive actions if they don’t meet their conservative interpretation of the Constitution, which we can be sure will be a very business friendly interpretation and skeptical of executive “overreach.”
So that is the political landscape we find ourselves in. What does that mean for those of us that want to put our time and energies into making an impact on climate change now? While Washington may get mired in partisan gridlock again, those of us lucky enough to live in California can work on real climate change solutions right here, right now. We have a state government that is actively pursuing the kinds of policies that if implemented at the federal level would put us on the path to meet the crucial target of staying below 1.5 degrees Celsius. So let’s take advantage of that and blaze a path to net zero carbon right here in Truckee. Consider joining 100% Renewable Truckee, which is working to help the Town of Truckee move forward on its commitment to a net zero future. All the while, we need to be thinking about how we can share the knowledge that we gain along the way with folks in other parts of the state and country who may be several steps behind us.
We also need to stay politically active. The only reason we aren’t in worse shape politically on climate is that many of you really stepped up this fall and helped in any way that you could to ensure that as many climate champions as possible were elected. Also, seriously consider joining an organization that works to build the political will to tackle climate change: Protect Our Winters, Citizens’ Climate Lobby, Moms Clean Air Force, Elders Climate Action, Rebuild Climate, Rewire America, Sierra Club, Sunrise Movement, 350.org. All of these organizations are working hard to ensure a safe future for our children, so join the one that feels like the right match for you. But don’t assume that you can afford to sit by and let others do the work. There is too much to be done, and too little time to do it. We all need to be involved in one way or another. If you’re short on time, consider donating to one of these organizations. If you’re shorter on money than time, consider volunteering with one of them.
Either way, we all need to take up the mantle of climate activist if we’re going to have any hope of stemming the tide.
Matt Tucker is a proud father of two, husband, full-time Truckee resident and advocate for a livable climate.
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If Israel and the United Kingdom are any indication, widespread vaccination will knock the pandemic down to … normal life. Something near.