The newest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change made it clear that averting the worst penalties of local weather modifications (lesser penalties are by now throughout us) will imply rapidly chopping again on using fossil fuels that trigger world warming.
Big Oil didn’t get the memo.
Faced with what they noticed as an existential menace to their companies, BP, Valero, Phillips 66, the Koch brothers and different members of the fossil gasoline fraternity dumped greater than $30 million into Washington State to crush a poll initiative that might have imposed the primary taxes within the nation on carbon emissions. Backers of the proposal hoped it could function a template for related motion elsewhere and maybe for the nation as a complete. But the theoretical magnificence of a carbon tax, which most economists and scientists imagine is the surest technique to management emissions on a broad scale, was no match even in reliably Democratic Washington for relentless fearmongering about job losses, larger electrical energy payments and dearer gasoline.
The defeat in Washington was probably the most disappointing setback for local weather activists within the midterm elections on Tuesday, a day of decidedly blended messages on local weather change particularly and environmental points extra broadly.
On the destructive aspect of the ledger, the firewall within the Republican-majority Senate in opposition to any motion in any respect on local weather was fortified by assured Republican pickups in North Dakota, Indiana and Missouri. One new senator, Representative Kevin Cramer, who defeated Heidi Heitkamp in North Dakota, served as an power adviser within the 2016 Trump marketing campaign and was an architect of the president’s power agenda, which consists primarily of drilling oil and gasoline wells on nearly each sq. inch of obtainable federal land, onshore and off. If Rick Scott, the Republican Florida governor, maintains his slender lead over Senator Bill Nelson, a Democrat, it will likely be one other main loss for the surroundings. Governor Scott’s administration for a time barred using the time period “local weather change” in official paperwork, and the governor was so inattentive to Florida’s many climate-related dangers, together with sea degree rise and flooding, that he was sued by a gaggle of younger folks for ignoring the problem.
In Arizona, a poll proposal that might have required utilities to get half their electrical energy from renewable sources by 203zero was soundly beaten after serious opposition from the state’s biggest power company. More promisingly, Nevada voters approved a ballot measure that would require electric utilities to get 50 percent of their power from renewable sources like solar energy by 2030, up from around 25 percent today. But that proposal will have to be approved again in 2020.
The news was far better in the House of Representatives, which flipped to the Democrats, and even better in the statehouses, where one climate activist after another supplanted Republicans who didn’t much care. The House Science Committee is set to be led by Eddie Bernice Johnson of Texas, who actually cares about science, instead of the antediluvian Lamar Smith, another Texan, who used his chairmanship to harass climate scientists and beat the drum for oil-and-gas interests. The likely next chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, Arizona’s Raul Grijalva, is the polar opposite of Utah’s Rob Bishop, the chairman and one of President Trump’s main allies in the effort to rescind national monument designations as well as to open up public lands for extractive industries. New Jersey’s Frank Pallone, expected to take charge of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, is far more concerned about climate change than any of the Republicans now on the panel.
In governors’ races, Democratic candidates who worry about climate change did splendidly from Maine to New Mexico, replacing Republicans who were generally pro-fossil fuel. Several of Tuesday’s winners have committed to a goal of 100 percent renewable energy in their states, including the newcomer Jared Polis in Colorado and the incumbent Kate Brown in Oregon. Several other newcomers — Gretchen Whitmer in Michigan, J.B. Pritzker in Illinois, Steve Sisolak in Nevada and Janet Mills in Maine — have promised to invest heavily in wind and solar power.
It is in people like these that the environmental community is now investing its hopes for near-term success, in part because governors with legislative majorities (Andrew Cuomo, take note) not only have a mandate to set ambitious targets for wind and solar power but also the wherewithal to persuade utilities to help meet those goals. And the impact could be considerable, especially if the states where Democrats picked up governorships commit themselves to the 26 percent to 28 percent reduction in greenhouse gases promised by President Barack Obama at the 2015 Paris summit on climate change.
Still, it is hard not to regret the loss of the carbon tax initiative in Washington State. Increases in renewable energy sources of the sort that the new governors are seeking can deliver big carbon reductions in the electric power sector and are important in what has to be a multifaceted attack on climate change. But greenhouse gas emissions from other sources, principally transportation, continue to rise, and one of the great attractions of a carbon tax is that it would provide a powerful incentive for consumers across all sectors of the economy to change their behavior and choose cleaner alternatives. For instance, a carbon tax that led to stiffer fuel taxes could encourage the market for electric cars, which are seen as essential to a low-carbon future.
Nobody thought the midterm elections were going to save the climate. And they didn’t. What they did do was give the Democrats a chance to effect change on the state level — as well as the obligation and the power to hold the administration to account.
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