Climate Inertia Continues to Mount

House Republican meetings show that climate action, of some kind, is unavoidable

Originally published Feb. 24, 2021 here.

This past weekend, House Republicans held a climate summit in Salt Lake City, Utah with the aim of addressing the Republican position on climate change.

As the Biden administration is making climate action a priority through early executive orders and outlines concerning climate and energy, Republicans are taking steps to formulate a cohesive stance on the issue. Historically, climate and climate change have been a topic of focus only for Democrats, if at all.¹ Republicans have often taken extremely strong positions against even the reality of climate change (from Jim Inhofe’s snowball to Former President Trump’s Twitter denial and complete lack of climate action).² Though, looking back far enough, we can see that climate change was a bipartisan concern under Former President George H. W. Bush.

On the shores of the Great Salt Lake, Republicans recognized how new, young voters wanted to see climate action and how a continuation of ignoring climate change as a threat was pragmatically untenable. Presentations were given and strategies were discussed. In like fashion to recent climate-related efforts from the GOP, carbon capture and innovation-based technologies enjoyed much of the limelight.

With climate action becoming a more mainstream concern among Republican legislators, steps towards combating climate change are becoming more and more realizable. An ambitious Biden administration, whether being present for four years or eight, is sure to set into motion long term projects, both international and domestic, seeking to mitigate and address climate change. The private sector is mirroring these movements with more companies setting net-zero carbon pledges and other renewable energy aims. All in all, a return to Trump-era abandonment of climate action will likely prove unfeasible for the next, or any future, administration.

All of the above should sound pretty promising, and it surely is; however, considerations about specifically what kind of climate action is going to be put into place over the coming years, relating to concerns about the level of ambition of this action, can still offer worry to even an optimistic onlooker.

Republicans will likely present their climate plans as focused alternatives to broader Democrat implementations. Ideally, bipartisan legislation would (and will) win the day, but anyone familiar with the level of partisanship present in American politics should know such straightforward cooperation is, unfortunately, anything but guaranteed. With roots in not-too-long-ago³ climate crisis downplaying and a fear of any self-proclaimed “big government” approach, Republican proposals will likely be too modest to align with the radically ambitious benchmarks that need to be hit to significantly reign in emissions and their climate consequences.

Now, there is no reason conservative climate solutions need be too meek, as shown by Former Republican Representative Bob Inglis and his passionate work in motivating climate action among the Republican party. But the trends of Republican lawmakers unfortunately leave Inglis as an outlier than a rule.

Climate change is happening and, fortunately, so is action to mitigate it. What shape this action takes moving forward will be the deciding question when it comes to the full amount of damage and suffering that climate change will wreak. Now that inertia on acting against climate change is starting to really rise, we must make sure that mitigation and adaptation efforts are fully proportional and appropriate to the threat we face.

Which is to say that they must be extremely ambitious, like decarbonizing the electricity grid by 2035, and given workable paths to realization like a carbon tax (if we can get past the fear of the word “tax” for a revenue neutral policy) and/or⁴ a Clean Electricity Standard.

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1. And that’s a big if

2. There is a potential argument to be made that a conservative approach to climate change rejects something like the Paris Accord while still pushing for domestic action. I would disagree with the argument but it would count as some form of mitigation attempt. This argument does not apply to President Trump because, after leaving the Paris Accord, no action whatsoever was taken by his administration to mitigate climate change or actively lower our nation’s carbon emissions. Many environmental protections were rolled back and none were implemented to address the ever-worsening climate threat.

3. And in many cases, ongoing

4. ¿Por que no los dos?

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2030 by Matt Lundy

2030 by Matt Lundy

This is a secondary hosting of 2030.substack.com written by me, Matt Lundy, a science/climate communicator looking for work. Contact: madt.lundy@gmail.com