Cautious optimism remains on climate policy

President Trump has decided to pull the United States out of the Paris Climate Accord, an international agreement to reduce global warming, with each nation pledging to do its part to cut carbon emissions.

For America, this means a public reversal of our international leadership, as we turn against 194 other nations and side with exactly two nations: Syria and Nicaragua. The decision was dismissive of the economic opportunities of green energy and of the dangers posed of a warming planet. Other nations have taken note.

For the grassroots advocacy group Citizens’ Climate Lobby, it meant new urgency and new energy for 950 members who went to meetings this week with some 500 Congressional representatives and senators, or their staffers, to talk about solutions to global warming. (The temperature on Capitol Hill: 96 degrees.)

In spite of the President’s retreat, there is reason for cautious optimism. This may be the turning point in moving from debate to action against climate change. Here are some signs.

First: a majority of Americans now worry about climate change and want action. A large majority, including among Trump supporters, like clean energy and wanted the country to stay in the Paris accord.

Second: major businesses, three governors, and mayors and university presidents across the country have reacted to the Paris withdrawal by announcing plans to stick with the Paris program and cut their carbon use. The governor of California, the sixth largest economy in the world, has reaffirmed the plan to continue its bold carbon reduction policies.

Third: the price of clean energy is dropping, close to being competitive with coal. More and more companies are making clean energy part of their business plans. Dozens of top executives of major corporations urged President Trump to stay in the Paris accord. They are concerned that the United States will be left behind in global competition and innovation.

The coming change to green energy will build far more jobs and economic benefit than giving that boon to other countries, particularly China. And the cost of fossil fuel pollution, including severe storms and drought, sea coast flooding, worsening human health, and a budget for defense against mass refugee migrations? Astronomical.

Fourth: There is growing support in Congress to take on climate change. In the House, twenty Republicans and twenty Democrats are now members of the “Climate Solutions Caucus”, working together to look for ways to cut carbon. The caucus will be truly bipartisan: it admits members only in pairs, one from each party. Meanwhile, twenty Republicans sponsored a “Climate Resolution” outlining the severe threats of global warming damage and calling for action.

A group of eight Republican statesmen, including George Shultz and James Baker (each one a former treasury secretary and secretary of state), conservative economists, and the former board chair of Walmart, founded the Climate Leadership Council and went to the White House calling for a price on carbon, with all revenues returned to households, as a market-based and fair way to reduce carbon pollution.

This plan is almost identical to the “carbon fee and dividend” plan that Citizens’ Climate Lobby has advocated, to growing interest in Congress, for several years. The fee, imposed at the mine or oil wellhead, would rise in predictable increments, bringing about a market-based transition to cheaper, cleaner energy and more energy efficiency. The distribution of the revenues (the “dividend”) will protect families against higher prices.

The four CCL advocates from the Delaware chapter, along with members from Ohio’s 11 other chapters and hundreds of volunteers from all over the nation, advocated for this solution in Congress Tuesday, in the 96-degree “heat of the moment.”

Readers can help by calling Rep. Pat Tiberi about climate change. Encourage him to join the Climate Solutions Caucus. The turning point is here.

— Marianne Gabel