Last week there was a lightness among friends and colleagues. After four years of frustration with US policies focused on undermining climate change policy and science, there was cautious optimism that the incoming Biden administration will address climate change in a meaningful way. We can count on Biden to reenter the US in the Paris Agreement and reengage internationally to strategize on coordinated global climate action.
At home, we can look forward to an administration that supports climate science, is seeking to decrease our reliance on fossil fuels, and is open to market-based solutions to address solving the climate change that is already upon us. In just this past year alone, the litany of devastation wrought by drought, fires, floods and hurricanes is mind boggling. Most Americans now accept climate change is real and needs urgent action, but there are profound differences about what those actions should be. Should there be a federal carbon tax? A carbon dividend? What impact would that have on the economy? Should markets play a role? We think the Biden administration should look to California’s successful cap and trade program as a framework for combatting climate change. Last week, California reported emissions fell in that state by almost 9 million tons from 2018 to 2019. Meanwhile, the state continued to be an economic powerhouse during that period.
The next four years will not be easy for President-elect Biden. Signals from Republican leadership on the issue of climate policy point to the obstructionist tendencies that have paralyzed Congress for far too long. But there are some in Congress who are willing to tackle this issue in a bipartisan way. The Growing Climate Solutions Act is a bipartisan effort to motivate farmers and foresters to participate in carbon markets. The Climate Solutions Caucus boasts dozens of members from both parties.
The devastating effects of climate change are indifferent to political affiliation. Destruction and loss happens to people: farmers, city dwellers, town folk, young, old, fishermen, factory workers, retirees…and especially the poor. It’s time to put politics aside and advocate for the full force of the federal government to support a comprehensive plan to combat climate change.