ELPC’s Howard Learner participated in this week’s National Journal Energy Experts blog which asks how the climate change debate should be shifted.
Should Washington and the rest of the country find a new way to debate climate change in a way that’s more conducive to action?
The few times global warming comes up at all in Washington right now, it provokes a fractured, polarized and partisan conversation. At the mere academic talk of a carbon tax, Republicans immediately push measures blocking its consideration in Congress. Democrats take to the floor of both chambers regularly to talk about climate change. Rarely if ever do the political parties actually talk to each other about this issue.
In the wake of the Oklahoma disaster last week, climate experts seemed split on whether a debate should be had about whether global warming caused the tornado. Is continually linking global warming to extreme weather a helpful component to the overall debate, or not?
How, if at all, could the global warming debate be changed in order to produce more action? Is this effort all for naught as long as many Republicans deny the scientific consensus that humans’ consumption of fossil fuels is causing global warming? Should President Obama take more of a leadership role in changing this debate?
Focus on Climate Solutions and Economics
Executive Director, Environmental Law & Policy Center
Better environmental protection can achieve economic benefits, not just cause costs. The debate on mitigating climate change has overly focused on the latter. It’s time to squarely address some important economic benefits.
First, risk mitigation. America’s leading scientists are explaining the causal connections between climate change and the acceleration of extreme weather events that impose enormous economic costs and human costs. Reducing carbon pollution mitigates climate change and reduces risk. People buy homeowners’ and life insurance to mitigate risk, not because they think that their house will necessarily burn down and that they’ll die in the next year. Some policymakers claim to be less persuaded by the scientific consensus on climate change. Is mitigating the risks of more intense and more frequent hurricanes and tornadoes a common sense economic approach that can gain more political support?
Second, advance America’s global economic competitiveness with clean technology solutions. Wind power and solar energy are the world’s fastest growing energy resources. Cleaner, more fuel efficient cars, buses, trucks and trains arebeing produced by competing manufacturers in North America, Asia and Europe. Battery technology improvements can be game-changers for both the energy and transportation sectors. All of these technological innovations reduce carbon pollution. As global businesses and nations move forward, America should want our technological innovations to be winning in the competitive economic markets. These global economic growth solutions are also climate change solutions.
Third, American leadership. The United States is the global leader. With that leadership comes responsibility. Why should America act before India does so? Because leaders step up and lead when it comes to solving community problems. Solving our global climate change problems is the moral, economic, political, policy and technological challenge of our generation. America can and must step up to lead the way to global climate change solutions.
Finally, getting more serious about more energy efficiency is a no-brainer. Energy efficiency is the best, fastest and cheapest solution to climate change problems. Energy efficiency improvements create jobs, save businesses and people money on utility bills, and reduce pollution. There is a “quiet revolution” taking place through technological advances in more efficient lighting, heating and cooling, appliances, pumps and motors. Saving energy saves consumers money. Less pollution means better public health and cleaner air and water for all. Why would anyone argue that it’s somehow smart to waste energy and money?
These approaches combine environmental progress and economic growth. They help frame the climate change debate with solutions that can gain broader support.