Climate column: Moving to center
We live in amazing times, and last week’s perusal of the U.S. Senate floor on climate legislation is current proof.
The good news: Senate Republicans are openly discussing climate change and the obvious need to do something about it.
“We better hope it's man-made, because if it's not, we're in trouble,” Republican Sen. Mitt Romney remarked. Happily, he and a few other pragmatic senators are looking for solutions.
The part that is disappointing to me is that rather than relying on what I thought were tried-and-true conservative values, they are discussing government spending to encourage innovation. I find my conservative side protesting, “Hey! Who’s going to stand for personal responsibility, the free market and low government spending if you don’t?” Why subsidize business, with all the paternalism and political rancor this entails, when one could simply return to the basic role of government and insist that polluters pay?
Certainly, they are responding to proponents of the Green New Deal. But it’s a narrow response. The Green New Deal, with its sweeping vision of a clean, just, safe and prosperous world for all, has energized a far-left flank and moved the conversation. Most critically, it has put the needs of vulnerable people at the heart of solving the climate crisis.
We will never and should never “solve” climate change on the backs of the vulnerable, and we can thank the Green New Deal for its attention to this issue. A downside is that it gives Republicans firm footing, if they are looking for it, on which to declare that Democrats want to dismantle capitalism, and climate change is a convenient spoke in the wheel.
The “winner-take-all” strategy that Green New Dealers appear to embrace has been attempted before and will surely fail, as it should. We need both — all — sides to come up with lasting rules for ourselves. As Jerry Taylor states in an “Open Letter to Green New Dealers” (niskanencenter.org): “Nothing about the seriousness of the threat we are facing changes the fact that politics is ‘the art of the possible’ not exhortation for the impossible.”
Further, he reminds us what any historian knows: “Getting legislation through Congress is far better achieved by quiet persuasion done behind the scenes than by pounding the pulpit.”
Having watched our country’s pull toward radicalism in both directions, I find myself glad that our institutions keep us pinned to the process, no matter how convinced we are that the other side has nothing to offer.
Lasting solutions come from “quiet persuasion” behind the scenes. There is simply no other way.
If Democrats want to lead in the effort to solve climate change, their job is to build coalitions among themselves and across the aisle so that they can move when an opening presents itself.
Republicans have the same opportunity, and the Green New Deal has handed it to them on a silver platter. Now they can be the cool heads, the coalition-builders, the ones who didn’t let rhetoric leap ahead of actual legislative ideas.
How does this relate to us on the North Shore? Our Congressman, Republican Pete Stauber, has repeatedly stated his support for bi-partisan, common-sense solutions to our problems. He is surely no fan of the Green New Deal, and a common-sense response that gives much to his constituents sits in front of him.
Our local coalition of four chapters in District 8 of the Citizens’ Climate Lobby (which has, nationally, 12 years of experience working effectively with elected officials via “quiet persuasion”), has already met with Stauber’s staff. He knows about the centrist bill that we support, the Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act (H.R. 763), and we will continue to work with him and his staff so that, when the time comes, he will cast his vote in support.
I know of no better way to “think globally” while “acting locally.”