Our next President should declare a national emergency on day 1 to address the existential threat to all
life on the planet posed by Climate Change.
Representative Ilhan Omar (D-MN)
By declaring a national emergency concerning the southern border of the US, Trump may have unwittingly given the next Democratic president an additional weapon with which to combat climate change. Although previous presidents have declared national emergencies for things like swine flu and preventing business with people or organizations involved in global conflicts or the drug trade, none have sought to use their executive power in quite the same manner as Trump has done with his immigration declaration.
Oddly, both Republicans and Democrats opposed the emergency declaration using much the same language. Democrats like House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) were quick to argue that the declaration was an attempt to circumvent Congress—but suggested that a future Democratic president could use the same trick for a different emergency, i.e., climate change or gun control. To emphasize the point, Senator Sanders made a presidential declaration of a national climate emergency an integral part of his recently released climate defense plan.
Petrochemicals are the 800-pound gorilla that many fail to account for in their climate defense plans. Termed a blind spot of the global energy system by the International Energy Agency (IEA) petrochemicals are a driving force behind the increasing demand for fossil fuels.
Petrochemicals also appear to be one of the driving forces behind Trump’s re-election campaign. In the coming weeks and months, Appalachia coal regions and portions of the Rust Belt will become ground zero in the environmental battle between Trump and contenders for the Democratic presidential nomination and, ultimately, for the presidency. In the end, will it all come down to one word--PLASTICS?
Whether he is willing to admit it or not, Donald John Trump surely understands that coal will never return to market prominence in the power sector—absent some miraculous breakthroughs in combustion and carbon capture technologies. Technologies the Trump ad-ministration has shown little interest in developing.
Although Trump accuses Democrats of having launched a war on coal, the real culprits in terms of coal’s declining demand are market forces, e.g., the price of alternatives, about which even coal-state Republicans have shown little genuine interest in overriding. Having promised renewed prosperity to coal country conservatives, Trump is now on the hook to deliver. These are, after all, his peeps.
Dan Levitan argues in the New Republic that Republican deniers of climate change, who are now on the side of the “angels,” don’t deserve redemption by Democrats unless they own-up to the harms they’ve caused by their earlier denials. Prompting Levitan to write his article was the testimony of Republican pollster Frank Luntz before the Senate Democrats’ Special Committee on the Climate Crisis.
Luntz’s invitation was issued by the chair of the Committee, Senator Brian Schatz (D-HI). Unlike the House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis, the Senate group is not a Senate sanctioned organization. It is a self-selecting group of Democratic senators that, according to their web-site, want to examine how climate change is affecting the country and the planet and to mobilize action and support for bold climate solutions. To achieve their goal the Committee is planning to convene a series of hearings through 2019 and 2020 to gather expert testimony from a wide variety of witnesses.
The July 25th hearing was entitled “The Right Thing to Do: Conservatives for Climate Action.” Joining Luntz as witnesses were Kera O’Brien Vice President, Students for Carbon Dividends and Nick Huey, founder of the Climate Campaign and a member of the Utah Chapter of the Citizens’ Climate Lobby. Both O’Brien and Huey are young conservative Republicans who believe that carbon needs to be taxed.
I have an Article 2 where I have the right to do whatever I want as president
-- Donald Trump
Time is the dearest resource we have in the fight to combat Earth’s warming. Whether there is time enough to avoid the harsh economic and environmental consequences waiting beyond the 1.5 degree Celsius threshold scientists warn is a point of no return mostly depends on what the US and the other nations of the world choose to do about the climate crisis and when they will choose to do it.
Time is the fixed element of the warming response equation. It can neither be manufactured nor stopped. Idle time can’t be saved in a rainy-day account or the loose change jar on your dresser to be used later.
Although time past can’t be retrieved, tomorrow’s time can be mortgaged—as it has been by Trump’s efforts to deregulate the nation’s environment and continue its addiction to fossil fuels.
Undoing the damage done by Trump to the environment and the regulatory framework that protects it will prove more difficult—certainly more time consuming—than moderate and progressive climate defenders imply in their various green policy proposals.
The way forward for any climate defense plan—moderate or progressive—is going to be cluttered with the refuse of the Trump administration, e.g., rolled back regulations, extant lawsuits, the lost government offices and programs needed to implement a pro-environment agenda. Cleaning up what Trump and company will leave in their wake is going to take time, as will putting in place a comprehensive climate defense plan.
Joel B. Stronberg
Joel Stronberg, MA, JD., of The JBS Group is a veteran clean energy policy analyst with over 30 years’ experience, based in Washington, DC.