Friday, January 4, 2019

Reasons to Hope that 2019 is a Turning Point for Climate Action in the US

We can certainly use a dose of hope in the wake of the brutal year that was 2018.  No amount of optimism can obscure the destructiveness of the Trump administration. However, this darkness is countered by the promise that 2019 will augur meaningful change. Democracy is under siege from within, however, the actions of the legislative and judicial branches of government have made it possible for the liberal constitutional state to survive this Russian made Trojan Horse. It is a credit to the system of checks and balances that the Republic has withstood repeated attacks from the commander and chief.

There are many reasons to succumb to hopeless but as the Suzuki foundation's Stephen Cornish said, "We don’t have the luxury of hopelessness and fear". Climate scientist Katharine Hayhoe offers a simple solution.

"We can't give in to despair," Hayhoe said in a Ted Talk posted at the start of the new year. "We have to go out and look for the hope we need to inspire us to act." Many are feeling hopeful about the prospects for climate action in 2019. As 2018 drew to a close longtime activist Felix Kramer reports that his outlook has improved. He cites the advocacy of Greta Thunberg, the Green New Deal and the National Academy of Sciences Negative Emissions Technologies report which previews many natural and technical solutions

Kramer concludes by saying:
"Ask climate activists, entrepreneurs, public and private thought-leaders, and many will tell you we’re at a turning point. Hope is the missing ingredient. It will make all the difference. It will fuel our heartfelt urgency, not with fear, dread, and desperation, but with happy visions of a climate restored to health."
Hope for climate action is grounded in two fundamental realities, the first is the Mueller probe and second is the fact that Democrats now control the House of Representatives. The Mueller grand jury just got a 6 month extension and when the findings are released it could decisively bring an end to Trump's presidency. At the very least it will expose a litany of high crimes and misdemeanors for which impeachment was designed (we will see if Republican Senators want to go down in history defending the corruption and criminality of this president once it is a matter of public record).

It will be harder to bury the conclusions of the investigation now that the Democrats have assumed control of the House. The midterm elections gave us reason to believe that sanity can triumph over the divisive politics of fear and hate. Voters repudiated Trump and revolted against Republican control. Democrats took the House by a massive forty seat margin and even in the Senate where Republicans managed to pick up a few seats, five million more Americans voted to put Democrats in power than voted for Republicans.

With the Democrats in control of the House, we can expect more accountability as this administration's conduct will come under scrutiny through subpoena led investigations.

It is now clear that climate change is at the top of the House's agenda. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi called climate change, "the existential threat of our time," in her opening address on day one. She is creating a new select panel titled the "Select Committee on the Climate Crisis." They are charged to come up with solutions.

Climate change is also the first order of business in the forthcoming Energy and Commerce Committee hearings. The committee's first hearing will assess the environmental and economic impacts of climate change. There will also be joint hearings with other committees.

Rules Committee Chairman Jim McGovern (D-Mass.), is a Green New Deal supporter, who has expressed confidence that the caucus would work together on climate issues. Pelosi is hoping for bipartisan support. "The entire Congress must work to put an end to the inaction and denial of science that threaten the planet and the future," she said.

It is easy to lose hope when you consider that Trump was elected president.  However, a closer look reveals that Trump is not that popular and his victory in 2016 was at least in part attributable to Russian interference. Even with help from Vladimir Putin, Trump lost the popular vote by a record setting 3 million ballots and when we factor the workings of the electoral college he won by a razor thin margin of only 100,000 votes in three key states. Since becoming president Trump has consistently low approval ratings and while his base may be impervious to reason, almost two thirds of the country does not share their views. 

Hope is a multifaceted aspiration and keeping it alive is key to climate action. In an October 2018 issue of National Geographic magazine Anne Lamott explained it as follows:

"Sometimes hope is a radical act, sometimes a quietly merciful response, sometimes a second wind, or just an increased awareness of goodness and beauty. Maybe you didn’t get what you prayed for, but what you got instead was waking to the momentousness of life, the power of loving hearts. You hope to wake up in time to see the dawn, the first light, a Technicolor sunrise, but the early morning instead is cloudy with mist. Still, as you linger, the ridge stands majestically black against a milky sky. And if you pay attention, you’ll see the setting of the moon that illumined us all as we slept. And you see a new day dawn."

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