Sustainability Not A Policy Priority

In the past year, cities and towns have been wiped off the map by the effects of fires, floods and hurricanes. With these catastrophes as the backdrop, the great Green New Deal generated a great deal of interest across the nation, but this bold attempt to tackle climate change was dead on arrival in the U.S. Senate last month.

The Senate failed to advance the Green New Deal after the measure failed in a 0-57 vote, with 43 Democrats voting present. Democratic Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, Doug Jones of Alabama and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona voted with Republicans against the measure, as did Sen. Angus King of Maine, an Independent who caucuses with the Democrats.

Now, there is a noticeable vacuum on Capitol Hill around global warming, climate change and the path forward. The conversation must embrace more than the conversation about fossil fuels and carbon emissions. Sustainable and resilient cities, deforestation, urban forestry, food and water security, mass immigration, wastewater management, and public health are key components of crisis aversion and crisis management. Our cities must plot the path forward for billions of people. The most responsible corporations and governments will help. Those who hope to capitalize on the crises will continue to obstruct the search for truth and solutions.

Despite the political maneuvers on this bill, there has been a noticeable shift in tone among Republicans, as more are acknowledging that there is a serious climate problem and that action is warranted. Republicans on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, for example, have said that “climate change is real” and have called for solutions. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) says he believes in human-caused climate change. These encouraging statements reflects the growing climate concern among voters.

More than 80 percent of voters – including 64 percent of Republican voters – want the government to do more to reduce carbon emissions. Among millennial voters, soon to be the largest voting demographic, climate concern is even greater. A recent NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll shows that 63 percent of adults say the GOP’s positions on climate change are outside the mainstream. Voters want a plan to modernize our economy, encourage innovation, and reestablish the United States as the leader in next-generation clean energy technologies.

Old-school Republicans James Baker and George Shultz propose a free-market climate solution.

Under the proposal, companies would be charged for their carbon emissions, and all revenue would be rebated directly to Americans through quarterly cash dividends. This plan will also force large emitters like China and India to pay a fee based on the carbon content of the products they export to the U.S.

Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer recently established a new committee aimed at addressing climate change. Sen. Brian Schatz (D-HI) will chair the committee, which will work with environmental, financial, and national security experts to find solutions for communities impacted by climate change and provide oversight on special interests that foster climate denial.

“The economic, national security, environmental, and public health consequences of inaction on climate change are far too pressing to not have a group of Senators dedicated to investigating the costs of inaction and the opportunities that exist in taking bold action,” Schumer said. “While our Republican colleagues stay fixated on denying science, democrats know that climate change is real and Congress must act quickly, and this new committee is an essential first step in addressing this existential threat.”

According to Schatz’s communications director, this new committee is one of many steps democrats are taking to highlight the economic and human cost of inaction on climate change. The entire Senate Democratic Caucus recently co-sponsored a resolution stating that climate change is real, caused by humans, and that the United States and Congress need to address it immediately. Senate Democrats have also introduced legislation to prohibit any federal funding for the Trump administration’s climate panel and demanded major climate investments in any infrastructure bill.

“In order to take bold action, we need a broad coalition. We have put together a group of people who are leading on climate in different ways. And that is going to be the foundation for our success,” Schatz said.

Schatz said that the committee will make real inquiries and real analysis, and that they are treating climate change as an emergency.

Hopefully, the political solution will be more than hot air. Market-based solutions are clearly part of the answer. Alternative energy, energy conservation, forest conservation, reforestation, urban forestry, smarter agriculture and other solutions are at our fingertips.

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