Opinion: Successful climate change policy will demand brilliant leadership

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Readers of my blogs will know I stand with our nation’s brightest minds on climate change.

Nothing is more critical to long-term survival of our species than to grab the climate change bull by the horns and bring it to its knees.

Saying it is easy. 

Doing something about it when irrational forces are lining up to do anything to block progress is hard. 

With that in mind, whoever emerges as leading U.S. lights to develop policy will need to take into consideration just how the deck is stacked against implementing climate change policy that can make a difference and what cracks to exploit to save Earth from itself. Offered in no particular order:

A green deal is fine to debate – but climate change is not a Christmas tree to hang your favorite domestic or foreign grievance.  New York democrat Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez won her seat in the House last November in part on the issue of creating an economic plan to first reduce and then eliminate greenhouse gas emissions.  But instead of keeping her eye narrowly targeted to the goal, her first effort – H.R Resolution 1 – included a host of Democratic policy objectives on education, unionization, sustaining wages, workplace safety, and health just to name several.

Leadership can’t afford to muddy up climate change debate with tangential issues.

In a partisan political world policy language will need to be exact and well thought out. 

Let’s not dance around the us vs. them divide that is Washington D.C.  House Resolution 1 included a fact sheet that instantly became problematic for those wishing an honest and spirited debate on climate change.

There were several missteps of note in the FAQ

Ag folk will cringe at this imprecise language:  “We set a goal to get to net-zero, rather than zero emissions, in 10 years because we aren’t sure that we’ll be able to fully get rid of farting cows and airplanes that fast…”

Aren’t sure we’ll be able to fully get rid of farting cows and airplanes that fast?

Political opponents jumped all over that in a New York minute

Even the POTUS piled on.

You get the idea.  Politicians will do anything (including lie about the facts) to serve their campaign paying masters.  We do need to recognize that cows produce a lot of methane. More burps than farts.  To that end the beef industry and USDA are looking for strategies to reduce cattle’s environmental footprint.

 The research found that cattle accounted for 3.3 percent of all U.S. emissions.  Expect release in about half a year a study of how the beef supply change contributes to the environmental footprint.

Understand Big Oil is currently in a box and has no clue how to address climate change get out other than make campaign contributions to politicians who will keep the status quo. 

As I recently blogged Big Oil is losing the messaging war on climate change.  The public is no longer buying what Big Oil is selling.

Oil and gas industry reps are actively looking for any means to cut carbon emissions over the next 20 years.  Investors are pressuring the Big Oil to find ways to meet goals of the Paris climate accord.

This presents a window of opportunity for potential bi-partisan discussion of climate change solutions.  Already the GOP is talking among itself.  Dems seek out your GOP friends and have small group or one-on-one confidential dialogue about climate change.  Get it all on the table. Seek to build community.

The White House will be putting forth a false narrative to promote why the U-S should not be part of a world effort to do climate change. 

Make no mistake.  The POTUS is a climate-change denier who derides the science of his own administration.  The solution?  Rinse and repeat Big Oil’s messaging efforts of finding so-called experts to poo-poo what most people have come to regard as climate change gospel.

The White House gets to do this because the POTUS won the election.

Of course this is all nonsense of the highest order.  But it is also a threat meant to slow down or stymie policy solutions on climate change.  Ignore it.

If the feds fail the best chances for solutions to is for states to take up the climate change mantle.

 This is already happening in a significant way.  States are passing laws and resolutions on renewable energy requirements, low carbon fuel standards, vehicle regulations, greenhouse gas targets and carbon pricing.

States, geographical regions, and local counties are also conducting climate change assessment.

Expect to see a lot more of this in the next decade.  Embrace it.

The world needs rational U.S. leadership if it has any hope of saving itself from self destruction. U.S. greenhouse gas emissions rose 3.4 percent in 2018.

Those in Congress who can be adults and put aside their own personal interests must come together to find solutions.  Here is an ironclad truth: Without rational U.S. leadership and involvement world efforts are more likely than less likely to fail.

About Dave Dickey

Dickey spent nearly 30 years at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign’s NPR member station WILL-AM 580 where he won a dozen Associated Press awards for his reporting. For 13 years, he directed Illinois Public Media’s agriculture programming. His weekly column for Big Ag Watch covers agriculture and related issues including politics, government, environment and labor. Email him at dave.dickey@investigatemidwest.org.

This column reflects the writer’s own opinions and not those of Big Ag Watch.

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