The world is taking steps to combat unwanted effects of future climate change. Some would characterize them as baby steps. Others would say they are false steps.
I think they are appropriate. For example, the U.S. is doing the right thing in phasing out coal as the fuel of choice for electricity generation. Moving to renewables, natural gas and increased use of nuclear power will have a significant impact on U.S. emissions and is broadly affordable.
Some may not have noticed, but ‘Business As Usual’ no longer exists, if indeed it ever did. With the increasing take-up of solar and wind, with the ‘dash for gas’, with China’s big push into hydroelectric power, countries the world over are changing how they do business–and sometimes why.
These steps, no matter how little they accomplish in the short term, are important over the long haul. Some economists argue that small scale efforts at mitigating climate change are in fact the appropriate way to start a campaign that will probably last a century. That’s one reason I keep advocating a carbon tax introduced at a low level and re-evaluated every 10 years. In a concession to conservatives, I am happy to do whatever they want to make sure such a tax is revenue neutral.
But what is essential is not to reverse any of the positive steps we have taken. We can’t really afford to pay for a ‘two steps forward, one step back’ approach to dealing with climate change. And dithering, backtracking and hesitating may make future efforts less effective and more expensive.
Which is why it is disturbing to read about the U.S. Senate’s vote to block President Obama’s climate change rules. I’ve got nothing against politics, and the role of the opposition is to oppose. But if plans are made on a century-long timescale, it is counter-productive to have each step challenged several times. Oppose and God bless you–but if you cannot win the day, put your shoulder to the wheel with the rest of us.
Fortunately, President Obama can veto this new Senate resolution and it is unlikely to be over-ridden. However, opponents of action on climate change should save their ammo and wait for the next initiative. As a supporter of President Obama and of action against climate change, I recognize the possibility that our efforts may go too far in the future and we may thank opponents for either stopping over-reach or at least warning us of it. But when the fight is over, let the dust clear and let’s all move on.