Markowitz: Climate Hope

Mar 31, 2017

Two weeks after announcing significant cuts in funding for climate programs across the federal government, the Trump Administration released an executive order to roll back Obama Era climate policies.

And rollback of environmental protections combined with cuts to investments necessary for curbing climate change couldn’t be coming at a worse time.

The World Meteorological Organization confirmed 2016 as the warmest year on record. 2017 looks like it’s going to be just as bad. And here in Vermont, unseasonably warm temperatures in January and February broke records.

Cold winters matter. Not only does Vermont rely on the cold for winter tourism and maple syrup, but it can also affect our health. Warm winters mean more ticks in the spring – increasing the risk of contracting Lyme disease and other tick-borne illnesses.

But news on the climate front isn’t all bad. New reports show the world’s greenhouse gas emissions continued to stay flat – for the third year in a row. Inexpensive natural gas continued to replace dirtier fuels like oil and coal, while global construction of coal-fired power plants dropped by 62 percent. At the same time, the renewable energy sector continues to grow – with more than 8 million jobs worldwide.

A significant study from the Yale’s Center for Climate Communication shows that 70% of Americans agree that climate change is happening. More than half surveyed believe climate change is mostly caused by human activity, and 75% support regulating carbon pollution.

It will surprise no one that 80% of Vermonters hold these views – but even in the reddest states, like Texas and Oklahoma - well over half of those surveyed support regulating greenhouse gas emissions.

Trump has proposed broad cuts to the nation’s climate programs, but Congress writes the appropriations bills. Members of both parties have already raised concerns, so with public pressure, perhaps the worst of those cuts can be prevented.

In addition, any reversal of EPA greenhouse gas pollution rules must take into account public comments and science, and will face multiple legal and procedural challenges – so would take time to accomplish.

To take a lesson from the recent failure to replace the Affordable Care Act, environmental leaders must use the combined power of the marketplace and public opinion to defend climate policies that protect our health and safety - and our children’s future.