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Horowitz: Earth Day 2018 - Best & Worst of Times

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

 

Rob Horowitz

This past Sunday’s Earth Day calls to mind the famous beginning of Charles Dickens' classic French Revolution novel, Tale of Two Cities: “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair…”

On limiting the rise in global temperatures--the most important environmental issue of our time and an existential one for humans to continue to thrive on our planet--it is in a certain sense, the best of times.  The fears that President Trumps 2017 announcement that the United States intended to withdraw from the landmark 2015 Paris Global Climate Change Agreement would cause other major carbon emitters, such as China and India, to pull back on their commitments simply have not been realized. If anything, other nations have stepped up and worked to fill the void. The major breakthrough achieved in Paris and in bi-lateral agreements forged by the Obama Administration that set the stage for Pairs were that the developing nations agreed for the first time to cap and begin lowering their emissions. Up to that point, China and other developing nations had resisted setting a goal of lowering emissions, saying it was up to the United States and the rest of the developed world that created the problem to solve it. This breakthrough, which is essential to limiting global temperature increases, has now stood the test of time.

Further, in the wake of Trump’s ill-advised decision to abandon our Paris commitments, state and local elected leaders, along with many major corporations and non-profits, have taken on the mantle of leadership, proclaiming that their actions taken together will mean that the United States will still meet its climate change goals.  As Michael Bloomberg, who now serves as UN Special Envoy for Cities and Climate Change, said, “Americans will honor and fulfill the Paris Agreement by leading from the bottom up – and there isn’t anything Washington can do to stop us.”

The rapid growth and related lower costs of renewable energy is perhaps the most promising and important development of all, making the claims of Mr. Bloomberg, Governor Jerry Brown and other local and state leaders credible--far more than just wishful thinking.  Also, the growth of solar energy, wind power and other non-carbon producing- sources of energy is an essential development for bringing about the worldwide greenhouse gas emissions reductions needed to limit temperature increases sufficiently to avoid the worst consequences of global warming.

For national environmental policy, however, it is the worst of times. Coupled with an irresponsible abandonment of leadership on climate change and a corresponding effort to roll back President Obama’s climate change initiatives, is an all-out attempt to weaken environmental protections across the board. Led by EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, an ally of the oil, gas and coal industries, this effort is even fiercer and more extreme than the effort of the Reagan Administration in its first two years before political reality set it to roll back environmental laws and regulations in the early 80’s.

As Vox pointed out in an article posted over Earth Day Weekend, as the climate science becomes even more definite, the Trump Administration stays steadfast in its denial of climate change reality. Among the recent disturbing examples cited by Vox is that “NOAA scientists reported late last year that the Arctic losing ice at its fastest rate in at least 1,500 years.”

While state and local leaders throughout our nation are stepping in admirably for where the Trump Administration stepped-up, given the scale and complexity of the climate change problem and the relatively short-timeline left to ameliorate it, the absence of United States global leadership is still highly problematic.

To paraphrase Dickens once more, For our environment, it is the best of times:it is the worst of times.

 

Rob Horowitz is a strategic and communications consultant who provides general consulting, public relations, direct mail services and polling for national and state issue organizations, various non-profits and elected officials and candidates. He is an Adjunct Professor of Political Science at the University of Rhode Island

 

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