My Turn: Climate change shouldn’t be divisive

For the Monitor
Published: 11/10/2019 6:45:15 AM

It’s finally happening. Climate change has become a major issue in the current political season, and thanks to many in our younger generations, isn’t likely to fade away in the face of other, more short-term worries.

Nevertheless, it’s discouraging to this baby boomer that our current politics have turned what should be a matter of common cause to all Americans, into a political divide.

About three-quarters of Democrats think climate change should be near or at the top of our national agenda, while only about a quarter of Republicans feel that way or even acknowledge that the problem exists. Republican leaders in the Senate have essentially prevented any discussion of the issue and our president demonstrates “willful ignorance” on the issue every time he mentions it.

As a result, leadership in the global mission to reduce carbon emissions and create economies that are based on sustainable, renewable energy has been ceded by the U.S. to others. What was once an opportunity for the U.S. to lead in the development of new technologies finds us falling behind.

New wind energy technology to capture the immense power of off-shore wind, manufacturing of inexpensive solar panels, battery technology and others are now more often developed in other nations.

Here, our Congress still can’t find a way to even have a meaningful vote to acknowledge the problems, and our national administration seems to believe our future lies in going back to an 18th-century fuel (coal) that has never been anything but dirty, dangerous and destructive.

In stunning contrast, there’s at least one nation where the liberal and conservative politicians have managed to put aside partisanship, acknowledge the compelling science and agree to take meaningful action.

On Nov. 7, the New Zealand parliament passed, unanimously, their Zero Carbon Bill. The Labor (liberal) Party in partnership with other minor parties had proposed the bill, and the National (conservative) Party had challenged a number of components of the law, achieving enough compromises that enabled it to pass into law without a single dissenting vote.

The government’s climate change minister, James Shaw, said: “Time is too short for resignation, things are too bad for pessimism, it is too big a task for petty politics, it is too important for partisanship. These things we must transcend and transform.”

National leader Simon Bridges said there were parts of the bill that his party did not agree with but he described the bill as a “product of compromise.” He said “compromise should not be a dirty word in politics.” Wouldn’t it be lovely if our leaders in Washington were able to achieve this progress and make these statements?

Perhaps it can happen. Last week in the bitterly divided U.S. Senate, members of the Senate Climate Solutions Caucus were announced by the founders, Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del., and Mike Braun, R-Ind. The ground rules are that each new member must bring a member from the other party. To her credit, one of the additional six members is our own Sen. Jeanne Shaheen. Other members are Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, Angus King, I-Maine, Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., Michael Bennet, D-Colo., and Mitt Romney, R-Utah.

In contrast to his party’s leader, Graham said: “I believe climate change is real. I also believe that we as Americans have the ability to come up with climate change solutions that can benefit our economy and our way of life.”

In New Zealand, they have a head start on us. They now have an official legally binding goal of net zero carbon emissions by 2050, and reductions of methane (primarily from animal agriculture) of 24% to 47% by 2050. They have a lot of work to do, but have stopped arguing about the problem and begun designing the solutions.

Thank you, Sen. Shaheen and your seven colleagues, for bridging the partisan gulf here in America. Let’s hope your caucus can attract many more members to motivate the Senate to action. You, too, have a lot of work to do.

(Paul Doscher lives in Weare. He is a tree farmer and lifelong conservationist.)




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