A Good Climate Policy Rises Above Politics

Britta Pedersen/picture-alliance/dpa/AP Images

This story was originally published by Grist and appears here as part of the Climate Desk collaboration.

As the results of the midterms continue to trickle in, one thing is clear: Bipartisan climate action in the US is over.

For decades, there’s been the dream that one day, with the right coalition, the US would pass a nationwide climate policy that could gently steer the country toward a clean energy future. The moderate coalition that might have supported such an effort is now in shambles: Pro-climate Republicans lost big last night. It’s an open question if there are even any Republicans left in Congress that would support bipartisan market-based climate policies (if there ever were).

And on those market-based policies: Climate ballot initiatives also lost big. The biggest loss of the night, facing millions of dollars of opposition by the fossil fuel industry, was Initiative 1631, Washington’s attempt to be the first state to tax carbon. In total, clean energy ballot measures were up against more than $100 million in opposition nationwide. A majority of them failed. Turns out, you can’t beat the wealthiest industry in all of human history at their own game.

During the time the US has waited for bipartisan, market-based policies to manifest, the climate stakes have gone up. A hypothetical carbon tax that would be able to pass Congress probably wouldn’t do enough anyway. After two decades of trying, there needs to be a realization that it’s likely too late for a Republican-friendly “nudge” policy, like a carbon tax or cap-and-trade.

So, the current strategy isn’t working. And with warnings from climate scientists blaring, it’s time for something different. If there’s one thing this election provides, it’s some much-needed moral clarity.

Writing for the New Republic, Emily Atkin lays blame at the feet of a Democratic Party that failed to elevate climate change to a top-tier issue during the midterms. More than gun violence, more than racism, more than affordable health care, more than immigration—voters rate climate change as the issue that most separates the parties. Still, the Democratic agenda for the next Congress barely mentions climate change, continuing a worrying trend.

On election night, Pelosi said the Democrats would “strive for bipartisanship” with their newly achieved majority in the House of Representatives. In…

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