Climate Progress is happy to introduce Bill Becker as the first of several new guest bloggers. Bill is Executive Director of the Presidential Climate Action Project, an initiative to help the next President of the United States take decisive action on global warming within his or her first 100 days in office. You can read his full bio here. Bill is not only one of the most knowledgeable people on sustainable development, he helped launch one of the first green communities — Soldiers Grove, WI. And he’s also a former newspaper editor — making him uniquely qualified to blog on energy and climate issues. Welcome, Bill!
My PC has been a blog-free zone. Until now.
Joe Romm asked me to become a contributor to Climate Progress and, after some hesitation, I agreed. I hesitated because my time, energy, and mental capacity are dominated these days by an effort to create a climate action plan for the next President of the United States.
But Joe is one of my former bosses at the U.S. Department of Energy, where he amazed us all by becoming one of the all-time champions of the Washington Post’s weekly humor contest. He did that in his spare time, when he wasn’t creating one of the U.S.’s first comprehensive plans to combat global warming. I admire Joe a lot — his writing and his intellect and his mix of passion and science — so I agreed.
I expect to take advantage of Climate Progress to obtain your help with the presidential plan, sometimes by inciting a blog-riot, other times by gentler means of soliciting your reactions. I will start by telling you the assumptions upon which we’re basing our approach to climate action.
First, there has been a silver lining to the void in national leadership on climate change. States, localities, NGOs and corporations are stepping into the void, owning the issue and acting on it (or at least setting goals for action). That probably would not have happened if the federal government had taken earlier control.
Second, with due respect to the good works of non-federal entities, the United States cannot have an adequate effort to deal with climate change so long as the nation’s largest energy consumer (the federal government) and the “world’s most powerful leader” (the President) are sitting on the bench, or so long as federal subsidies are paying us to pollute. Federal action should not replace state, local and private action — it should empower it while unleashing the market and regulatory power the federal government can bring to bear.
Third, while global climate change must be addressed by developing and developed nations alike, the United States will have no respect or leverage in international negotiations until it has a credible domestic climate action program.
Fourth, we will need every tool in the toolbox to mitigate greenhouse gas missions with sufficient speed and to adapt to the changes already underway. We will need market mechanisms and mandates, incentives and penalties, government and civil society, federal laws and private initiative, national action and local action, collective action and personal action.
Fifth, as the fourth implies, there is no silver bullet here. Climate stabilization requires a portfolio approach — action on many fronts. It will not be sufficient for Congress to pass a cap-and-trade bill, and then walk away from the problem for another decade.
Sixth, the next President must be bold, show courage, and lead aggressively on this issue. We have asked far too little of our leaders in recent times, and our leaders have asked far too little from us. We must demand action from one another.
Finally, the President must take substantive action within the first 100 days of his or her administration. The nation and the world will be watching to see if and how the United States will engage this issue and the international community.
Next time I’ll offer some “new rules” for U.S. climate action.