Trump and GOP, from the climate experts, you know that we must cut our fossil fuel use, transition to clean energy, use energy more efficiently, and develop more sustainable agriculture. You know that we must collaborate internationally to reduce greenhouse gas emissions world-wide. You know that if we do not act now and decisively, we risk tipping our planet into out-of-control climate chaos, causing widespread-drought and agricultural failures leading to millions of climate refugees and extreme storms and sea-level rise causing trillions of dollars in losses. You know that the evidence for cliamte change is overwhelming: the Arctic is now 36 degrees F above its average temperature, the Arctic sea ice is at an historic low, and atmospheric methane concentrations are rising 20 times faster than a decade ago. Collectively, you have taken hundreds of millions of dollars from the fossil fuel industry. So, to satisfy your paymasters, you are proposing ExxonMobil's Rex Tillerson for Secretary of State and climate denier Scott Pruitt for the Environmental Protection Agency. And you are proposing that we withdraw from the Paris Climate Agreement, cancel EPA's Clean Power Plan, reduce vehicle fuel efficiency standards, eliminate NASA climate research funding and cut the U.S. contribution to the U.N. Green Climate Fund. If you enact these changes, contrary to climate expert opinion, then you will be held accountable for the climate damage and human misery you cause. What would be the appropriate punishment for such ignominy? What are the appropriate sanctions for such a pariah nation?
Trump's Secretary of State nominee, Rex Tillerson, acknowledges climate change in public statements but then secretly spends millions to fund climate-denying politicians, to block clean energy deployment and to spread misinformation minimizing climate change risks. Exxon says that it "... takes the risk of climate change seriously ..." Yet it says "We are confident that none of our hydrocarbon reserves are now or will become 'stranded'; yet, climate scientists say that Exxon will need to leave 80% of current reserves in the ground, in order to limit global warming to less than 2 degree C. In words, Rex Tillerson and ExxonMobil are not overt climate change deniers but they are climate change minimizers. In actions, Tillerson and Exxon are some of the most dangerous of climate change deniers, using their millions to control the politicians and to spread misinformation via the media. Further, Tillerson has a $500 billion deal with Russia's Putin to drill for oil in the Russian Arctic, that was blocked by U.S. sanctions on Russia. As Secretary of State, Tillerson could eliminate those sanctions and secure this oil deal for Exxon. Tillerson touts his Boy Scout credentials, having been the past president of the Boy Scouts of America. He seems to have forgotten the Boy Scout Law, which says Boy Scouts are "trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courtesy, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean and reverent." To duplicitously and massively fund climate change denying politicians and fossil-fuel-advocating media is not trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly or kind. As Michael Brune, the Executive Director of Sierra Club has said “Rex Tillerson is a pioneer of the post-election Donald Trump climate-change head fake, which is to say one thing and to do the complete opposite.”
Trump called climate change "a hoax". More recently, he's said that he has "an open mind". And most recently, he says "no one really knows about climate change." This latter statement is false because the overwhelming majority of climate experts say that our atmosphere and our oceans are warming and climate crises (floods, droughts, extreme storms, wildfires ...) are becoming more common. Our climate experts say that these climate changes are human-caused due to release of greenhouse gas emissions. Our climate experts argue that we should act in accordance with the Precautionary Principle ... that is, we should take preventive action, even though the time-frame and consequences of climate change are not known precisely. The predicted threats (sea-level rise and coastal flooding, extreme heat waves, drought and agricultural losses, feedback loops that accelerate climate change) will cause hundreds of trillions of dollars of economic losses and massive human suffering, By the Precautionary Principle, we must act aggressively to prevent these threats.
Yet, despite Trump's "open mind" on climate change, he appoints the current CEO of the petroleum-giant ExxonMobil to be his Secretary of State, even though Rex Tillerson's been in recent negotiations with the Russian petroleum-giant Rosneft, to drill for oil in the Russian Arctic. In fact, he's nominated a unanimity of climate change deniers to his cabinet, including Scott Pruitt to head the Enivronmental Protection Agency and Rick Perry to be Secretary of Energy. His declaration of open-mindedness on climate change is a ruse; his actions are full-blown climate change denialism and vile lack of Precautionary Principle.
So, Trump has cast the Precautionary Principle to the wind with his cabinet picks. He's defined our United States, not as a moral leader, but as the dominant nuclear-armed petrostate, allied with its fellow Russian petrostate. Surely, there must be some ethical Republican senators and representatives that will ally with Democrats to halt this existential lunacy. If you do not confront Trump and reverse his flagrant enriching of oil and gas companies to the grave detriment of our future climate then our U.S. will go down in history as the most reviled nation of all time.
I am leaning toward a "Yes" vote on WA Carbon Tax Ballot Initiative, I-732, this November. I-732 is not perfect but it will reduce WA state greenhouse gas emissions by 50% by 2050. It will be the largest carbon tax ($25 per CO2 ton by 2018) in the nation. It is administratively simple and thus, is less vulnerable to future "administrative discretion" to dampen its benefits. It is very close to revenue neutral and the WA legislature can tweek the carbon tax if revenues drift from that target over time. It compensates all citizens with a 1% sales tax reduction and low-income persons with a Working Families Tax Credit. Most low-income individuals will have a net income gain. It eliminates the Business & Occupation Tax to compensate businesses for their increased fuel costs. It is politically more palatable to conservatives by returning the carbon tax revenues to citizens and businesses and thus, not expanding government to fund clean energy or worker retraining; those goals are important but not all can be accomplished with one initiative. Sightline Institute has proposed a complementary Green Stamps program, to be approved by the WA state legislature or by ballot initiative; green stamps would be state coupons distributed to low-income families that they could use to purchase qualifying clean energy solutions (e.g. transit passes, energy efficiency measures, bicycles, healthy local food, etc.). We need many more actions at a personal, state, national and international level to solve climate change. Personally, we need incentives and commitment to use energy more efficiently and to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions. In states and nationally, we must address a "Just Transition", including employment, income, purchasing power, gender equity, etc. Globally, we need to support: clean energy in developing countries, access to healthy food and water, climate refugee assistance, etc. I-732 is only one of many needed solutions; it allows Washington state to lead by example and to move forward on further ways to address climate change and economic injustice.
As a planet, we're living beyond our means. Our global population and levels of consumption are exceeding the carrying capacity of our Earth. The result is economic recession, worsening income inequality, resource depletion, environmental pollution, climate change and ocean death. Yet, for most economists and politicians, the solution is more economic growth. Richard Heinberg of the Post-Carbon Institute says that we need "... our leaders to publicly acknowledge that a prolonged shrinkage of the economy is a done deal. From that initial recognition might follow a train of possible strategies, including planned population decline, economic localization, the formation of cooperatives to replace corporations, and the abandonment of consumerism. Global efforts at resource conservation and climate mitigation could avert pointless wars." We don't need a GOP presidential candidate who calls climate change a hoax, who doubles down on fossil fuel extraction and who is an object of derision globally for his ludicrous claims. At least the Democratic candidate accepts climate change and will work with other world leaders to limit its effects. As Heinberg says, we really need a leader "... more in the mold of Winston Churchill, who famously promised only 'blood, toil, tears, and sweat' in enlisting his people in a great, protracted struggle in which all would be called upon to work tirelessly and set aside personal wants and expectations." We need bold leaders that will transition us to a sustainable steady-state economy.