“The more things change, the more they remain the same”!
Tuesday’s US national elections changed little, except to put the brakes on further efforts by the Trump Administration to deal with climate change, such as by bailing out failing coal and nuclear plants. In many ways, it just replicated the 2010 election, which catapulted the “Tea Party” Republicans into power, put the brakes on President Obama’s Administration and set the stage for the 2014 recapture of the Senate by Republicans.
Going back to 1994, the dramatic recapture of the House and Senate by Republicans put the brakes on the Clinton Administration for the next six years. Every President in the past quarter-century except George W. Bush in 2002 has suffered simiiar first-term reversals, when the public pulls back on the reins and moves the horse back to the middle of the road.
What does this mean for climate change politics? The House of Representatives will likely reconstitute a climate change special committee of some sort and that panel will start promoting federal action. More than likely, however, President Trump will be tempted to do what President Obama did when confronted by a hostile House after the 2010 elections and by an equally hostile Senate after the 2014 elections, which is to rule by decree (aka “executive order”).
For climate change warriors, the clear message is to continue working at state and local initiatives. The failure of a carbon tax in the state of Washington by a fairly large margin (56-44 in WA) owing to massive contributions against it by oil companies says to me that carbon tax legislation will only happen at the national level and only if the same law eliminates tort liability for climate change from oil and gas companies. It will be politics as usual – give a little, get a little more.
But major US action on climate change will have to await the 2020 presidential election. If I were President Trump, right now I’d be plenty worried by the election results. States that he barely won to get his electoral majority – Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Arizona – swung clearly Democratic and states that he must win in 2020, such as Florida and Texas, showed that they were ripe for a newer, more centrist message. Now it’s up to the Democrats to read the tea leaves and respond with appropriate candidates. If Democrats put more (boring) old white people, male or female, on the presidential ticket, as they did in 2016, they just might blow the opportunity.
Meanwhile, back at the ranch, we humans will keep adding 5 to 6 ppm of carbon dioxide each year to the global atmosphere. It’s going to take a lot more than electric scooters to change the current grim forecast for global climate change – it’s going to take a Vulcan mind meld from some benign deity that has long-term sustainability on their mind.
Plus Ça Change, Plus C'est La Même Chose