“Don’t we deserve a little good news on the climate front, at least once in a while?”
That’s a bit like asking, “Didn’t Rudy Giuliani do some good as mayor of New York?” We keep trying to nullify the present by invoking the past, trying to find our way out of a difficult dilemma. And it’s the negative, immediate stories that always get the headlines.
Climate is invariably presented in the press as a contentious issue: “That is, according to a massive study by Californian scientists, the people who say climate change is not happening, or not a problem, get 49% more coverage than the scientists who have the evidence that it represents a serious and accelerating crisis.” The assumption is we’d rather hear about conflict than science.
Some new and reputable polling shows, however, that the public is getting behind the very ambitious programs proposed by Sanders and Warren.
At least five aggressive and left-wing climate policies are supported by most registered voters in the United States. Americans seem particularly fond of large spending packages, as Sanders has advanced, and climate policies with a populist bent, such as Senator Elizabeth Warren’s proposed climate import fee and her “economic patriotism” plan.
Some of this approval reflects opposition to Trump, yet even conservative-leaning surveys report a liking for something as radical as the Green New Deal.
Shockingly, the idea was more popular than not, with 48 percent of respondents in support and 7 percent undecided. Only when pollsters told people that a Green New Deal could cost $93 trillion did support for the idea collapse. But according to the GOP group’s own math, a Green New Deal that focused only on climate change could cost only $13 trillion.
The five programs that garnered most support are:
- A national recycling program for commodities
- $1.3 trillion to weatherize every home and office building in the United States
- $1.5 trillion for a massive federal build-out of renewable energy
- A climate adjustment fee on environmentally destructive imports
- “Economic Nationalism for Climate Change” (meaning “aggressively encourage large American manufacturing firms to specialize in solar panels, wind turbines, and other climate-friendly technologies”).
Now, none of these projects tackle perhaps the thorniest aspect of the climate crisis: how to deal with the overwhelming effects of consumer choice and consumer demand around the world. Bill McKibben tries to confront this one in a recent book review. He does a commendable job of showing how collective action is the only effective response: “We aren’t going to solve our problems one consumer at a time. We’re going to need to do it as societies and civilizations, or not at all.” That is, we aren’t going to get there by simply renouncing plastic straws.