A view from Washington, D.C.: The confounding climate matrix

Climate Voices

A view from Washington, D.C.: The confounding climate matrix

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Climate change will become part of Washington’s economic policies–whether they like it or not

Many of the issues that preoccupy advocates throughout the country depend on policy decisions, and budgetary consideration in Washington, D.C. Think of the nation’s capital as a very big Rubik’s cube, that politicians, bureaucrats, and lobbyists twist and turn, not always in unison, but in an often messy effort to strike an acceptable balance, for both the short term and over time.

Then take the most complicated algorithm of them all, climate, and try running it through the Washington matrix. What has ensued, so far, is a wildly perplexing and often confounding struggle, in which the winners who argue for the status quo always seem to come out on top.

However, that may be changing. Like it or not, policy change, like climate change, is on the way, and it’s because the economics are starting to make sense. From the decreasing cost of renewable sources of energy at the expense of King Coal to growing calls for a carbon tax, or offsets, there are less and less reasons to dismiss climate concerns. Even Donald Trump, a long-time staunch climate denier, told 60 Minutes’ Leslie Stahl, last October, that he no longer believed climate change was a hoax. However, while he may have made a tiny concession, there is still a long road ahead before competing proposals and economics align sufficiently to produce a workable consensus on how to deal with such an enormous issue.

Until that happens, all sides – and there are more than just two in this debate – will continue to marshal arguments and celebrities, from singer-songwriter Ted Nugent who asserted global warming is a fraud to Jane Fonda, the 82-year-old actress who organizes weekly sit-ins outside the U.S. Capitol, to say nothing of the swelling ranks of young advocates, like Greta Thunberg.

But there is a growing sense of urgency to act – and its coming from an unusual source: The weather. Dustbowl aside, historically, Washington has usually only responded to funding the clean-up of one-off weather-related disasters. But now something different is afoot. With every passing day, the Farmer’s Almanac struggles more and more with the time to sow seeds and reap harvests. The disruption of normal weather patterns, whatever its cause, is forcing a growing number of anxious business leaders, public officials, and voters, to look to the federal government for a reliable global solution.

This creates an increasingly heavy burden on the much-maligned federal public servant who must navigate a constructive course between clashing Green New Deal-ers and climate change skeptics. As the nation zigzags through a myriad of facts, claims and beliefs to a timely actionable strategy, the economics – and growing urgency – of climate is turning out to be the game-changer in a town where the perennial winners will no longer take all.

Written by

Tommy Bruce

After 15 years in the upper ranks of university administration at Cornell, and for the past five years at New York University in Shanghai, Tommy has returned to his professional roots to work on a variety of communications projects in Washington DC where he had a multifaceted career working on foreign policy and communications campaigns at home and abroad.