In the wake of superstorm Sandy this year, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo stated, “There has been a series of extreme weather incidents. It is not prudent to sit here, I believe, to sit here and say it’s not going to happen again… We have a new reality when it comes to these weather patterns, we have an old infrastructure and we have old systems, and that is not a good combination.” He added, “Protecting this state from costal flooding is a massive, massive undertaking,” and mentioned that he was about to speak to the president about getting disaster relief money for New York. This is the path to an energy policy that looks to control carbon emissions in this country. In this case, it is a city talking about a huge engineering project to grapple with climate change. That is a small victory to set the stage for a major policy push sometime in the future.
Assists won’t just come in the form of big government engineering expendatures for our nation’s premeir cities. The takeaway from the 2011 Governor’s Economic Summit on the Future of the Ogallala Aquifer was that “something needs to be done” and “locals need to have control,” when talking about unsustainable drawdown. This makes sense and is a natural contrast. The premiere American city is talking about working in partnership with federal government (read: $$$) taking engineering based approached to dealing with extreme weather and a changing climate, while the great plains is doing it’s damndest to take care of the problem in-house. Both of these steps set the stage for getting some form carbon reducing policy through the federal government in the future, which is the ultimate goal. But with the economy how it is, the fiscal cliff coming, and congress looking like it is gearing up for another session of deadlock, I don’t see that happening in the near future.
Large scale energy policy devoted to reducing our carbon footprint is a major coup. It is easier for that battle to be fought (and won!) when, in one’s travels, one looks along the highway and sees windmills slowly churning out their watts. It is easier to fight that battle, when one looks at our major cities and sees the engineering ‘massive undertakings’ to protect from the seas, rivers and storms. It is easier to fight when the Kansas farmer is carefully budgeting his water use; the rain’s don’t come as often as they used to. When the home/business owner looks at his insurance rates go up significantly due to recent flooding events, then climate change stops becoming a game of clever policy ideas and political footballs and just becoming another part of the terrain.
Last year, we didn’t have a winter here in central Illinois, at least as my family has ever known winter. My father, a farmer and climate change skeptic circa 2005, mentioned to me he thought it was “just eerie.” Mother Nature will make the major arguments for policy dealing with CO2 output better than any human can.
As far as cap and trade vs carbon tax? Whichever has the political will to get done has my support. ‘Til then, win the small victories.