It is unclear what the future holds for climate change action. Last week’s election leaves America’s commitment to the Paris Climate Agreement in doubt, the EPA’s Clean Power Plan almost certainly dead and kills much of the environmental momentum the Obama Administration worked so hard to build. Equally disappointing was the failure of Ballot Initiative 732 in Washington State, which would’ve established a first-of-its-kind carbon tax in the United States. I-732 proposed implementing a revenue neutral carbon tax that would’ve gradually increased in levy over the coming years. It could’ve served as a model for other states throughout the country, and a strong step towards a tangible, market based solution to climate change. Ultimately, the initiative failed, in part because environmentalists continue to balk at any form of pragmatism.
The fossil fuel lobby unsurprisingly disavowed I-732. They actively opposed the initiative and spent thousands to help it tank. More surprisingly, however, is that several prominent environmental groups did not give their support to the initiative. Organizations like the Washington Environmental Council, 350 Seattle and the Sierra Club chose not to support I-732. They should be ashamed. The initiative represented a realistic step forward to achieving a tax on carbon pollution. It represented a pragmatic step forward. Apparently there is no room for pragmatism on the climate crusaders’ agenda. Their opposition to I-732 is truly stunning. If organizations like 350 Seattle and the Sierra Club are as serious about fighting global warming as they claim to be, then they need to start compromising. That’s how progress is made in a democracy. It is not only unrealistic to expect a transition to 100 percent renewable energy to occur overnight, it is impossible. And yet, it seems that is all 350 Seattle and other climate change advocators seem willing to accept. By doing so, they place tangible solutions like I-732 out of reach and marginalize those who might otherwise back action on climate change. Everyone loses as a result.
The “my way or the highway” attitude that climate change activists have adopted simply guarantees that nothing will get done. These hardline and petty attitudes are a sorry development for a cause that is just at heart. Apparently these environmentalists have forgotten, as have many Americans, that there was a time in the not too distant past when we were still capable of compromising on solutions to complex problems. A time when we argued with ideas rather than insults like “climate change denier”.
With that in mind, it is time for350 Seattle, the Sierra Club and other environmental associations to begin showing true leadership by settling for less than ideal climate solutions, because that’s all they’re going to get. Supporting I-732 would’ve been a good place to start.