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Sunday, April 5, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Opinion >  Editorial

Act locally to resist climate change rollbacks

The following editorial is from the The Columbian (Vancouver, Wash).

In the realm of bumper-sticker politics, there is a popular phrase among the environmentally conscious that encourages people to “Think globally, act locally.” The gist is that while none of us has the power to singularly change the world, it is important to do what we can.

So, as President Donald Trump works to roll back environmental protections established by the Obama administration, Gov. Jay Inslee and other Washington officials should cling to that mantra. Trump’s beliefs about climate change and carbon emissions and economic impacts are an affront to science and are fueled by a rejection of demonstrable reality.

On Tuesday, Trump signed a sweeping executive order to dismantle former President Barack Obama’s Clean Power Plan, which had been designed to systematically reduce the nation’s reliance upon coal for generating electricity and to establish limits on carbon emissions. Trump had campaigned on a platform of overturning the rules, and on Tuesday he said, “We’re ending the theft of American prosperity and rebuilding our beloved country.”

That would be a powerful sentiment – if it were true. But Trump’s assertions, along with his previous claim that global warming is a hoax perpetrated by China, do not match the facts.

While climate change deniers have a handful of scientific reports to support their position, 97 percent of published climate scientists believe that human activity contributes to extreme climate change. Scientists are not always accurate, but it is folly to ignore a strong consensus among those who actually study the data, understand the science, and have their work vetted by peers.

Which brings us to the supposed theft of American prosperity. Trump and others have claimed that stringent environmental regulations hamstring the economy, and an administration email to employees of the Environmental Protection Agency in advance of the executive order read, “We do not have to choose between environmental protection and economic development.”

This is true, but not in the way the Trump administration thinks about it – and the experience of British Columbia drives home that point. In 2008, the province enacted a tax upon carbon emissions on businesses and families, cars and trucks, factories and homes as critics claimed the action would decimate the economy through higher energy costs. Instead, the New York Times reported last year, “The policy basically worked as advertised. British Columbia’s economy did not collapse. In fact, the provincial economy grew faster than its neighbors’ even as its greenhouse gas emissions declined.”

The lesson is that being environmentally conscious can enhance the economy, and it is a lesson that Inslee must continue to embrace as he works toward a stated goal of reducing greenhouse gases to 20 percent of 1990 levels by 2050. By themselves, Washington officials cannot reverse whatever climate change might be taking place. But in acting locally, they can improve the quality of life for both current and future residents.

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