The growing movement across the U.S. that is tackling climate change offers a strong counterpoint to the negative naysaying of the Washington Post’s Charles Lane in “The (political) science behind climate change” (Dec. 12). Lane’s position of “it’s hopeless” is the same kind of barrier that climate deniers have raised for decades. He ignores key indicators and activity that show things have, and must, change to turn the tide on climate change.
Lane cites Gallup surveys that found people do not rank environmental issues as “the most important problem facing the country.” But consider other Gallup data. This fall, in the Gallup’s Midterm Election Benchmark poll, climate change didn’t make the top 10 most important election issues — it was No. 11, rating as important to about half of voters.
Unfortunately, climate change is an issue with a big partisan divide. It ranks high with 75 percent of Democrats vs. 27 percent of Republicans, according to Gallup. Fortunately, actions count more than opinions when it comes to voting. The key indicator of change is the blue wave of voters on election night.
A blue wave of political change
Lane dismisses the power of newly elected Democrats as able to make only “piecemeal” federal policy changes. But Democrats are getting smart about tying pieces together. Major legislation to build roads and highways? Senate Democrats are adding infrastructure economic incentives to address climate change. As Lane noted with California’s gas tax, it’s still climate change policy even if it is dressed up as a solution to another problem.
The more powerful political forces for political change are coming from the states, such as the U.S. Climate Alliance formed in 2017, a bipartisan effort of which Minnesota is a member.
Climate change was not at the top of Gov.-elect Tim Walz’s political campaign agenda, but it is a critical issue now, writes the Star Tribune’s Lori Sturdevant in a Dec. 9 column (“Circumstances thrust a critical issue on Walz”). As Sturdevant noted, the U.N. report released in October gives the world 12 years to act to cut carbon emissions in half or face severe impacts of a world that is too hot.
Local conversations, local change
Local conversations are leading to local change. As the young people involved with the sustainability nonprofit iMatter have shown (“Minnesota students push cities to take a serious look at climate policies,” Nov. 30), when city officials have to look into the eyes of neighborhood youths asking the city to take action on global warming, it’s hard to say, “No, I won’t do anything.”
Going local also involves ordinary citizens having conversations with their state and federal representatives. No elected officials should be able to say they haven’t heard from voters on the issue.
Workplaces are another avenue for local conversations on climate change. 3M’s new initiative announced Dec. 5 (“3M sets green goals for new products”) sets an exemplary standard. Every 3M product or its factory will have to show efforts to reduce waste, energy, water or material use. It’s a situation where local conversations lead to global change.
Lane argues that there is no political will or economic incentives to reduce carbon emissions. On that point, he is wrong. Consider the commitment announced this month by Xcel Energy to be 80 percent carbon-free by 2030 and 100 percent carbon-free by 2050. Xcel, a publicly traded company, explained that its actions made sense for its customers and stockholders for economic and political reasons. Likewise, Allete, the Duluth-based energy company, has increased value for its stockholders by ramping up its investment in clean energy and water conservation.
Minnesota’s power on countering climate change is also coming from nonprofits organizing and philanthropists funding advocacy efforts. The youth climate change efforts of iMatter are supported by the McKnight Foundation and Software for Good. 3M is part of the Minnesota Sustainable Growth Coalition at the nonprofit Environmental Initiative. MN350 is a local nonprofit organizing individual Minnesotans at a grassroots level. The list goes on.
Minnesotans have rejected Lane’s depictions of hopeless wallowing and claims of “democratic deficit.” We are, after all, Minnesotans and know how to get things done.
Maureen “Mo” Schriner, a communications consultant, lives in Eagan. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.