Thursday, November 8, 2018

Science, climate and the elections: the big silver lining

I remember seeing a presentation, it might have been Richard Heinburg, where a slide showed an exponential graph of yeast in wine making doubling and doubling, gobbling up all its resources, until in an instant it all died. His next slide asked this:

So, are humans smarter than yeast?

The day after the midterms, I was thinking the answer might be No. I could feel myself sinking into despair: our inability as a species to take the long view, to not foul our own nest, to be willing to expend a little self-control now for the benefit of future generations. Washington’s carbon fee didn’t pass. Colorado voted not to extend a safe zone for natural gas drilling to 1/4 mile from houses. Arizona’s renewable energy standard went down to defeat.

In case you’re feeling a little glum too, let me share with you some possible good news.

The Washington ballot measure has increased interest in carbon taxes.
Still, you could choose to look at your glass of petrochemicals as being half full. “Ballot measures are often susceptible to misinformation and lots of out-of-state money pouring in, and there are limitations on what a ballot measure can cover,” says Dylan McDowell, deputy director of the National Caucus of Environmental Legislators, a group that helps state legislators enact climate laws. “State legislation is more able to deal with something as complex as carbon pricing.”
Thanks to Democratic takeovers of governorships and state houses in 2018, that’s now more likely. New York, Colorado, New Hampshire, Maine, and Minnesota now have pro-environment majorities. Massachusetts is moving toward carbon pricing; Oregon legislators will probably vote on a cap-and-trade law next year. The governors-elect of Illinois, Colorado, and New Mexico all campaigned on renewables. And California still has its cap-and-trade system for carbon, and a new governor fired up to head into combat with the president. So the state level may still be a place for climate legislation.

A Carbon Tax Is Pretty Much Inevitable, Even if Voters Said No - WIRED

Arizona’s energy standard didn’t pass but right next door, Nevada did pass a renewable energy standard to increase renewables  to 50% by 2030, which is in alignment with the recent IPCC advice.

Florida passed a constitutional amendment banning offshore oil drilling.

And maybe the beat news of all, among the people elected to Congress are 8 new people with a STEM/scientific background.
The members of the 115th Congress include one physicist, one microbiologist, and one chemist, as well as eight engineers and one mathematician. The medical professions are slightly better represented, with three nurses and 15 doctors.

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