The Climate Fight Needs Both Technocrats and Firebrands | The New Republic by Kate Aronoff/December 16, 2020

Source: The Climate Fight Needs Both Technocrats and Firebrands | The New Republic

…An expansive new study from Princeton University researchers—that, to note, was partially paid for by ExxonMobil and BP—offers perspective on the scale of change needed. Reaching the arguably still-too-modest goal of net-zero U.S. emissions by 2050 means that, by the end of this decade, just about every coal plant will need to shut down; half of new cars sold will need to be electric, compared to 2 percent now; and the country’s electrical grid will need to expand by 60 percent. You’d have to be not just a free-market believer but a free-market fanatic to think that can be done without large-scale government intervention and buckets of public money. Legislative action on this, in turn, almost certainly requiresDemocrats winning durable majorities in Congress. And that means Democrats need to think bigger than technocratic tinkering.

Thanks in large part to Green New Deal advocates, there’s been modest progress on this front. Biden ran on a platform that tried to fuse climate and jobs through a “Build Back Better” agenda (although arguably didn’t do much to make that feel concrete to folks currently struggling through a painful recession). Just months ago, Gina McCarthy signed on to a detailed proposal for a jobs-focused green stimulus, with hearty investments in environmental justice. And, hailing from Michigan, Granholm is no stranger to a good old-fashioned jobs pitch, nor will she be unaware of the dynamics involved in shifting the auto industry toward electric batteries. To make the case for climate action down the line, climate-minded administrators should embrace their most populist impulses in public and put the technocrats to work behind the scenes.Climate policy should give people stuff.

Climate policy should give people stuff. At the very least, its backers should clearly state that they want to give people stuff. And they shouldpaint a clear picture of who’s standing in the way, rather than asking people to be grateful for the crumbs furnished by bad deals. And by “stuff” here, I mostly mean jobs.

Instead of the failed Obama-era “all of the above” climate strategy that encouraged renewables and natural gas, let’s have an “all of the above” climate strategy that encourages both technocratic tweaks, grand gestures, and big legislative action, all aimed at rapid decarbonization: Behind the scenes, do the unglamorous work of inserting line items for expanded research budgets, extending tax credits, and rebuilding the regulatory state that’s virtually incomprehensible to the general public. Earmark away. Out front, tell anyone who’ll listen about the millions of jobs going green is going to create—and is already creating!

Show them those jobs. Bring news crews to the workers making a living wage installing insulation on bad housing stock in Ohio, the union electricians retrofitting the government buildings being transformed by procurement policy, and the mail carrier humming along in her American-made electric postal truck. Slap a government plaque on every single project federal climate investments help fund, and make sure there’s one prominently displayed in every county in the country. Make Republicans explain to their voters why they’re blocking bills that would create millions of well-paid jobs.

Barring an upset in Georgia’s runoff handing Democrats the keys to the Senate, making any progress on climate in the next few yearswill take a lot of quiet, behind-the-scenes wins. But it’ll also require a lot of loud losses, broadcasting the way the GOP is holding the country back from prosperity and providing proof of concept for why Democratic control and serious climate action will bring that prosperity. Bring out the bullhorn—and let the technocrats tinker behind the scenes.

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