Blue states looking to bypass Washington on climate change

Heading into the July 4th weekend, the prospect of forming "a more perfect union" has rarely been this dismal. The Democratic "resistance" - evoking memories of the "underground" opposition to Nazi Germany by western European countries - gets more hysterical by the day. The rhetoric of opposition becomes more unhinged, more violent as Democrats have been stymied by Republicans at the ballot box and in Congress.

As this Vox article points out, for many blue states and cities, "resistance" has gone beyond opposition and has entered the surreal world of actually ignoring the foreign policy being made in Washington and negotiating their own "deals" with European countries on climate change.

Even before President Trump announced that the US would withdraw from the Paris climate agreement, it was clear that he intended to lead the US on a fossil fuel bender. He has made it crystal clear that the federal government has no interest in addressing climate change.

A "fossil fuel bender"? The question isn't how much oil we're producing and using. The question when it comes to climate change are CO2 emissions. And despite the hysteria present in that phrase, the fact is, the US has been reducing its emissions faster than any other western nation. 

Since Trump gave the world the finger over Paris, more than 1,400 companies and institutions, 200 cities, and a dozen states have committed to meet the carbon targets the US originally pledged there.

There’s been so much activity that it can be difficult to track all the new initiatives and groups. There’s the US Climate Alliance, representing 12 states and about a third of the US population. There’s We Are Still In, representing nine states, hundreds of cities, and thousands of businesses and institutions of higher learning. There’s Climate Mayors, with 338 US mayors representing 65 million constituents. And probably more I’m missing.

This is giggle worthy. The idea that even a consortium of states and cities will be responsible for reducing carbon emissions fails to recognize the futility of small groups impacting the $4 trillion US economy. Whatever minuscule efforts they make in reducing carbon will be overwhelmed by the national switch over from coal to natural gas, and the continuing slow progress being made in solar and wind energy. This is virtue signalling at its most ridiculous.

All of this action was more or less symbolic until earlier this month, when yet another coalition, as yet unnamed — consisting of three governors, 30 mayors, and more than 80 university presidents, led by ex-NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg — began negotiating with the UNFCCC to have their contributions officially counted alongside other nations in the Paris agreement.

It’s not clear if that effort will come to anything. There is currently no formal mechanism in the Paris agreement to account for subnationally determined contributions (SNDCs, a spin on nationally determined contributions that I just made up). And the Paris agreement is nonbinding anyway, so even if this coalition’s SNDCs end up formally included and reported, it will still mostly be symbolic. There’s no legal authority holding states, cities, and institutions to these commitments.

Still, it’s notable that the US subnational climate diaspora — mostly Democrats, but more than a handful of Republicans too, especially at the city level — is spontaneously organizing itself.

Blue city mayors and governors can "negotiate" until they're, well, blue in the face and it won't change a thing. But the effort itself is comical enough that we can project a counterfactual.

Suppose a Democratic president was elected in 2020 and 30 or so red states decided to strike out on their own and "negotiate" with, let's say Russia? They could refuse to honor any sanctions mandated by Washington. They could make their own trade deals and create their own financial ties. Perhaps their national guards could hold joint military exercises with the Russians. 

It's nonsense, of course. But that's pretty much what blue states are doing with climate change.

This effort by blue states simply isn't serious and should be dismissed as just another example of the hysteria generated by Trump's election.