10 years ago, presidential candidate John Edwards told voters there were two Americas — one for the wealthy and one for the rest of us. Edwards was right; there are two Americas, but the fault line is between those who take climate change seriously and want to take sensible steps to moderate its effects and those who are willing to sacrifice the lives, health, and welfare of the entire American population just as long as those same wealthy people continue to shovel money into their pockets.
We used to think that business was leading the charge against any climate change action, but it turns out that is incorrect. After all, there will be nobody to sell things to if we are all dead, in nursing homes, or underwater.
American Business Pledge On Climate Change
Today, more than a dozen large US corporations pledged to invest up to $140 billion in low-carbon technology, according to Business Green. The pledge is intended to demonstrate the level of support by corporate America for an effective global climate change treaty at the United Nations’ Paris Summit in December.
According to reports, the group of 13 multinationals — including tech giants Apple and Microsoft — will join Secretary of State John Kerry in signing the American Business Act on Climate Pledge, which publicly commits them to reducing their carbon footprints and accelerating investment in clean technologies.
In addition to the investment pledges, the companies will also agree to install at least 1,600 megawatts of renewable energy capacity, reduce water use by 15%, move towards using only renewable power, and target the delivery of zero net deforestation in their supply chains. Other companies expected to sign the pledge include General Motors, the Bank of America, Coca-Cola, Goldman Sachs, and Berkshire Hathaway. The White House says more companies are expected to sign the pledge later this year.
Clinton Announces Major Energy Initiative
The news comes at almost the same time as a pronouncement from current presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton outlining a bold new climate change strategy that includes the installation of $500 million worth of solar panels within 4 years of taking office. The plan would increase the electricity capacity the US has from solar energy to 140 gigawatts — 7 times the current level.
The solar goal is part of a plan to add more renewable power to the grid in the next 10 years than during any other decade in US history. The added capacity will primarily come from wind, solar, hydro, geothermal, and other renewables. Announcing the goals on her website, Clinton said the US is “on the cusp” of a new era of energy generation. “We can create a more open, efficient and resilient grid that connects us, empowers us – improves our health and benefits us all,” she said.
Conservative politicians are mounting a sustained and well-financed attack on any government regulations that impose stricter limits on carbon dioxide emissions, preferring to believe that climate change is just another liberal trick to enslave Americans and cost business money.
States Resist Federal Climate Rules
14 states have petitioned the US Circuit Court for the District of Columbia to reconsider their challenge to President Obama’s Clean Power Plan. The court rejected their challenge in June. In Mississippi, Republican governor Phil Bryant has told the Environmental Protection Agency his state may not comply with the impending regulations, which require cuts to carbon dioxide emissions from power plants. Most of Mississippi’s electric power comes from burning coal.
Bryant described the legislation as an “unfunded mandate” that sets stricter goals for Mississippi than for other states. However, the EPA is confident its rules can withstand any legal challenge and that it has the power to impose a binding clean power plan on any state that refuses to produce its own strategy.
Older Americans may remember another time in history when Mississippi embarrassed itself in front of the entire world by refusing to admit African-American students to its schools. Apparently, it learned nothing from the experience and is determined to be the poster child for ignorance once again.
The political battle lines are being drawn. Republicans have decided to make a stand against anything that might reduce the effects of climate change in order to continue lining their pockets with generous campaign contributions. The only government action they fully support is never-ending war, something that is good for defense contractors but bad for the people who have to actually fight. Conservative leaders seldom have any military experience of their own, despite their unswerving support for warfare — an odd anomaly that voters often overlook.
There is an old saying that if the people will lead, their leaders will follow. Today, individual voters are largely irrelevant and corporations are the ones with their hands on the levers of political power. If they are willing to take the lead on climate change, Congress will have to follow along, no matter how reluctantly. Perhaps there is hope for the US to be a leader of climate change action after all.