There is no question that human-assisted climate change is the most pressing issue facing our planet.
Taking that as a given, there are some important points to consider as we attempt to mitigate its consequences:
(1) It is a global issue; that calls for concerted effort. The two biggest problems in that regard are the US and China. But the bottom line is that without global cooperation, it’s a lost cause. That’s why the Paris Accords were so important, and the US pulling out of them so dangerous.
(2) Infranational governmental institutions (e.g., Oregon, Multnomah County, City of Portland) cannot make a large impact on the larger problem EXCEPT where they can address things that are part of the global problem. Jordan Cove is a perfect example of this. Importing fossil fuels to China is not only dangerous for Oregon (spillage, environmental degradation) but makes it harder to address the global problem. The Dakota pipeline, not an Oregon problem, as another example. Still, because every little bit helps, we need to look at local practices that can serve as best practice examples for the collection of infranational entities. Which is why, while small in actual impact, such things as cap and trade are worth pursuing. The Columbia River Crossing (CRC) is more complicated than at first glance. Not building a new bridge is not going to make light trucks and automobiles stop crossing the Columbia. A CRC with toll deterrents, coupled with electric light rail public transportation from Vancouver to Portland using the bridge for very rapid transit on dedicated lines, could be useful.
(3) Individual efforts are like voting. No one vote determines anything, but if we all pitch in, we can make a small dent and also serve as a best practice example. For example, each bicyclist makes a minimal difference, but if a good chunk of folks bike instead of driving, we make a difference.
(4) EVERYBODY, but especially the US, needs to abandon the “not invented here” and “a chance to make money” mentalities. If somebody else develops a good practice, use it. Here’s where I slightly disagree with Elizabeth Warren, who otherwise has a solid plan. We can indeed take the lead in developing clean technology, which would create a lot of jobs. However, rather than getting wealthy by monopolizing that technology, we have an obligation to give it away to the world, not because of altruism, but because of our own long-term interest.
(5) The economic argument, which is overwhelmingly powerful, is that we have to abandon the Republican fantasy that there is no such thing as a discount function — the notion that the desire for any momentary benefit for today can and must be overridden by the costs of high likelihood future catastrophes.