Climate change is one of those problems that is both everywhere and nowhere — nearly as invisible as the greenhouse gases that cause it. With the 2018 midterms being one of the most politically — if not emotionally — charged in recent memory, one couldn’t be blamed for thinking that we’ve already got climate on lock with the lack of discussion around it.
With the exception of a few midterm ballots that could have an outsize impact on national climate policy, climate change largely has been absent from the conversation — having been, well, trumped, by more salient issues like immigration, healthcare and the economy. President Trump, in an effort to electrify his base in support of Republican candidates working to hold on to their seats in the Senate and House, has stoked fears of ‘migrant caravans’ invading the United States, Medicare’s Democratic destruction and economic Armageddon should the GOP lose control over Congress.
What all three of these issues have in common is that they are irrevocably connected to climate change.
This past week, I had the privilege of participating in several events surrounding the Global Climate Action Summit, including the main event itself.
I kicked off the week on Saturday joining colleagues and friends to march alongside tens of thousands of others calling for strong climate action in San Francisco for Rise For Climate Jobs + Justice. Those attending came from a variety of backgrounds and political beliefs — with many of them calling for an end to capitalism (and one sign even said to ban cars!). As for me, I showed up with a sign sayings: “Stopping Change Makes Business Cents.” That’s because, while I know that unrestricted capitalism is killing the planet, I believe that market-based solutions — when properly guided by sound public policy — can scale climate solutions better than any other mechanism human have yet devised.
On Tuesday, I headed to GCAS affiliate event Carbon Smart Building Day at the Mission Bay Conference Center at UCSF, where I converged with hundreds of stakeholders of the built environment, including architects, structural engineers, real estate developers, clean energy companies, materials manufacturers and policymakers to discuss actionable and profitable solutions to addressing the 40 percent of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions coming from the built environment. Carbon Lighthouse showed up big at the event, and our CEO and Co-Founder gave the keynote.
It was there that The Carbon Smart Building Declaration, a document which I co-authored with Andrew Himes of Carbon Innovations, was unveiled. It recognizes the built environment as a key driver of climate change and one of the greatest areas for cutting carbon profitably — while declaring support for the Net Zero Carbon Buildings Commitment to challenge cities, states and regions to reach net zero emissions in all new buildings by 2030, and to retrofit existing buildings to meet net zero carbon targets by 2050. To date, the Declaration has been signed by several hundred organizations and individuals, including Johnson Controls, Interface, U.S. Green Building Council, World Resources Institute and the City of Boulder, among others. I invite you to sign it as an individual, and to urge your organization to do so as well.
A leading Republican presidential candidate once said:
“Instead of idly debating the precise extent of global warming or the precise timeline of global warming, we need to deal with the central facts of rising temperatures, rising waters and all the endless troubles that global warming will bring.”
Speaking at a wind power plant in Oregon, the lifelong conservative promised to, if elected, “not shirk the mantle of leadership that the United States bears” to act on climate.
The candidate’s rationale was simple: “We stand warned by serious and credible scientists across the world that time is short and the dangers are great.”
That was back in 2008, and the candidate was, you guessed it, Senator John McCain. In typical maverick fashion, McCain’s practical views on climate change diverged greatly from many of his GOP peers. He was the only serious Republican presidential candidate to call for mandatory limits on greenhouse gas emissions. While his plan was to cut emissions only 60 percent below 1990 levels by 2050, when the leading Democratic candidates’ proposal was to cut them by 80 percent over the same period, it still was a plan to address climate change.
I began writing this blog post several weeks ago — without knowing McCain was in his final days. That’s because it’s tough to talk about the politicization of climate change in the United States without reflecting on what might have been had he been successful in his 2008 bid for the presidency.