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Bridging climate science, citizens, and policy


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CO Politics: Flooding and Gun Safety

I’ve read numerous “news” articles regarding the political implications of the historic flooding of Sep. 2013 and the votes that elected representatives took in the 2013 legislative session.  As is usually the case, the right-leaning Denver Post “news” staff parrots Republican talking points while they seek to undermine Democratic Governor John Hickenlooper and the Democratic-led legislature.  The Post enjoys writing about perceived partisan rancor, but they have to search pretty hard to do it.  How many people would read about the overwhelming majority of legislation that passed with huge bipartisan support in 2013?  Not many.  So in a self-fulfilling prophecy, many people think Democrats and Republicans are constantly at each others’ throats.

Aside from that, I found the most recent Post piece on flood and legislation effects interesting for the language used.  Here is a quote from CO Secretary of State Scott Gessler (who has been part of more than his fair share of conflicts of interest as Sec-State):

“Those [Hickenlooper poll] numbers reflect the fundamental feelings of all Coloradans, whether they live in rural communities or more populated cities,” said Secretary of State Scott Gessler, a Republican who is among a field of candidates vying to unseat Hickenlooper in 2014.

“I’m not going to criticize his flood work; he did his job. But what he supported and signed into law — laws that make rural Coloradans pay higher rates for electricity and make them feel like they’re less safe — are fundamentally flawed.”

First, more people support Hickenlooper’s re-election effort than not.  Fundamentally, Coloradoans want Hickenlooper to continue governing the state of Colorado.
Second, when did Scott Gessler last examine how rural electricity co-operative rate changes?  Did the rates ever increase prior to a standardized renewable electricity standard?  You bet they did.  Where was Gessler’s concern back then?  He didn’t have any, did he?  What’s the real issue: higher rates or mandated sources?  If Gessler and rural Coloradoans have an issue with mandated sources, they need to prepare to discuss that, not push a proxy argument that fear mongers.
Third, “make them feel like they’re less safe” is actually the best way I’ve heard the gun safety legislation passed in 2013 framed.  And here is the legislation’s effects: background checks on all buyers (which many people erroneously believe already occurs and receives ~80% support from Democrats, Unaffiliateds, AND Republicans; limits on gun magazines to no more than 15 rounds (which also receives majority support).  Everybody still has their arms, regardless of their current magazine capacity.
Here is something Gessler and the Post never discuss: gun safety legislation helps urbanites actual public safety.  Note my own language: actual safety, not perceived safety – that’s a critical distinction.  Nobody is going to a movie theater in Brush or Cheyenne Wells or Clifton and murdering 12 people and injuring 70 others12 high schoolers and 1 teacher weren’t slaughtered in Rangely or Kremmling or Carr.  Those tragedies occurred in an urban location and Colorado urban elected officials decided enough was enough after 20 1st graders and 6 adults were ruthlessly slaughtered in Sandy Hook.  Why?  Because their constituents demanded action.  Actions taken were common sense, reasonable, and respect the 2nd Amendment.
In a civilized, modern society, public safety is paramount.  My family has a right to life that supersedes anybody’s perceived “right” to an assault rifle with unlimited ammunition.  This is real life, not some video game.  Colorado urban mass murders resulted in real people who are really dead.  Nobody’s safety in the aforementioned unpopulated portions of this state is threatened by mandatory background checks and 15 round magazine limits.  Senseless butchery of urban dwellers needs to stop.  There are ways to accomplish that goal while maintaining Coloradoans’ access to firearms for safety and hunting.
Scott Gessler and other Republicans would obviously rather see more Colorado massacres than implement any regulation on firearms.  I would love to see them defend that position to 2014 voters.
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Carbon Price Already Part of Doing Business

A report issued yesterday by the Carbon Disclosure Project generated a number of news articles today, including in the New York Times.  The report identified 29 major US corporations’ inclusion of future carbon prices in their financial planning.  This is a significant and logical development.  It is financially responsible for companies with billions of annual revenue dollars to consider upcoming costs in their planning.  These companies aren’t partisan, they’re interested only in making money.  If they think there is a way to make more money with carbon pricing than without, they’ll plan and act accordingly.

The NYT article notes that many Republicans might not like this development.  That’s due to the hyper-partisan characteristic of today’s leading Republicans.  Their worldview demands that they yell loudly at developments like carbon prices.  And despite their to-date very successful campaign to prevent policymakers from establishing a national carbon tax (which economists agree is the most economically efficient method) or a cap-and-trade system, they can’t and don’t control global policymakers.  A larger economic body than the US established a carbon price: the European Union.  China has begun limited implementation of carbon pricing.  Regional cap-and-trade systems encompassing US states and Canadian provinces with large economies exist and will only expand in the future.  What this means is US corporations doing business in the EU and China (and soon high population US states) have to take their carbon pricing into account.

The NYT and Huffington Post articles’ authors seem more surprised that companies like ExxonMobil are among those who are planning for carbon pricing than anything.  As I stated above, this is really the only logical development left for Exxon and other companies.  They can either perform their fiduciary duties and protect their shareholders’ interests or they can lose market share or fail.

This is one of the reasons I’ve supported regional carbon pricing following the continued failure to price carbon at the national and international levels.  If the price exists in a large enough portion of the larger economy, companies have to respond.  They can more easily lobby national politicians than local people who are very supportive of carbon pricing and who can run for local offices.  This is an example of my larger point that we need to implement climate mitigation and adaptation policies at the local level first.  Efforts to do this at the international level have failed time and time again.  But if thousands of communities implement their own strategies nationally and internationally, then higher levels of government have examples with which to work and grow.  More importantly, thousands of communities’ influence establishes political and social inertia that lobbying can only blunt.  This is the fastest way toward widespread policy implementation.