I couldn’t have imagined it — praising Time, the New York Times, Scientific American, The Economist, the New York Post and Fox News in the same column! But here goes.
Last week, in advance of Earth Day, the Times editorialized, “Trump Abandoned the Climate. This Is Biden’s Moment.” Representatives from “17 nations responsible for four-fifths of the world’s emissions of greenhouse gases” will join other leaders from more than three dozen countries at a virtual summit on Earth Day this week.
It is “critically important,” the Times noted, for summit organizer President Joe Biden, who has promised that America will lead on this pressing global issue. Biden pledged to make America’s economy “carbon-neutral by midcentury.” Decrying criticisms from “left-of-center” groups who claim the plan doesn’t go far enough, the editorial cited “elements of a plausible strategy” in Biden’s $2-trillion recovery plan.
Two transformational “moving parts” in that plan are reducing emissions from cars and trucks, largely through electric vehicles, and a “national clean power standard” requiring that a steadily increasing percentage of electricity be generated by wind, solar, hydroelectric and nuclear power. “A mostly renewable energy landscape is no longer a pipe dream,” the Times concluded, “nor is a less menacing climate.”
On the day of that editorial, Scientific American published, “We Are Living in a Climate Emergency, and We’re Going to Say So.” This was picked up by the New York Post, which has long mocked climate change. The Post’s story, originally published by Fox News, states that Scientific American has joined “the growing list of news outlets who are upgrading the term climate change to a ‘climate emergency’.” Upgrading!
The Scientific American article, co-authored by Columbia Journalism Review, the Nation, the Guardian, Noticias Telemundo, Al Jazeera, Asahi Shimbun and La Republica, stated that “emergency” best describes the challenge we face. The statement builds on earlier articles, notably Scientific American’s January article, “The Climate Emergency: 2020 in Review.” It calls for “a massive-scale mobilization to address the climate crisis,” with six steps for mitigating climate change:
Energy — Quickly phase out fossil fuels using a multi-pronged approach, including carbon fees.
Short-lived pollutants — Cut methane, soot, and other short-lived pollutants to reduce short-term rates of warming.
Nature — Restore natural ecosystems, allowing them to reach their ecological potential, and create new protected areas to reserve forest carbon.
Food — Change dietary habits and reduce food waste.
Economy — Transition from exploitation of ecosystems to an economy that depends on long-term sustainability of the biosphere.
Population — Stabilize and gradually reduce population growth to ensure social and economic justice, particularly by supporting education for girls and women and allowing them to control their own reproduction.
The fact that these references are cited in the Post/Fox article suggests that media which, in the past, have questioned climate change are altering their positions. I find the story remarkable in its candor.
But what about Biden’s plan? Citizens’ Climate Lobby, although generally supportive, explores a key missing component: pricing carbon. To remedy that, CCL worked with members of Congress to introduce The Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act (H.R. 2307).Under H.R. 2307, carbon pricing and taxpayer dividends are anticipated to:
n Attract investment to spur innovation toward a clean energy economy.
n Reduce emissions throughout all sectors, not just power generation.
n Increase efficiency, as consumers reduce their energy bills.
n Return revenue equally, protecting low- and middle-income households from impacts of the transition to clean energy.
For several years, a growing consensus among economists across the political spectrum has supported a carbon fee. “If economists ruled the world,” wrote The Economist last May, “carbon prices would drive most of the action on climate change.” Headlined, “The world urgently needs to expand its use of carbon prices,” the article suggests that polluters should also pay for negative externalities inflicted on the planet by polluters’ emissions. Methods of payment would differ, but “the idea that some sort of price would help people find an efficient means of reducing emissions is a given.”
Time magazine’s April 26 cover encapsulates the media’s apparent convergence: “Climate is everything.”