Politics are More Fun Than Climate Leadership

December 20, 2013

It is a familiar pattern. Politicians promise to take a science-based approach to climate policy only to ditch the science and data for partisan politics and feel-good rhetoric when deadlines draw near.

In his editorial board meeting with the Olympian, Governor Inslee had this to say about the climate policy he wants:

I want to look at it through an optimistic lens and what’s the thing that could happen that would be inspiring. Here’s something that could be really inspiring...

This continues the trend of focusing on the emotional benefits of climate policy rather than environmental results. By wanting a policy that is "inspiring" rather than, say, effective, it demonstrates that what is driving the discussion is the desire to feel good and be seen as a good person.

The focus on politics ahead of science is reflected in the report produced for the Climate Legisative and Exective Workgroup with the assistance of the Department of Ecology. The report is intended to provide guidance on what policies are the most effective, but is almost entirely useless. The environmental cost and effectiveness of most policies, including cap-and-trade, is listed as "not quantified." Ironically, those are the very policies being proposed by the Governor. The data didn't matter.

What's worse, the Governor is filling the vacuum left by the lack of data with politics. In the Olympian editorial board he attacked Republican members of his panel, saying they needed to "look in the mirror" to find someone will to back his policies.

The only way Washington will have a coherent climate strategy is to build a bipartisan policy that is environmental effective and economically sustainable. The Governor himself virtually destroyed that possibility when he negotiated a secret deal with other Democratic governors without telling the bipartisan members of the very climate workgroup he set up. His comments to the Olympian double down on that partisan approach.

Unfortunately, that partisan political approach has killed coherent and effective strategy for at least another year.