Baker, DeLeo need to step up on climate change

Trump-lite policies don’t cut it in midst of crisis

TWO WEEKS AGO, the Washington Post reported that the Trump administration predicted a 7 degree Fahrenheit (almost 4 degrees Celsius) rise in global temperatures within the century, suggesting that there is no point trying to stop it. Whether it is calling climate change a hoax or concluding climate change is inevitable, the Trump administration is committed to rolling back environmental regulations: reviving dangerous coal plants, allowing gas and oil operations to release more methane into the atmosphere, and removing Obama-era laws on car tailpipe exhaust. Regardless of the rhetorical strategy, the Trump administration is committed to protecting the bottom-line fossil fuel companies and dirty money.

Here in Massachusetts, established politicians such as Gov. Charlie Baker and House Speaker Robert DeLeo follow a diluted version of the Trump doctrine of “burn, baby, burn.” Their Trump-lite policies are incommensurate to the scale and urgency of the crisis. They ensure the bottom line of the utilities and corporations polluting our planet remain unharmed. Their reasonable and respectable rhetoric on climate change is just a publically appeasing form of Trumpian dogma.

On Sunday, the International Panel on Climate Change, a UN body of scientists that assesses the current research on climate change, released a ground-breaking report on the catastrophic pace of global warming. The verdict that over 91 authors and editors reached was simple: the world is hurtling past the “well below 2 degrees” Celsius temperature increase mark set by the 2015 Paris Accords, threatening the very existence of human life on this planet.

The task we face is not easy. We need to commit to a radical transformation of existing energy and transportation systems, while also building an economy that works for all, not just corporations and corrupt politicians. This project needs to start right here in Massachusetts.

A new economy in Massachusetts would respond to the needs of everyday people, not corporations and their uber-wealthy friends. A 2017 report shows that just 100 companies were responsible for 71 percent of all carbon emissions. When our politicians are in the pockets of these mega-polluters, the workers and everyday people of our Commonwealth suffer. We need a carbon-pricing initiative that charges polluters for their dirty emissions, and a not-so radical plan for the profits to be reinvested in low income communities and communities of color that have long borne the brunt of the effects of climate change.

An energy revolution in Massachusetts would have to start with an uncompromising end to all new fossil fuel infrastructure; a quick transition to 100 percent renewable energy before 2050; and a transition to a just and equitable green economy.

While these goals seem unachievable, they are integral to a bold response to the climate crisis. The IPCC report makes it clear that increasing zero-carbon energy sources and rapidly scaling down fossil fuel energy sources such as coal, oil, and gas are integral to restricting temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius. The Senate omnibus bill that nearly passed in the last legislative session was on the right track, including 100 percent renewables by 2050 and carbon pricing, but was rejected by legislators led by Speaker DeLeo.

The question remains: can Charlie Baker, Robert DeLeo, and the established rear guard of “moderate” politics in Massachusetts stand up for bold action on climate change? Their past records say no. Baker alone has taken tens of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions from fossil fuel companies and the utilities. If you’re in the pocket of the polluters, you cannot stand up for real climate action. On the other hand, Baker’s challenger in the election, Jay Gonzalez, has refused campaign contributions from fossil fuel companies and utilities, while putting forth a plan to transform the energy and transportation systems in Massachusetts.

Activists from the Global South (developing world) and their allies have long chanted “1.5 to survive,” indicating that for many people around the world, anything over a 1.5 degree rise in temperature would be a death sentence. Echoing this call, climate activists in Massachusetts have emphasized the urgency of the climate crisis.

Meet the Author

Vignesh Ramachandran

Organizer, 350 Massachusetts for a Better Future
These next few years are crucial. The science is clear — every extra bit of warming and every year of delay put lives at risk. This is no time for consumerist false solutions. We need a bold strategy accountable to everyday people and scientific reality for a just and equitable transition to a zero-carbon economy, and Charlie Baker and Robert DeLeo’s Trump-lite leadership isn’t going to get us there.

Vignesh Ramachandran is an organizer with 350 Massachusetts for a Better Future.