Guest essay by Eric Worrall
A post in The Conversation claims that government officials in red state administrations are sneaking in climate measures disguised as government efficiency drives and pollution mitigation initiatives.
Red state rural America is acting on climate change – without calling it climate change
Author: Rebecca J. Romsdahl
Professor of Environmental Science & Policy, University of North Dakota
February 22, 2017 1.08pm AEDT
President Donald Trump has the environmental community understandably concerned. He and members of his Cabinet have questioned the established science of climate change, and his choice to head the Environmental Protection Agency, former Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt, has sued the EPA many times and regularly sided with the fossil fuel industry.
Even if the Trump administration withdraws from all international climate negotiations and reduces the EPA to bare bones, the effects of climate change are happening and will continue to build.
In response to real threats and public demand, cities across the United States and around the world are taking action to address climate change. We might think this is happening only in large, coastal cities that are threatened by sea-level rise or hurricanes, like Amsterdam or New York.
Research shows, however, that even in the fly-over red states of the U.S. Great Plains, local leaders in small- to medium-size communities are already grappling with the issue. Although their actions are not always couched in terms of addressing climate change, their strategies can provide insights into how to make progress on climate policy under a Trump administration.
The following quotes give a sense of their strategies.
“In terms of economic benefit & resource protection. This framing was deliberate to garner support from residents who did not agree with climate change.”
“We frame the initiative as: energy savings (=$ savings), as smart growth/good planning, and as common sense natural resource management. Climate change is only explicitly referenced in our Climate Protection Plan adopted in 2009. Most initiatives fall under the “sustainability” umbrella term.“
“We mask it with sustainability, we call it P3 (People, Planet, Prosperity)”
The abstract of the referenced study;
Planning for climate change across the US Great Plains: Concerns and insights from government decision-makers
While both international and national efforts are being made to assess climate change and mitigate effects, primary impacts will likely be regional. The US Great Plains region is home to a mosaic of unique ecosystems which are at risk from climate change. An exploratory survey of over 900 Great Plains government officials shows concerns for specific natural resources but not global climate change. Local government decision-makers are important sources of initiation for environmental policy; however, less than 20 % of jurisdictions surveyed have developed plans for adapting to or mitigating potential climate change impacts. The continental extremes of seasonal and annual climate variability of the Great Plains can mask the effects of global climate change and likely influences its’ residents lack of concern. The study findings indicate a need to reframe the discussion away from climate change skepticism, toward a focus on possible impacts within current resource management priorities such as drought, so that proactive planning can be addressed.
In my opinion this effort to justify political deception is obscene. Winning electoral office by deceiving voters undermines democracy – it debases the value of casting a vote.
Reframing also potentially leads to serious resource misallocation.
For example, in a deceptive regime of “reframing”, the parameters of civic works projects could be quietly padded, to cope with questionable projections of future climatic extremes which are not justified by the historical record.
If Mayors and other local government officials think future climate change is an issue, they should openly declare their concerns, and let voters decide on the merits of their plans, rather than hiding their true intentions behind a deceptive mask of “reframing”.