Editorial: Focus climate change efforts locally, beyond reach of Trump

By The Herald Editorial Board

For decades, the call to action on many fronts — education, peace, the environment, world hunger, even business — was to think globally but to act locally.

That approach may be even more necessary for at least the next several years.

President-elect Trump’s recent Cabinet picks for Secretary of State and the Environmental Protection Agency have confirmed earlier assumptions of how seriously Trump takes the urgency to address climate change; he doesn’t. Climate change, he claimed during his campaign, is a hoax created by the Chinese.

Al Gore and Leonardo DiCaprio can visit Trump Tower in attempts to convince Trump to keep the United States as a partner in the Paris Climate Agreement, but there may be little more that can be done to convince Trump to change the reverse course he is now charting.

So, refocus efforts at the local level: “Go local. Don’t wait for Washington, D.C.”

That was the advice of Will Stelle, a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration adviser, to participants at last week’s climate change workshop hosted by the Tulalip Tribes.

“Reaffirm good science as one of our core competencies. Don’t get distracted by all the noise,” Stelle said in a story Saturday by Herald reporter Chris Winters. “Own what you do and make it happen.”

Efforts at the local and state level to address the effects of climate change and attempt to slow its advance would have happened regardless of who occupies the Oval Office. The Tulalip workshop was the last of three recent meetings of tribes, agencies and others who are addressing the coming “coastal squeeze” as communities and ecosystems are sandwiched between slowly rising sea levels and changes in the amount and frequency of rain in the region that will lead to more instances of flooding, drought and lower snowpacks.

Stelle and others were there to urge greater coordination and cooperation on those efforts, including work to enhance and protect estuaries and other habitat for salmon and other sea life.

An even broader coalition could soon be working on efforts to “manage the unavoidable and avoid the unmanageable.”

Last month we detailed a proposal by Everett City Councilmember Paul Roberts and the Association of Washington Cities to study how to promote the development of new technologies and products that confront climate change. The effort sees the region’s economic might as an opportunity to combat and respond to climate change and would involve the region’s wealth of potential participants from industry and business, economic agencies, research and development centers, universities and colleges, building and trades groups, environmental agencies and state and local governments.

The region and state have the resources, economic strength, educational facilities, base of manufacturing and technology, trained labor, available property, venture capital and proximity to world markets and the global supply chain that are needed to capitalize on solutions, notably in creating clean and renewable energy technologies.

Those solutions, rather than being a burden on the economy — as Trump and others seem to believe responses to climate change would be — could create jobs and strengthen the economy.

More than just refusing to lead on climate change, a Trump administration may elect to fight progressive states, such as Washington, Oregon and California, that have moved ahead with efforts to curb carbon emissions and reduce pollution of air and water.

Trump, and especially his pick for the EPA, Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt, are likely to attempt to roll back California’s carbon cap-and-trade program as well as Washington state’s fledgling carbon cap.

California Gov. Jerry Brown already has struck a defiant tone against Trump, particularly if funding is cut into climate change research: “And, if Trump turns off the satellites, California will launch its own damn satellite,” Brown said at a recent news conference. “We’re going to collect that data.”

Brown said California would serve as an example in leading the challenge. Washington and Oregon should add their economic weight and political influence to California’s in that fight.

For the next four to eight years, expect a Trump administration to freeze if not revers work to combat climate change. But his administration’s reach goes only so far. All the more reason to act locally.

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