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How the States Can Still Fight Climate Change — Without the Federal Government


How the States Can Still Fight Climate Change — Without the Federal Government

Michelle Chen

Confronting the climate crisis shouldn’t be rocket science—to push society to decarbonize, just treat greenhouse gases the way governments treat liquor and cigarettes: Raise the price. With the climate-change movement at an impasse as the Paris climate treaty clashes with Trump’s anti-science agenda, the bottleneck around carbon policy today is more political than technological.


I agree for the need of a carbon tax but it seems politically difficult to pull off. In Washington State it was even opposed by environmentalists because the collected money would not have been given out with justice as a goal. It would be much more productive for activists to push for cap and trade programs since these face fewer political obstacles. Ten states already have them and it seem a couple of more will join in soon. Also, they will probably be connected to such programs in some Canadian provinces and Mexico. Activists can push for lower caps and broader coverage of carbon emissions with these programs. Progressives who oppose these programs simply because they involve financial trading and think they are some sort of scam simply don’t get it.


Despite fake news to the contrary, the 2016 Washington State carbon tax was not opposed because of justice issues. It was opposed because corporations like Boeing would get more of a (business and occupation (B & O) tax break than they would pay in carbon tax, thereby eliminating any incentive to reduce carbon and further perverting energy and tax policy in a state that needs to dismantle its tax and energy regulations and start from scratch (WA has the most regressive taxation matrix of the 50 states).

Cap and trade turns carbon into an additional commodity to be exploited by a barely regulated financial services industry (that will be even less regulated two years from now). Cap and dividend as introduced into the US Senate during the Dubya regime by Senators Cantwell (D-WA) and Collins (R-ME) would be a better choice.

Perhaps British Columbia could extend its southern boundary to around San Diego and the west coast states could secede from the US ?

Sorry, I forgot that the orange monster would probably MOAB any state that attempted secession.


There seems to be a lot of confusion about the Sierra Club’s position. It is clear that the club did not support the carbon tax. Their position was interpreted as opposing it but it seems in the end the Sierra Club took no position, it did not support or oppose it (see link). Cap and trade is working well in nine northeastern states and in California. The emissions reductions achieved in the northeastern states has been well documented. China is moving to a cap and trade system to reduce its carbon intensity. Opposing cap and trade creates another obstacle in the fight against climate change.



The problem is that red states tend to subsidize oil, but the US, overall, it is subsidized. SC pays the lowest at the pumps; CA pays the highest. Even then, CA pays at least half of what Europeans do. BUT, that’s just the oil that’s paid at the pumps!

We’re only scratching the surface by paying attention to fossil fuels at the pumps, especially as individual fossil fuel users. Major multinational corporations are the driving engine here, especially the global food supply. How much plastic do you see in supermarkets and $1 stores? How much oil is in cosmetics, vitamin or drug bottles, toothpaste containers, or the Pringles potato chip container? How much oil does McDonald’s use to ship all their products around the US and worldwide? What about Walmart?

Zero waste is a way to reduce the amount of fossil fuels but this can be difficult to implement. Food products, cosmetics, Big pharma, and many other industries are heavy users of plastic and fossil fuels. Still, zero waste is a two-fold result because you reduce personal consumption and thus trash into a landfill in the process.

A carbon tax or carbon budget will always be politically more effective in small states like MA, RI, and CT – partly because individual taxpayers are not driving such long distances as they do in states like TX and therefore are not consuming as much oil! In RI, most of the population tends to stick between a very small area, basically from Pawtucket to greater Warwick area. Even today, there are some people in RI who think Westerly (most western town in the state) is ‘out west’. It’s not too dissimilar in MA. In addition, RI has an extensive bus network and MA has both an intensive bus and train network that extends into RI. Residents in RI can take the train in to Boston for work and not get stuck in traffic (or consume fossil fuels).

Maybe we should be investing more in public transportation that relies on renewable energy like electricity! Point out how people can avoid being stuck in traffic rather than the cost savings because most people do not like sitting in traffic regardless.