• Ed Flattau

All of the Above

Democratic presidential candidates should avoid the temptation to trash their rivals’ environmental policies in order to distinguish themselves from the pack or for any other purpose.

Alas, there are already signs of democratic aspirants dismissing their competitors’ environmental proposals as inadequate in order to stake out for themselves a more favorable contrast.

There is a better way. If they want to get a leg up, they should explain why their proposal is superior, but refrain from rejecting other candidates’ initiatives out of hand. The campaign to reverse environmental degradation and stabilize global warming cannot afford to pro formaexclude any strategy with the slightest potential – however incremental. It is a logic immortalized in the venerable adage “not to make the perfect the enemy of the good.” No matter the urgency for environmental recovery, it is too complex to be achieved overnight.

Only if a candidate’s proposal will do more net harm than good should rivals feel free to talk down the competition. Most environmental proposals contain at least a kernel of a net benefit.

How does this philosophy translate into the real body politic?

Proposals with even a modicum of viability must not be summarily dismissed. A carbon tax with revenue returned to the public in the form of rebates might make a quicker dent in greenhouse gas emissions than would carbon sequestration or trading carbon units. But the latter two should not be abandoned until shown to be a net negative.

Nuclear power should not be disqualified in a kneejerk fashion from a potential role unless and until safety concerns involving plant operations and waste disposal are proven insoluble. Even natural gas as a replacement for coal and a temporary bridge (with an emphasis on “temporary”) to clean renewable energy ought not to be perfunctorily dismissed as long as it is the only viable option to setting the environmental recovery process in motion.

The bottom line: Environmental degradation is too cosmic to be a matter of partisan disunity within political parties any more than between them.


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