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How Did Climate and Clean Energy Programs Fare in the 2018 Federal Budget?

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How Did Climate and Clean Energy Programs Fare in the 2018 Federal Budget?

By Rob Cowin

Last week the Senate passed the fy18 omnibus spending package to keep the federal government running through September. The bill is a complete repudiation of President Trump's budget priorities, especially on climate change and clean energy.


In fact, I'd argue that the "art of the deal" approach the administration took in negotiating with Congress over the budget numbers (pushing overly draconian cuts in the hope that Congress would move slightly closer in their direction) proved to have the opposite effect. It galvanized Congress in opposition to the president's budget priorities and solidified bipartisan coalitions in support of specific programs and agencies, proving once again that bullying Congress on funding is not an effective strategy for the executive branch to take.

The administration's interests would have been better served working in partnership with Congress—a lesson this president clearly has not learned given his fy19 budget request.

Here's how some important climate and clean energy programs fared in the fy18 omnibus:

What does this tell us?

  • Clean energy R&D (and energy efficiency) still matter to both Republicans and Democrats. It's not so much a climate thing as it is a local thing, an energy security thing and a "pro-growth" strategy.
  • Climate change (climate science) has become so politicized on the hill that Congress doesn't want to touch it and instead defaults to continued funding without increases or cuts. While some may see level funding as a victory (especially in this political environment), we know climate change is a growing and serious threat to our economy and national security, and therefore climate science should truly necessitate increased priority and federal support.
  • People are feeling the impacts of a changing climate (especially extreme weather). Both Democrats and Republicans see the logic in investing up-front to be more prepared and save cost and heartache on the back end.

The president signed the bill shortly after a brief veto threat. The budget reflects the fact that science advocacy matters, but it's also a reminder that we need to be vigilant in our work to depoliticize the issue of climate change and continue to work in strong bipartisan fashion to advance shared goals around clean energy deployment and innovation, as well as community resilience to extreme weather and other climate impacts.

Rob Cowin is director of government affairs for the UCS Climate & Energy Program, advocates for clean energy, solutions to global warming, and safer nuclear power plants.

Former U.S. Sec. of Energy Ernest Moniz listens during the National Clean Energy Summit 9.0 on October 13, 2017 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Isaac Brekken / Getty Images for National Clean Energy Summit

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Amid reports that oil industry-friendly former Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz remains under consideration to return to his old post in the incoming Biden administration, a diverse coalition of environmental groups is mobilizing for an "all-out push" to keep Moniz away from the White House and demand a cabinet willing to boldly confront the corporations responsible for the climate emergency.

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Climate change can evoke intense feelings, but a conversational approach can help. Reed Kaestner / Getty Images

Anger, anxiety, overwhelm … climate change can evoke intense feelings.

"It's easy to feel dwarfed in the context of such a global systemic issue," says psychologist Renée Lertzman.

She says that when people experience these feelings, they often shut down and push information away. So to encourage climate action, she advises not bombarding people with frightening facts.

"When we lead with information, we are actually unwittingly walking right into a situation that is set up to undermine our efforts," she says.

She says if you want to engage people on the topic, take a compassionate approach. Ask people what they know and want to learn. Then have a conversation.

This conversational approach may seem at odds with the urgency of the issue, but Lertzman says it can get results faster.

"When we take a compassion-based approach, we are actively disarming defenses so that people are actually more willing and able to respond and engage quicker," she says. "And we don't have time right now to mess around, and so I do actually come to this topic with a sense of urgency… We do not have time to not take this approach."

Reporting credit: ChavoBart Digital Media
Reposted with permission from Yale Climate Connections.

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