Tribalism and Climate Change

It is obvious that politics has become tribal—which makes any sign of cross-tribal collaboration cause for celebration. But a recent op-ed in  The Washington Post (“The States Can Lead the Way on Climate Change. Let’s Get to Work.”)  co-authored by Maryland’s Republican governor Larry Hogan, and Virginia’s Democratic governor Ralph Northam offers hope that we may not, after all, be destined for mutual assured destruction via bitter partisanship.

There is no doubt that Hogan, as an old-fashioned moderate, is a species of Republican sliding towards extinction.  (Perhaps biologists should set up a captive breeding program.)   It is also true that in Maryland, where Democrats control the state legislature, effective governance requires crossing the aisle.  But Hogan has seemed to enjoy governing as a moderate—it suits his rather Falstaffian demeanor.

An acquaintance who serves in the Hogan administration told me that the Maryland governor is pondering a primary challenge to Trump—and Hogan has done nothing to discourage this thinking.  A recent  article in The New Yorker noted that Hogan was the opening speaker at a recent conference in Washington titled “Starting Over: The Center-Right After Trump.”

In any case, the possibility that governors and other state-level politicians are willing and able to collaborate to address climate change and other critical issues deserves recognition.

NASA Goddard image of Hurricane Katrina August 2005

Growing up I heard my grandfather say that pessimists were happier because they were never disappointed and were sometimes pleasantly surprised. It now appears, however, that even the pessimists were too optimistic about the destructive potential of climate change. (See “The Arctic is Turning from White to Blue.“)  I see no compelling scenario in which those who would rather ignore science in the interests of short-term economic growth will be convinced.  It is, therefore, encouraging to see a genuinely bipartisan expression of willingness to take the problem seriously and work collaboratively on a solution.  As a pessimist, I find the Hogan-Northam collaboration a pleasant surprise.

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