David Roberts @drvox Seattleite transplanted from Tennessee; now blogging for vox.com/ about energy politics. Climate hawk, deficit dove. Not a doctor. Aug. 01, 2019 4 min read

1. All right, I haven't communicated this clearly, so lemme do a thread. Biden (along with Bennett, Beto, Gillibrand, & a few others) has issued a climate proposal that targets net-zero US emissions by 2050. Inslee is targeting 2045 or sooner.

2. In terms of the policies that will be required to reach those targets, they aren't substantially different. Either would require massive, immediate, sustained mobilization of gov't at every level. Either would be the biggest collective thing humanity has ever accomplished.

3. Insofar as Inslee's plan is stronger/better than Biden's (and it is!), it's not in the target. It's that Inslee has spelled out, in detail, policies that will be required to hit the target. Biden & the others mostly haven't. In their plans, all those policies are *implied*.

4. Specifically on phasing out fossil fuels: Inslee has recognized that hitting the target will require phasing out coal & almost all natural gas, so he explicitly lays out a plan to do so. He knows CCS is not going to scale fast enough to save more than a fraction of NG.

5. But here's the thing: Biden's target *also* commits him to phasing out coal & almost all natural gas, for the very same reasons. CCS is not coming fast enough to save NG. The phase-out is implied by the target. Biden's plan just doesn't spell it out.

6. In fact, every candidate (and the "moderate" Dems in the House) who has committed to net-zero-by-2050 has committed, whether they know it or not, to a phaseout of fossil fuels. They are all committed to radical, rapid action. It's just, not all of them seem to realize it!

7. This is my basic point. Biden's plan is being praised/condemned as "moderate," but it's not! No plan that targets net-zero-by-2050 is moderate -- radicalism comes with the package. You gotta phase out coal, almost all NG, ICE vehicles... anything that emits GHGs!

8. The right contrast to draw is that Inslee understands the issue, understands what will be necessary, and is forthrightly spelling the policy out & committing to it. Biden is adopting a radical goal but leaving lots of the necessary policy implied or unspoken.

9. And, crucially, it's not at all clear that Biden and House "moderates" UNDERSTAND the implications of their own GHG targets. They probably don't understand that they have implicitly committed to radical policy. And if they did understand, they'd probably blanche & bail!

10. So that's the right criticism of Biden on climate: it's not that his policy isn't strong enough. (Net-zero by 2050 is wildly aspirational, though lots of climate folks have convinced themselves it's easy.) It's that his understanding & commitment to what's necessary ...

11. ... are not in evidence. He hasn't been nearly as forthright as Inslee about what will be required to hit his target. And that rightly leaves climate-concerned voters doubtful that he'll sacrifice the political capital to make it happen. With Inslee, there's no doubt.

12. A final point. What all this illustrates is an uncomfortable truth: the facts of climate change mean that there is no such thing as a "moderate" position on it. You do the radical things necessary to meet IPCC targets or you sit back & let radical impacts unfold.

13. Radical change is inevitable one way or another. Biden & House "moderates" are trying to pretend otherwise, by adopting a radical target but failing to grapple with the radical policies necessary to achieve it (like phasing out fossil fuels).

14. I get why they do this -- neither the public nor the commentariat is prepared to hear the truth -- but it's sleight of hand, and it can't last forever. Biden actually committed a "Kinsley gaffe" last night. He told the truth: yes, tackling climate change means phasing out FF.

15. Indeed, getting the US to net zero by 2050 (much less sooner!) requires a complete shift in policy at every level. It requires more broad, sustained action than anything the US has ever done. It will destroy some industries & create others ...

16. ... hurt some communities & help others, hurt some regions & help others. It will mean sweeping, nation-wide change. The whole point of the Green New Deal is to acknowledge that change and *plan for it*, to ensure that all working families are protected during it.

17. If you adopt the radical goal but shy away from the radical policies necessary to achieve it, you're not being more "moderate," you're just hiding the ball. You're failing to be straight with people & prepare them. THAT is where Biden & Dem "moderates" deserve criticism.

18. Anyway. Practically speaking, if you want to decarbonize, you must phase out all coal & all but a small fraction of NG. All the candidates want to decarbonize, so they all support that phaseout, whether they know it or not. Probably best to choose one who knows it. </fin>

The thread above ☝️was popular, so I turned it into a post. Give it a read!  https://www.vox.com/energy-and-environment/2019/8/2/20751255/2019-democratic-debate-joe-biden-jay-inslee-climate-change 

You can follow @drvox.


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