State AGs Making the Case for Climate Optimism

A partial view of planet earth, viewed from space, shrouded in an ominous orange glow

This past week­end, much of the Unit­ed States endured an unprece­dent­ed heat wave. Cities across the coun­try broke heat records, and over 150 mil­lion peo­ple were under some lev­el of heat warn­ing or advi­so­ry. The mis­ery has moved on to Europe this week, with coun­tries like the Nether­lands and Bel­gium record­ing their high­est ever tem­per­a­tures.

Here in the U.S. and abroad, this mis­ery comes after the world expe­ri­enced the hottest June ever record­ed. Accord­ing to sci­en­tists at the Nation­al Ocean­ic and Atmos­pher­ic Admin­is­tra­tion (NOAA), the aver­age glob­al tem­per­a­ture was 1.71 degrees F above the 20th-cen­tu­ry aver­age, which is alarm­ing on its own, but more so giv­en NOAA’s report that nine of the ten hottest Junes have occurred since 2010.

Aside from the blis­ter­ing heat, recent news head­lines have includ­ed these cheery pro­nounce­ments: Extreme weath­er, ris­ing seas, and a melt­ing Arc­tic could wors­en glob­al ten­sions;” Cli­mate change is increas­ing hur­ri­canes, trop­i­cal storms and floods, sci­en­tists con­firm;” Ozone threat from cli­mate change: Increas­ing glob­al tem­per­a­tures will impact air qual­i­ty;” and Dead­ly fun­gal dis­ease may be linked to cli­mate change, study sug­gests.”

Unfor­tu­nate­ly, it does not appear that the cur­rent admin­is­tra­tion is tak­ing any of these issues seri­ous­ly. From bury­ing cli­mate change sci­ence, to rolling back com­mon­sense reg­u­la­tions that would address major sources of cli­mate change-caus­ing green­house gas emis­sions, the admin­is­tra­tion often seems sin­gu­lar­ly focused on pay­ing as lit­tle atten­tion to these prob­lems as pos­si­ble. And it does so despite the admo­ni­tions from fair­ly straight-laced enti­ties like the Gov­ern­ment Account­abil­i­ty Office, which recent­ly sug­gest­ed that some basic plan­ning might be wise to pre­vent the fis­cal dev­as­ta­tion sure to come as extreme weath­er events and dis­as­ters exac­er­bat­ed by cli­mate change grow more and more dev­as­tat­ing for humans and the envi­ron­ment.

If I have depressed you so far, per­haps this advice will help: Some peo­ple com­plain that this is the hottest sum­mer in the last 125 years, but I like to think of it as the coolest sum­mer of the next 125 years! Glass half full!”

Sar­casm aside, per­haps some opti­mism is called for. As this week’s Legal­ly Speak­ing demon­strates, state AGs can’t stop won’t stop” in their per­sis­tent insis­tence that the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment fol­low the law and stop its relent­less and short-sight­ed attacks on our nation’s bedrock envi­ron­men­tal statutes, includ­ing the roll­back of efforts like the Clean Car Stan­dards, which were meant to address one of our nation’s largest sources of green­house gas emis­sions.

Indeed, states around the coun­try are step­ping in to fill the void of cli­mate change lead­er­ship that we so des­per­ate­ly need. Just last week, New York’s gov­er­nor signed the Cli­mate Lead­er­ship and Pro­tec­tion Act, an ambi­tious plan aimed at reduc­ing the state’s green­house gas emis­sions and shift­ing to renew­able ener­gy. Just before the heat­wave hit, Colorado’s gov­er­nor signed into law a mea­sure that would force that state’s pub­lic util­i­ties com­mis­sion to account for the cli­mate costs of fos­sil fuel-sourced ener­gy and require that util­i­ties put togeth­er clean ener­gy plans that demon­strate how they intend to con­tribute to the state’s 100 per­cent clean ener­gy goal. You can read more about this ini­tia­tive here, from our clean ener­gy attor­ney Jes­si­ca Bell.

As a great Amer­i­can song­writer once said, pes­simism and opti­mism are slammed up against each oth­er … the ten­sion between them is where it’s all at, it’s what lights the fire.” Read on for some prime exam­ples of state AGs keep­ing that fire alive.