When leaders from almost every country in the world came to a historic climate agreement in Paris, I braced myself for a wave of ugly rhetoric and the touting of conspiracy theories here in the United States.
What's amazing, however, is that didn't really happen. At least, not to the extent that I was expecting. Sure, there were the occasional howls of protest from the usual suspects, but both the GOP and Democratic debates on national security were remarkably silent on this crucially important topic.
I am sure there will be many people who worry about climate action slipping down the political agenda. I, however, can't help feeling that a lessening of the politicization around climate change and energy policy could do all of us a whole lot of good. After all, while the GOP may feel the need to occasionally play to its base and point fingers at the march of a climate alarmist world government, they can't really have missed the fact that almost the entire business world (excluding certain coal and oil interests) is demanding robust action on climate and pledging to do their part to make it happen.
True, your average voter is more concerned about the economy and/or the (real or perceived) threat of terrorism, but clean energy, clean air and technological progress remain extremely popular among a broad cross section of the voting public. Meanwhile the fossil fuel industries are beginning to realize just how unpopular they are.
So when Congress quietly gets on with renewing tax breaks for renewables for 5 years to come, we can all breathe a sigh of relief. True, it came at the expense of a lifting of the oil export ban—but with oil prices at an 11 year low this morning, I'd imagine that's scant consolation for an oil barron if you make your money from unconventional sources. I have been arguing for some time that trajectories matter more than end goals, and it's looking increasingly likely that we are on a firm path toward significant—hopefully complete—decarbonization.
Five more years of support for renewables, plus an easing of the angry anti-climate rhetoric, provides ample time for clean energy to become more cost competitive with fossil fuels and to also allow the national debate to move on from "debate" about the existence of climate change to discussion about the most effective solutions.
The writing is on the wall for climate denial. And climate denial is currently keeping relatively schtum in the hope that we don't take too much notice.