Secretary Castro wants to rejoin the Paris Accord (what Democrat doesn’t?) and follow it with a series of executive orders. But executive orders are fragile. Unless we can build a coalition—in Congress, or on the state and federal level—any action taken by the White House is unlikely to prove transient and ineffective.
Castro should do more to emphasize the jobs that are being created in the clean energy sector—far more than in fossil fuels—and that clean energy is cheaper than dirty energy. These economic benefits offer a basis for building a new, profitable, clean energy system.
The heart-stopper of Castro's segment was when he said he wants to see that “more people are protected by national flood insurance” by subsidizing it. That would be a mistake. Flood insurance encourages people to live in flood zones that should never have been populated in the first place, and are now more vulnerable than ever. It’s sad, but the reality is that climate adaptation will necessarily involve relocating some Americans out of high-risk flood zones. I would rather he had suggested paying for necessary relocation out of his carbon pollution fee.
The gaffe of his segment was his promise to make America “carbon-free.” All life is based on carbon; we can’t be carbon-free! What he means is carbon-emissions-free, but that is harder to say.
Naomi Oreskes is Professor of the History of Science at Harvard University and the author of the new book Why Trust Science?