Over at Gristmill, the Sierra Club's Carl Pope has published a cogent, nuanced review of Ted Nordhaus' and Michael Shellenberger's new book, Break Through: From the Death of Environmentalism to the Politics of Possibility. While we haven't read the book yet (though we have read the authors' companion piece in The New Republic, as well as the "Death of Environmentalism" essay they expand upon here), one passage from Pope's review struck us as noteworthy:
Environmental advocacy had lost its way. But it had far stronger survival skills than Shellenberger and Nordhaus imagined, and as the authors were expanding their thesis into book form, environmentalism found a new trail and revitalized itself. Now more than 600 cities have signed the U.S. Mayors Climate Protection Agreement; more than 20 states have renewable electricity standards; half of the North American auto market is now subject to tough CO2 emission standards; 13 of the most populous counties have signed the Sierra Club's "Cool Counties" pledge, committing to an 80 percent CO2 reduction by 2050; states from Florida to Hawaii, and California to New Jersey, have enacted their own long-term, binding, and ambitious limits on emissions of greenhouse gases; all of the major Democratic presidential candidates have committed to very serious attacks on global warming; and the nation's most popular Republican governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, has made the issue his signature.
Indeed, we'd respectfully add to Pope's list some of the innovative steps and proposals for fighting global warming that have fallen under our purview here at Warming Law. Jerry Brown's efforts in California, for instance, have had the stated aim (and preliminary results) of not merely using environmental law and regulations as a blunt and pre-emptive instrument, but of bringing about the kind of smart growth that will simultaneously reduce our carbon footprint and have other appealing benefits-- in other words, exactly what Nordhaus and Shellenberger seem to be calling for as an overall paradigm for the "climate-change movement."
In other words, federalism still works as an important part of environmental strategy (we say "still" noting its critical role in past efforts-- indeed, California's early protections area big part of why today's efforts have been possible). The large-scale effort to stave off global warming and create a better economy that all of us seem to agree upon, while ultimately aimed at a national and international scope, is rightly building itself from innovative, ground-up solutions.