Why I Went to the State of the Union | Mike Kelly

When President Trump gave his State of the Union address earlier this month, I was in the House Gallery as a guest of Representative Derek Kilmer, who invited me to be his guest to highlight the work the non-partisan volunteer organization I help lead, Bainbridge Island Citizens’ Climate Lobby, has done in the district over the years.

When he invited me, I told him I was honored to accept on behalf of all the people working across the district — from Tacoma to Forks to Bainbridge — on this important issue.

Sitting in the gallery, I was disappointed to hear the president give short-shrift to the climate, and propose only what some have called “aggressive gardening” as a solution — joining the Trillion Trees initiative. Modeling from MIT shows that while a trillion trees sounds impressive, and every step forward deserves credit, this is nowhere near enough to address the climate challenge.

The MIT simulator shows a “business as normal” approach (i.e. doing nothing) leads to a 4.1 degree increase in global average temperature by 2100; tripling down on tree planting reduces that to 4.0 degrees.

Some may wonder: what’s a few degrees one way or the other? Does it really matter? Consider that when you’re well, your body temperature is about 37 degrees Celsius, or 98.6 Fahrenheit. If you increase your body temperature by 4 degrees Celsius, you would have a fever of 105.8 F and feel very, very ill. Similarly, it’s imperative that we limit warming our global climate system.

Rep. Kilmer knows the science on what increasing carbon pollution is doing to our environment, and he understands the urgency of this challenge. He also knows that climate solutions must be politically bipartisan to be effective policy. He is a cosponsor of the Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act (HR 763), a market-driven policy that has bipartisan appeal in part because of a unique approach: It puts a rising price on carbon and rebates all proceeds to the American people. It doesn’t increase the size of government or involve complex regulations that can take years to be enacted and begin reducing emissions. Economists across the political spectrum agree that this is the most effective way to unleash American ingenuity to reduce carbon emissions — and create millions of jobs along the way.

To help get this solution across the finish line, Citizens’ Climate Lobby works with all representatives and senators — Republican, Democratic and Independent — all around the country. Our focus is laser-like on building the political will to address this challenge. We agree with Rep. Kilmer that an effective solution must be bipartisan to be long-lasting. We’re encouraged that voters and elected officials across the political spectrum increasingly understand that climate change is not only a risk, but also a huge opportunity for our nation to transition our economy to run on renewable, carbon-free energy sources. This transition is already happening — the question is whether the U.S. will step up to lead it.

As a representative of Citizens’ Climate Lobby, I appreciated the chance to attend the State of the Union and meet other guests.

Sitting next to me in the gallery was the spouse of a Republican House member from Indiana. We had a pleasant and civil chat prior to the address. It is this type of conversation, across political and ideological differences, that we need to have on climate, and that I’m pleased to see Rep. Kilmer leading in the U.S. Congress.

Mike Kelly is CEO of Tech DNA, a software company based on Bainbridge Island. He is also a volunteer leader for the Bainbridge Island Citizens’ Climate Lobby, a non-profit, nonpartisan, grassroots advocacy organization focused on national policies to address climate change.