by Anne Hedges

Now that the election results have had a chance to sink in, here are some quick thoughts on what it means for the environment.

Judith Gap Wind Farm.

Judith Gap Wind Farm.

First, this wasn’t a referendum on climate change or environmental protection. It was a referendum on the political establishment that doesn’t represent the average person. It was a rejection of too much political correctness. It was a cry for help. We should heed those concerns but realize the election had nothing to do with people’s commitment to environmental protection.

Second, Montanans believe in human-caused climate change and the nation is even more alarmed. Even if the polls are as error-ridden as the election polls, the numbers are still overwhelming. People strongly believe in the need to take action. This isn’t some margin of error difference. People know the climate is changing and it’s costing us billions, harming people directly, and jeopardizing national security. None of that changed with this election.

Third, let’s be real about why people are angry. People are pissed off that their wages have stagnated yet the cost of living has steadily risen. They’re mad that politicians have allowed industry to outsource jobs to other countries at the expense of US workers. They’ve had it with the obnoxious behavior of Congress. The divide between the haves and have nots has increased and people are willing to follow someone with a media megaphone who’s willing to call BS on the status quo – regardless of who that person is.

Ravalli County Communithy Solar Project.

Ravalli County Community Solar Project.

People are not angry that the U.S. is addressing climate change. Even in Montana, 65% of Montanans are in favor of “Developing a strategy to meet the goals of the EPA’s Clean Power Plan, reducing air pollution from coal plants.” Even more people – 68% – favor “Establishing a state plan to address climate change, reduce carbon pollution and encourage development of clean, renewable energy.” This election did nothing to change these numbers. Montanans want a path forward, not to continue looking in the rearview mirror. Even in Florida, which voted for Trump by a large margin, Floridians also voted resoundingly against an anti-solar initiative. 

Fourth, despair isn’t the solution. Keep in mind that Montanans and a majority of the nation are with us. That’s not to say this will be easy. It won’t. There will be terrible, disheartening times ahead and massive fights loom over the future of energy. But we know how to fight – and we will fight. Our children, the world around us, and present and future generations depend on us stepping up to the challenge.

While a peaceful transition of power is essential, our nation was built on dissent, not apathy. The energy economy is already changing rapidly with little help from the federal government. States have been the test tube for effective climate policy (think net metering, renewable energy standards, clean vehicle standards, etc.), not the federal government. That hasn’t changed.

The transition to clean energy will continue because it makes environmental and economic sense. We will lose some ground, species across the planet will disappear, human suffering will increase. But that should make us stand together and fight even harder for what we know is right. And a part of that means taking care of those people that are disadvantaged because of a changing energy economy.

MEIC and millions of others will continue to work to make sure we have a just transition to clean, reliable, more affordable energy – Montanans and Americans are with us and the world depends on it, regardless of who is in the White House.

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