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Future Hindsight is a weekly podcastthat takes big ideas in civic life and democracy and turns them into action items for everyday citizens.

Mar 20, 2020

Fighting for Climate Policy

Dismantling the energy system is crucial to breaking the energy crisis. Implementing clean energy policies is the most effective way to change our current energy system and undo the playbook of the fossil fuel and utility industries. Citizens need to demand legislators to support green policies because a policy problem can only be fought with policy solutions. Mass public pressure, such as the youth protests led by Greta Thunberg, can disrupt the status quo and compel lawmakers to act.

Policy Feedback

Policy feedback is the idea that once policies are enacted, they reshape the next generation of politics. In the case of clean energy, the implementation of policies would kick start new industries and create jobs. As these industries become entrenched, they would defend the policies that created them and promote additional policy aimed at more green energy. Once this path dependence is created, a totally clean and renewable energy future is the result.

Policy Retrenchment

Fossil fuel and utility companies have immense power in state legislatures to reverse clean energy policies. Utilities around the country know how to run profitable power plants that burns fossil fuels and thus do not have incentives to switch to renewables. They fight against decarbonization by resisting implementation; rolling back existing guidelines for retrenchment; and even challenging pro-renewable candidates in primary races.

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Leah Stokes an Assistant Professor in the Department of Political Science and affiliated with the Bren School of Environmental Science & Management and the Environmental Studies Department at the University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB). She is the author of the forthcoming book Short Circuiting Policy: Interest Groups and the Battle Over Clean Energy and Climate Policy in the American State.

She works on energy, climate and environmental politics. Within American Politics, her work focuses on representation and public opinion; voting behavior; and public policy, particularly at the state level. Within environmental politics, she researches climate change, renewable energy, water and chemicals policy.

She completed a PhD in Public Policy in the Department of Urban Studies and Planning’s Environmental Policy & Planning group at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT); received a masters from MIT's Political Science Department; and completed an MPA in Environmental Science & Policy at the School of International & Public Affairs (SIPA) and the Earth Institute at Columbia University.

You can follow her on Twitter @leahstokes