We all know and love the “canary in a coal mine” analogy, where the canary is a first warning sign of some potential catastrophe. The Arctic is a good example of a canary for climate change, since we expect (and indeed see) the effects of climate change there first.

Then there’s the anti-canary. Rather than being the first to react, the anti-canary is the last. When the anti-canary moves on an issue, you know that everyone else has already moved.

In the climate change debate, Texas is the anti-canary. With the Governor, Lt. Governor, and other senior legislators arguing that the science is not proven, Texas has been stuck in neutral on this issue while other states have taken the lead. But there are indications that the anti-canary is beginning to take climate change seriously.

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This morning I testified on a bill (PDF) to set up a Texas global-warming task force.

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The hearing was held by the House Committee on Energy Resources. Overall I found them to be quite receptive, particularly to the economic argument that:

  1. Regulations are inevitable.
  2. When that happens, either you’ll be buying someone else’s technology, or you’ll be selling them yours. (Particularly effective: tell them we’ll be buying from France — seriously, Texas legislators apparently hate the French.)
  3. The key to developing technology to sell is to implement regulations on emissions now, which will motivate private-sector actors to invest in research on new technologies.

In Nisbet speak, I’ve adopted an “economic opportunity” frame.

Of course, this bill is a baby step — it does nothing other than set up a committee. And there’s no money for the committee. If they want to meet, they have to pay their own way. The bill’s sponsor told me that he did this so the anti-global-warmers could not use budgetary reasons to vote the bill down.

I also met with several other representatives, and have been told that there will be several global warming bills before the legislature this term. That includes a cap-and-trade bill patterned after the Massachusetts bill. It probably won’t pass, but it should get some coverage and get the issue in front of people.

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So the anti-canary is on the move. While many here are still officially “skeptical” on the science of global warming, many of these skeptics now agree that we need to take some action.

While some will no doubt still resist movement on this issue, I see progress ahead for Texas.