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Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios

People often ask me how I decide what to cover in this noisy and disparate energy and climate change beat. My answer: I stay focused on the puzzle.

The big picture: I look at the various factors that go into reducing greenhouse gases in a world that depends upon the energy resources that emit them. That is a simple deduction of what is a complex dynamic. Like puzzle pieces, these numerous factors work in tandem, not in isolation.

Tangible climate change

As the impacts of a warmer world become more tangible to people through extreme weather and more convincing science, the awareness of the issue grows.

How it fits: This is an essential foundation piece, because if the problem feels too far in the future compared to shorter term sacrifices, nothing will happen. And by the way, I’m still not convinced that it feels tangible enough — yet — to drive the level of change scientists say is needed to adequately address climate change.

Social movement

As I wrote in a recent column, over the past year, a concrete social movement has formed that’s far more global, persistent and sweeping than any other like-minded efforts in the past.

How it fits: Big societal changes have often occurred only once a concerted constituency — in this case led by young people — rose up and called for change.

Media coverage

Media companies in both TV and print are covering this issue far more than in the past — including myself.

How it fits: This trend is both a reflection of these other puzzle pieces and an amplifying force in its own right, because the media plays a role in shaping public opinion.

Technology costs

Costs for wind and solar have plummeted in the last decade, and the same thing is happening now in battery technologies that will enable those variable energy resources to last long after the wind stops blowing and the sun stops shining.

How it fits: The dropping costs, fueled largely by state mandates and federal subsidies, help build corporate and political support for greater use of greener technologies.

Corporate and investor concerns

Investors are increasingly investing in energy resources that aren’t the current dominant ones — oil, natural gas and coal. Meanwhile, they’re putting pressure on those companies to do more to ready themselves for a warmer world that is drastically reducing emissions.

How it fits: The planet needs more than altruism to save it in our capitalistic society — it needs the risk of financial losses and the potential for financial gain.

Lobbying shifts

Corporate America is calling on Congress to pass ambitious climate policy in the most aggressive and united way since 2009.

This includes big oil companies that have fought similar measures in the past and are now facing lawsuits alleging they're responsible for billions of dollars in extreme-weather damage due to climate change. That legal pressure is one driver of companies like ExxonMobil putting money toward a carbon tax lobbying campaign.

How it fits: Few major policies get through the legislative process without at least some support from the adversely affected industries.

Republican positioning

After a decade of ignoring or outright dismissing climate change as a problem, a small contingent of congressional Republicans are acknowledging it as an issue and discussing policies to address it. It’s nowhere near what most other political constituencies are calling for, though.

How it fits: Sweeping policy changes rarely get through Washington by one political party pushing it over the opposition of another, which is what many Democratic presidential hopefuls want to do with climate change.

Washington compromise

Many experts believe that ultimately environmentalists must be willing, for example, to trade at least some environmental regulations for a legislative solution like a carbon price. That policy, meanwhile, marks the beginning of the end for fossil-fuel companies as we know them today, an existential compromise on behalf of those industries and workers.

How it fits: Because of the prior puzzle piece about bipartisanship, it follows that all sides involved in the sausage-making that is making American laws must accept some things they don’t like.

What's next: I discussed this topic on a podcast Thursday. Tune in here.

Go deeper

House passes bill to decriminalize marijuana

Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.), a longtime marijuana legalization advocate and co-sponsor of the bill. Photo: Pete Marovich For The Washington Post via Getty Images

The House on Friday voted 228-164 in favor of the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act, marking the first time a congressional chamber has voted in favor of decriminalizing marijuana at the federal level.

Why it matters: The Washington Post describes the bill as a "landmark retreat in the nation’s decades-long war on drugs," which has disproportionately affected people of color.

Updated 15 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

  1. Politics: Fauci says he accepted Biden's offer to be chief medical adviser "on the spot" — Biden plans to ask public to wear masks for first 100 days in office.
  2. Health: Coronavirus death rates rising across the country — Study: Increased COVID-19 testing can reduce transmission — Hospitalizations top 100,000 for the first time.
  3. Economy: U.S. economy adds 245,000 jobs in November as recovery slows — America's hidden depression: K-shaped recovery threatens Biden administration.
  4. Vaccine: What COVID-19 vaccine trials still need to do — Obama, Bush and Clinton willing to take vaccine in public —WSJ: Pfizer expects to ship half as many COVID vaccines as planned in 2020.
1 hour ago - Economy & Business

Clean trucks are paving the road to the electric vehicle era

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

The electric vehicle revolution is underway, led by the un-sexiest of plug-in models: the commercial truck.

Why it matters: Growing demand for cleaner trucks means 2021 will be a pivotal year for electric vehicles — just not the kind you might have expected.