The hottest places in Hell are reserved for those who in time of great moral crises maintain their neutrality.
–attributed to Dante
America is great because she is good. If America ceases to be good, America will cease to be great.
–attributed to Alexis de Tocqueville
Global warming will change American life forever and end politics as we know it, probably within your lifetime. How might this play out?
In the best case, we immediately start changing how we use energy in order to preserve the health and well-being–the security–of the next fifty generations. The nation and the world embrace an aggressive multidecade, government-led effort to use existing and near-term clean-energy technologies.
The enabling strategy is energy efficiency–since that generates the savings that pays for the zero-carbon energy sources, like wind power and coal with carbon sequestration. Efficiency keeps the total cost low to consumers and businesses. For utilities, we need a California-style energy- efficiency effort nationwide. For cars and light trucks, we need serious federal standards for high-mileage hybrids that can be plugged into the electric grid. The goal of all these efforts: keeping global emissions at or below 29 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide (8 billion tons of carbon) for the next several decades–and keeping concentrations well below 550 ppm (a doubling of preindustrial levels) this century.
I have called this scenario Two Political Miracles because it would require a radical conversion of American conservative leaders–first, to completely accept climate science, and second, to strongly embrace climate solutions that they currently view as anathema. I have spent nearly two decades working to achieve this clean-energy future and will continue doing so, because it is the best way to preserve the health and well-being of future generations and to boost energy security while creating millions of clean-energy jobs here at home. Yet none of the more than one hundred people I interviewed for this book considers this in the least bit plausible.
They may be right. Tragically, in the face of the stunning recent evidence that climate change is coming faster and rougher than scientists have expected, many conservatives have chosen to redouble their efforts to deny the science and delay serious action. Consider the words of President Bush in May 2006: “In my judgment, we need to set aside whether or not greenhouse gases have been caused by mankind or because of natural effects.” That statement is reminiscent of leaders like Herbert Hoover and Neville Chamberlain who were blind to their nation’s gravest threats….