I’ve been blogging for the ThinkProgress Wonk Room for a little more than a year now. This weekend — one in which both the Christian and Jewish faiths contemplate the miracle of life and renewal — has provided me an opportunity to step back from the daily onslaught of political strife and think about why I continue to fight.
To deal with global warming progressively requires commitment to progressive values: fairness, opportunity, and honesty. Fairness means that those who have benefited the most from our pollution-based economy bear the greatest responsibility in building a clean energy economy. Opportunity means giving those who have benefited the least hope for a better tomorrow. Honesty means bridging the divide between political reality and actual reality.
In reality, moving to a green economy is necessary to save the planet.
The window for directing this nation on a sustainable path is rapidly closing. The disintegration of the global thermostat –- the Arctic ice cap, the world’s glaciers, the Antarctic ice shelves –- is accelerating. Wide swaths of the world, from Australia to Texas, are in droughts that may be the beginning of permanent desertification. Sea level rise is accelerating. The acidifying oceans are absorbing less carbon dioxide. Increasingly powerful forest fires not only destroy ecosystems but emit stored carbon. Even if global pollution goes down tomorrow, weather disasters, heat waves, hurricanes, floods, the oceans themselves will continue to rise for decades. Global boiling is destroying Tuvalu and the polar bear — and it’s also already struck New Orleans and Cedar Rapids.
Weather disasters are the al Qaeda of climate change. The September 11th attacks cost this nation $80 billion and thousands of lives. This nation woke up to the threat of international terrorism, fueled in part by the global dependence on Middle East oil. Hurricane Katrina cost this nation $80 billion and thousands of lives (and displaced a million). We haven’t woken up.
Building a green economy takes a trillion-dollar shift in resources that has the potential to radically reform the power structure in the United States. A green economy involves moving from capital-intensive energy to labor-intensive energy — instead of McMansions heated by giant power plants financed by the Bank of America, it’s homes greened by insulators and solar panel installers, linked on a smart grid. By making work pay instead of pollution, the economy will thrive but established interests will be forced to change.
Like health care and labor reform, limiting carbon pollution threatens the corrupt business model of the corporate right. So there are 2000 full-time corporate lobbyists, and multimillion-dollar campaigns — run by ACCCE (coal interests), ASWF (right-wing financiers), AFP (pollution industry), COC (corporate right), and NAM (heavy industry) — with one message: we can’t afford change.
In reality, they’re the only ones who can afford the status quo — energy costs and polluter profits rising, oil drilling and oil dependence rising, greenhouse emissions and climate disasters rising, poverty and inequity rising, wages and jobs and health declining.
So for those who fear that we can’t afford change, yes we can. And we must.