Forward on climate, fighting the future

Bumped. MSM pay attention. - promoted by charley-on-the-mta

TIMG_9850oday DC expects the largest climate rally ever. This is another step as the climate movement moves towards more vigorous activism, towards actual civil disobedience. The leaders of the Sierra Club are expecting to be arrested for the first time in their history. The proximate reason for the rally is the Keystone XL pipeline, which will funnel extremely CO2-heavy oil through the US from Canada; but obviously the strategy is to elevate the status of climate in the public discussion.


Former On Point producer – turned climate activist Wen Stephenson lays out the case in his excellently provocative article “The New Abolitionists” in this week’s Phoenix:

It seems fairly obvious that the reason we don’t hear politicians, or the “serious” people in our media, talking (at least in public) about this situation — the true gravity of it — is that to grapple with this in any real way, to propose anything that would actually begin to address it with the necessary urgency at the national and global level, would simply sound too extreme, if not outright crazy. Leave fossil fuels in the ground? You must be joking. Why, that would mean canceling the Keystone pipeline! It would mean putting Alberta’s tar sands, the second largest pool of carbon on the planet, off limits! Who are you kidding? Be serious! (Nevermind that a group of  18 top climate scientists signed a letter to Obama last month urging him to reject the pipeline to demonstrate the “seriousness of his climate convictions.”)

This is the reality — or the surreality — of the historical moment in which we find ourselves. At this late hour in the climate crisis, with the clock ticking down on civilization, to be serious about climate change — based, mind you, on what science and not ideology prescribes — is to be radical.

[Or, as the apocryphal anecdote goes, when Ralph Waldo Emerson visited Thoreau in jail, he said, "What are you doing in there?" And Thoreau replied, "What are you doing out there?"]

Chris Hayes sees hope is the changing, er, political climate: “After several years of painful, bewildering, infuriating exile, climate policy is back on the agenda. Thank god.” From his lips to God’s ears.

I don’t know how that happens in this Congress, with these Republicans and fossil-fuel Democrats; but surely it will happen eventually, simply because it must. It will cost too much not to change, not to transition off of dirty energy and onto clean energy. The City of Boston’s mitigation plans will cost money. “Sea level rise on the East Coast is three to four times faster than globally”, and the flooding of the coastlines is now costing money and misery. Coral Davenport’s terrific long read in the National Journal sets out the many, varied, and massive costs,

So if we’re not in DC getting arrested today, what can we do here?

Support Ed Markey. A lot. This is obvious. He has been the point person on climate in the House of Representatives. He understands the reality of what we’re up against — although, as Stephenson points out, even he is handcuffed in what he can realistically propose, because frankly climate had so little support from the grassroots as a present and motivating issue. That simply must change. And he has to get elected because of his climate leadership, not simply because he’s next in line, or an otherwise reliable progressive. There’s a reason, a necessity, for his candidacy.

Write a letter in support of strong climate action to President Obama, Elizabeth Warren, US Reps, and local news outlets. Elevate the game. If you’d like something specific to support, go with Barbara Boxer’s and Bernie Sanders’ carbon-tax bill, which puts the proceeds towards renewables. Or if you prefer, a carbon tax whose proceeds are refunded directly to the public, from Citizens Climate Lobby.

Regardless of approach, the political and media systems need to feel the exercise of power, from those unwilling to accept a terrible fate without a fight. That’s what folks are doing today in DC.


10 Comments . Leave a comment below.
  1. Don't forget state-level action

    The folks at Coal Free Massachusetts Rep. Conroy has introduced a carbon tax bill in the legislature, we are hearing rumblings of a Public Policy question getting on local ballots about a carbon tax, and the Global Warming Solutions Act gives the Patrick Administration broad authority to help reduce global warming pollution 25% below 1990 levels by 2020. Obviously, climate change is a global problem, but forward-thinking states like Massachusetts can help move forward on climate by continuing to push the envelope, like we did with the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative last week

  2. Time for serious action is now

    It’s time for a carbon tax that will (probably) lead as well to carbon tariffs to affect any countries that do not join in in the effort.

    • James Hansen had the best idea I've seen in a while

      He suggested a carbon tax where the proceeds get distributed to each citizen to offset the effect of the tax. In that manner, even though prices go up, people can afford it, since they’ve directly received a portion of the tax collected. Renewable energy would suddenly be way cheaper than fossil-fuels, and people who use renewable power would have extra cash from the direct payment to spend elsewhere.

      In the electricity market alone, such a tax would spur widespread adoption of green energy, since they wouldn’t be subject to the tax and would hence be cheaper than the dirty alternatives. Hybrid and all-electric vehicles would see a huge increase in demand, and using public transit would be much cheaper than driving, since the effect of the tax would be diluted by the volume of people on a train or a bus. I can’t see a problem with the approach – anyone else (except danfromwaltham) care to weigh in?

  3. What will canceling the pipeline accomplish?

    Nothing much, so far as I can tell, except to buy some time. That is not a solution, it is just a delaying tactic. The abolitionists, by contrast, had a specific positive demand: end slavery now.

    The DC rally would have a far greater chance of long-term success if instead of demanding that the government not do something (canceling the pipeline appears to be the primary goal of the event) the #1 focus was on doing something: launching a crash national program to find a cheaper energy source than fossil fuels.

    Even if the United States cut its CO2 emissions to zero the result would just buy time because other countries are rapidly increasing their outputs and the system is global. Again, not a solution.

    The only practical solution to climate change is an alternate source of energy that costs less than fossil fuels and does not add to the CO2 load. That should be the focus.

    In the mean time, viva the rally, but I am not optimistic that this is the way to solve the problem.

  4. link behind paywall

    There must be some other way to get at the Davenport article. Of course, there are only a few hundred probably similar articles all around the print and digital press which detail or summarize the mess we’re in. But the specific article referenced isn’t really available.

  5. Learned helplesness

    How quickly we’ve moved from little old us could not possibly change the climate to we can’t possibly do anything about it.

    The United States could drastically cut carbon consumption if we made it a real priority and placed a rising cost on carbon. As for the rest of the world, the era of dirty energy should also end when it comes to trade. It’s time for a carbon tariff that also increases over time.

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Fri 28 Apr 2:31 AM