Saturday, August 21, 2004

God how I hate reading about global warming. It scares me. At least I'm 62, so maybe it won't affect me much, but my cute grandchildren . . . . So despite my dislike of the topic, neither I nor you dare bury our heads in the sand, and I hope you will read on. An article called "Boiling Point" in the August16/23 issue of The Nation begins:
Climate change is not just another issue. It is the overriding threat facing human civilization in the twenty-first century, and so far our institutions are doing dangerously little to address it.
Republicans and their polluting friends have addressed it--by lying about its seriousness. But 2,000 scientists from 100 countries have studied it, under U.N. auspices, these last fifteen years and have "concluded that to stabilize our climate requires humanity to cut its use of coal and oil by 70 percent in a very short time. Kyoto only calls for a 5.2 percent cut by 2012." Unfortunately, "confronted by the steel wall of resistance of the fossil-fuel lobby and their political allies," several of our country's leading environmental groups are working only for limits of future carbon levels that they think they can negotiate. We must realize that nature doesn't negotiate. It is far more implacable than the CEO of any oil company.
"Take the critical issue of climate stabilization--the level at which the world agrees to cap the buildup of carbon concentrations in the atmosphere. The major national environmental groups focusing on climate . . . have agreed to accept what they see as a politically feasible target of 450 parts per million of carbon dioxide. While the 450 goal may be politically realistic, it would likely be environmentally catastrophic."
Most climate groups shun confrontation and instead just urge individuals to use energy more sparingly. "But by persuading concerned citizens to cut back on their personal energy use, these groups are promoting the implicit message that climate change can be solved by individual resolve. It cannot. Moreover, this message blames the victim: People are made to feel guilty if they own a gas guzzler or live in a poorly insulated home. In fact, people should be outraged that the government does not require automakers to sell cars that run on clean fuels, that building codes do not reduce heating and cooling energy requirements by 70 percent and that government energy policies do not mandate decentralized, home-based or regional sources of clean electricity."
Furthermore, even if we cut our own emissions, we cannot ignore the world's developing countries. Stopping climate change will require global effort--millions of citizens from hundreds of counries committed to saving this climate. I'm reminded of Big Bill Haywood, the famous labor leader of the beginning of the twentieth century, who used to thrill immigrant factory workers with a simple example. He'd hold up his fingers splayed out and ask someone to bend one of them. Easy. Then he'd make a fist--and make his point. In unity is strength. It's still true and necessary on a huger scale than ever. We need worldwide unity among environmental groups to fight this problem because the current arrangement is too namby pamby. As the author, Ross Gelbspan, concludes: "Activists compromise. Nature does not."


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