Good news about climate change! It’s finally gaining traction among those who can do something about it. The bad news is it’s reached such proportions politicians can no longer afford to ignore it.
On Wednesday, CNN conducted a seven-hour “town hall” among 10 Democratic presidential contenders. Vox called it “the most substantive discussion of climate change policies ever broadcast on primetime television.” They declared the winner to be someone who has dropped out: Jay Inslee.
Their reasoning? Inslee’s comprehensive 200-page climate policy plan resonated with remaining candidates, some of whom deemed it the “gold standard of climate plans.” Several thanked Washington’s governor as they put forth their own agendas, one praising him for his “fantastic job of bringing this issue to the forefront of this campaign.” Another quoted Inslee as saying wind turbines “don’t cause cancer; they cause jobs.”
Inslee told Vox he is “encouraged that people are listening to him.” He said, “I’m honored people have recognized our plan has real substance.”
Inslee is not a newcomer to the climate issue. His book, “Apollo’s Fire: Igniting America’s Clean Energy Economy,” recalls the first Apollo Project in the words of its creator, John F. Kennedy: “We chose to go to the moon … and do other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills … .”
That 2008 book called for “a crash national program.” Eleven years later the need is far greater because the planet has grown hotter. And Inslee’s message has begun to resonate among a wide variety of would-be presidents as well as others across our land and beyond.
Many who describe dangers of global warming are branded “alarmist.” Alarmism implies excessive, unrealistic concerns presented in extreme language. Am I being alarmist? I hope not. The growing concerns I’ve had over many years are based on evidence that bodes ill for humankind.
Ramifications of climate change exceed our ability to describe, much less understand, them. What we do understand is grim.
Climate change encompasses our planet from pole to pole. It modifies living and nonliving components of world ecosystems. Droughts, extreme weather, floods and contingent health and economic damage affect us all, regardless of religious belief or gender: young-old, rich-poor, black-white and everything in between. As always, the disadvantaged suffer disproportionately.
For those not concerned with events beyond our borders, consider the national security implications of climate change. That issue transcends political parties. The day after CNN’s broadcast, Fox News highlighted former Secretary of Defense General James Mattis’s warning that climate change was a “national security issue.”
Mattis said natural disasters create “refugee flows, a need for humanitarian assistance and opportunities for terrorists to recruit vulnerable populations.” That article also mentioned 2019 Department of Defense research describing “effects of a changing climate as a national security issue with potential impacts” on DOD “missions, operational plans, and installations.”
For the first time, major presidential candidates “are proposing climate plans that stress the need for … complete and rapid decarbonization of the U.S. economy,” a USA Today op-ed observed. The headline? “If you want to slow climate change, carbon pricing is a necessity.”
We need a collective, workable vision that includes all nations, a vision that, in Kennedy’s words, “will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills.” We need a vision to defeat an odorless foe that clasps us in its warm embrace.
We were warned millennia ago in Proverbs: “Where there is no vision, the people perish.”
Pete Haug’s eclectic interests and several careers drew him across the U.S. and into China with his wife, and sometimes draconian editor, Jolie. They retired south of Colfax. You can reach him at email@example.com.