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Climate Disruption: THE Progressive Crisis!

June 17th, 2011 · 1 Comment

Sunday, Brendan Smith and Jeremy Brecher asked Are Progressives in Denial About Climate Change?

If you listen to right wing commentators, you might think American progressives are leading the charge to protect our planet from climate change. Would that it were so!

Smith and Brecher lay out a series of challenges and issues that coalesce to keep this from being so … and this is a true travesty because far too many progressives fail to understand the situation.

Every Progressive should recognize and incorporate, deep in their soul, the plain fact: Global Warming is the single most serious threat to Progressive ideals, concepts, policies, and aspirations through the 21st century … AND today.
This is not just a let’s wait until tomorrow issue, that should be put in the back of the line to deal with after other issues, we must address it with urgency today if we hope for a progressive world tomorrow.

Making climate chaos even more pressing is the reality that it interacts with and impacts on every aspect of modern human existence from our water supplies to our food to our health (linkages health, energy, climate change) to our economy to our energy systems.

Without better energy policies starting now, the future could be bleak economically for decades to come with the impending strike of Peak Oil. Amid recessions and depressions, what happens to mental health programs? What happens to music in the classrooms when communities are stressed to deal with droughts and wildfires? What happens for training programs for the economically disadvantaged among us when military forces are deploying to keep climate refugees from our shores? Will there be funding for these and other progressive causes amid the economic stresses caused by climate chaos? I doubt it. Don’t you?

A key study on how to ‘mitigate’ Peak Oil concluded that serious action should begin 20 years before the peak hits to avoid serious impacts and over ten years beforehand to avoid massive economic disruption. The vast majority of serious analysts put peak as falling within that ten-year window (actually, as having already hit, masked by the economic crisis), we are now in our second swift peaking of oil prices, as we saw in 2008, with accompanying economic and other havoc — and are almost certainly headed toward future (and even larger) oil spikings with associated economic havoc.

We are, in the United States, seeing budget cutbacks to arts programs, school systems, parks budgets, mental health care programs, public infrastructure investments, health care services, …

Peak oil, however, might be a low-cost challenge compared to unmitigated climate catastrophe … which will send the possibility of ‘progressive’ agendas into the trash-heap of history.

With ever-increasing environmental stresses, global refugee and food crises, multiple-Katrina-like challenges and choices over whether to protect or abandon America’s coastal infrastructure, will Head Start funding be secure? Will Americans focus on expanding GLBT rights? Will these and other progressive concerns be the top of the agenda?

I doubt it.

Don’t you?

Jerome a Paris has written eloquently about his son’s illness and discussed how this illness drives his passionate concern about energy and global warming issues. He has written how desiring a world where his son (and others similarly challenged) can have a fruitful life drove him to a fundamental realism about the criticality of turning the world toward a better path in the face of Peak Oil. He brought me – and many others – along with him.

NNadir, one of the strongest proponents of nuclear power at DKos, expressed how having children drives his passionate advocacy of what he views as a key tool for carving a survivable path to a better future.

So I’m writing all about nuclear power for a wholly selfish reason, to protect my own. More nuclear reactors in my view will give everybody’s children, including my own, their best shot.

They are not alone … so many others are driven to change by their desire to foster a better (or less worse?) life for their children … and, by extension, others’ children.

I share their passion.

Staring one’s children in the eyes and considering the world that we are creating should be enough to motivate any of us toward change.

And, they motivate me to fight for a better world for me, for you, for my children, for yours, for all of us … for US and the world.

Considering the potential implications for feeding an ever-growing population amid increasingly disrupted weather conditions does not make me sleep easily at night. When a key scientist from the Stern Review on the Economics of Climate Change tells me that, if things go well, we might lose “only” 30 percent of the world’s species by 2050, I listen … and I tremble.

I think of myself and you, of my and your children.

We, collectively, have created and are creating a world that is already and will be radically different for our children than what we enjoyed growing up and what our civilization enjoyed growing up.

30% of species extinct by 2050??? If things go well, that is …

And, these crises interconnect. Some of the paths toward Peak Oil mitigation, to solving potential oil challenges, could greatly exacerbate Global Warming challenges. Fossil fuel from tar sands, heavy oil, shale oil will put far more carbon into the atmosphere to get that gallon of fuel into a Hummer than would be the case for Texas sweet crude.

But, the opportunities exist to enable us (US and all of us) to turn aside from our headlong rush into the economic disaster of Peak Oil and massive destruction of catastrophic Climate Change.

Now, dealing competently with these challenges is neither an easy task nor a quickly resolved one. And, navigating a path through the Peak Oil minefield while charting (and sailing) a course through the turbulent seas of Global Warming is critical for ensuring a decent future for us all (US and the world).

Al Gore speaks of the calling of a generation. That this is beyond politics and partisanship, that this is the moral and ethical challenge for this generation. And that we must rise to the challenge as did The Greatest Generation in World War II.

For those focused on “national security”, they must realize the ‘security’ implications of an economically disrupted world experiencing weather/climate conditions increasing refugee movements and driving natural disasters. For those most concerned with traditional economic measures, they must realize that Peak Oil threatens decades of negative GDP growth and that Global Warming is already hurting the economy. (Tried to get insurance for a beach home recently? Concern about food prices amid agricultural production disruption?)

While these are challenges for us (US) all, progressives should realize the particular critical necessity to deal effectively (seriously) with Peak Oil and Global Warming.

Without resolving (mitigating) these challenges, Progressive dreams for a better tomorrow risk becoming dim memories rather than a reality of daily life.

To be clear:

* I advocate single-payer health care and contacted Members of Congress urging a sensible health care system.

* I believe in helping those who have problems feeding their families, want decent leave policies, value arts programs in schools, etc …

* I believe in and fight for an equitable economic system, with viable paths for all in society to have rewarding and meaningful employment options.

* I believe in ‘progress’, that we have an obligation to strive for a ‘More Perfect Union’.

All of that striving will, however, fail and become fantasy if we do not act seriously to turn the tides on Global Warming’s rising seas. We have the ability to enable progressive opportunities into the future with Energy Smart, win-win-win policies to deal with Global Warming.

A quite simple Climate Change Reality: The reality of climate change, it is the progressive crisis!

NOTE: I want to be clear. Assessing the realities and dimensions of climate change should NOT be a partisan issue, even if debates over which policies / policy constructs are / could be most effective certainly is ground for politics. This diary / discussion is to highlight that ‘climate change’ is not ‘wait until tomorrow’ because there is something more important to do today: for many reasons, including that ‘progressive’ causes will fall by the wayside in the face of unchecked climate catastrophe.

Tags: Energy · Global Warming · climate change · peak oil · politics

1 response so far ↓

  • 1 Stunning Think Progress Climate Silence // Jan 1, 2013 at 8:41 am

    [...] the risks of the climate cliff (or, as Toles has it, the climate fissure), and the fact that unchecked climate disruption puts at risk every single element of a “progressive” agenda, the absence of climate and clean energy issues from (and total Climate Silence) a ‘top 12 [...]

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