Monday, September 22, 2014

Are We Going To Be Victims Of Climate Change? Or Are We Going To Do Something About It?


Saturday night I had dinner with Matt Stoller and Ted Lieu. Matt, a former organizer and blogger works on Capitol Hill now as a senior policy advisor. Ted, California's most accomplished state senator, is running for the congressional seat being vacated by Henry Waxman (Santa Monica, Beverly Hills, Venice, Malibu, Manhattan Beach, Torrance, West L.A.) Matt wanted to know why Ted wanted to work in Washington. The reasons to avoid it are overwhelming, especially since Ted lives in on of the most beautiful districts in America and would have run for reelection as a state senator unopposed this year.

But Ted's response wasn't about Ted. It was about his small children and his future grandchildren. He pivoted immediately to Climate Change and the need for action on national and international basis, not just on a statewide basis, where he has already been an effective leader on the Climate Change front. Last night, Blue America launched a fundraising drive for Paul Clements, the Michigan Democrat running against the worst enemy of the planet in the whole U.S. Congress, Boehner's Energy and Commerce Committee Fred Upton. Like Ted, Clements' run for Congress is heavily tied in to and motivated by a desire to ameliorate the impact of Climate Change. On Ted's campaign website, he states clearly and unambiguously that "Climate change is the single greatest threat to California, our nation's future and our environment. As a member of Congress, I will champion legislation to reduce carbon pollution in the U.S." And then he talks about what he's already done in the state legislature and what his priorities are in Congress:
Received 100% voting records from the California League of Conservation Voters and the the highest rating from the Sierra Club in 2013.  He has been named an “Environmental Champion” by Environment California.

AB 32, the landmark Global Warming Solutions Act that created a statewide greenhouse gas limit that would reduce emission by 25% by 2020. (Coauthor, Chapter 488, Statutes of 2006)

SB 1066 resulted in more than $3 million in local grants for climate change adaptation to cities such as Los Angeles and Hermosa Beach and organizations such as Heal the Bay. (Author, Chapter 611, Statutes of 2012)

AB 800 required emergency reporting of sewage spills after an audit showed many spills weren’t being reported or cleaned up in Los Angeles County. (Author, Chapter 371, Statutes of 2007)

AB 236 prioritized the purchase of fuel-efficient state fleet cars and required alternative fuel capable vehicles to actually use alternative fuels. (Author, Chapter 593, Statutes of 2007)

AB 166 created a successful program for derelict boat cleanup in California’s waterways. (Chapter 416, Statutes of 2009)

AB 1061 prevented an HOA from penalizing homeowners who want more water-efficient landscapes. (Chapter 503, Statutes of 2009)

Ted Lieu's environmental priorities:

Reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S.

Enact a moratorium on all well stimulation including fracking and acidizing both on-shore and off-shore in California.

Implement the Environmental Protection Agency's safeguards that would curb carbon pollution from power plants.

Strengthen the Clean Air Act including holding polluters accountable when they have illegal emission discharges into our air.

Increase and expand renewable energy requirements for utilities as well as increased and expanded incentives for increased development in renewable energy.

Expand resources for water recycling, storm water capture and water conservation measures.

Four months ago, Bill McKibben invited Americans to this week's Climate Change activities in New York, where UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon is hosting a UN summit on the threats and opportunities inherent in the worldwide Climate Change crisis. "My guess," wrote McKibben in May, "is people will come by the tens of thousands, and it will be the largest demonstration yet of human resolve in the face of climate change… a signal moment in the gathering fight of human beings to do something about global warming before it's too late to do anything but watch." He was correct.
Since Ban Ki-moon runs the United Nations, he's altogether aware that we're making no progress as a planet on slowing climate change. He presided over the collapse of global-climate talks at Copenhagen in 2009, and he knows the prospects are not much better for the "next Copenhagen" in Paris in December 2015. In order to spur those talks along, he's invited the world's leaders to New York in late September for a climate summit.

But the "world's leaders" haven't been leaders on climate change – at least not leaders enough. Like many of us, they've attended to the easy stuff, but they haven't set the world on a fundamentally new course. Barack Obama is the perfect example: Sure, he's imposed new mileage standards for cars, but he's also opened vast swaths of territory to oil drilling and coal mining, which will take us past Saudi Arabia and Russia as the world's biggest petro producer.

Like other world leaders, that is, he's tried, but not nearly hard enough. Consider what he told the New Yorker in an interview earlier this year: "At the end of the day, we're part of a long-running story. We just try to get our paragraph right." And "I think we are fortunate at the moment that we do not face a crisis of the scale and scope that Lincoln or FDR faced."

We do, though; we face a crisis as great as any president has ever encountered. Here's how his paragraph looks so far: Since he took office, summer sea ice in the Arctic has mostly disappeared, and at the South Pole, scientists in May made clear that the process of massive melt is now fully under way, with 10 feet of sea-level rise in the offing. Scientists have discovered the depth of changes in ocean chemistry: that seawater is 30 percent more acidic than just four decades ago, and it's already causing trouble for creatures at the bottom of the marine food chain. America has weathered the hottest year in its history, 2012, which saw a drought so deep that the corn harvest largely failed. At the moment, one of the biggest states in Obama's union, California, is caught in a drought deeper than any time since Europeans arrived. Hell, a few blocks south of the U.N. buildings, Hurricane Sandy turned the Lower East Side of New York into a branch of the East River. And that's just the United States. The world's scientists earlier this spring issued a 32-volume report explaining exactly how much worse it's going to get, which is, to summarize, a lot worse even than they'd thought before. It's not that the scientists are alarmists – it's that the science is alarming. Here's how one Princeton scientist summarized the situation for reporters: "We're all sitting ducks."

The gap between "We're all sitting ducks" and "We do not face a crisis" is the gap between halfhearted action and the all-out effort that might make a difference. It's the gap between changing light bulbs and changing the system that's powering our destruction.
It's why its so very crucial we not just march-- or cheer on the marchers-- but that we do all we can to elect candidates like Ted Lieu here in L.A. and replace enemies of the planet like Fred Upton (R-MI) and Susan Collins (R-ME) with proven environmental activists like Paul Clements and Shenna Bellows. Shenna is helping lead the fight against the Keystone XL pipeline and the proposed Portland-Montreal Pipe Line reversal to ship tar sands out of Maine's Casco Bay. "In Maine," she wrote, "just as in New York on Sunday, the grassroots are siding with the next generation to acknowledge the threat of climate change and do something about it… As a candidate for federal office, I’m proud to let Mainers know that I oppose the transport of tar sands across Maine, and if elected Maine’s next senator, I won’t need to be lobbied on the Portland-Montreal Pipe Line or Keystone XL. Everyone will know where I stand, and they can be sure my principles won’t change. My opponent, Republican Susan Collins, has not taken a position on the Portland-Montreal Pipe Line project despite the enormous stakes for our state and the nation. She has, however, voted for the Keystone XL pipeline twice and has given no indication that she’s changed her mind about tar sands. That’s a shame, because Maine has a long history of conservation and environmental leadership that needs to be upheld. We’re the home of Acadia National Park and Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge. Our license plates read 'Vacationland' and our state motto is 'Maine: the Way Life Should Be.' But that’s only true as long as we’re willing to stand and fight to keep it that way."

Dave Reichert (R-WA) is another phony moderate who likes to pretend he's OK on the environment and not villainous on Climate. But he's pretending. Blue America's newest endorsee, Jason Ritchie, is running against without any help from the DCCC-- and in a blue-leaning district Obama won both times. Climate Change has been one of the issues he's talked about most consistently: "The House GOP has no intention of ever protecting our environment. My opponent, Rep. Reichert, like the rest of the House GOP has voted down and walked away from every chance to protect our air and our water. They ignore science and ignore the pro-business, pro-growth American jobs that already come from renewable resource investment. If the House GOP really cared about our climate, our environment and American jobs they would fight against radicals, fight against ignorance and support renewable resource investments."

I hope you'll consider contributing to Shenna's campaign here and to Ted Lieu's, Jason Ritchie's and Paul Clement's campaigns here. Remember McKibben's words: "In a rational world, no one would need to march. In a rational world, policymakers would have heeded scientists when they first sounded the alarm 25 years ago. But in this world, reason, having won the argument, has so far lost the fight. The fossil-fuel industry, by virtue of being perhaps the richest enterprise in human history, has been able to delay effective action, almost to the point where it's too late."
You can watch the endgame of the fossil-fuel era with a certain amount of hope. The pieces are in place for real, swift, sudden change, not just slow and grinding linear shifts: If Germany on a sunny day can generate half its power from solar panels, and Texas makes a third of its electricity from wind, then you know technology isn't an impossible obstacle anymore. The pieces are in place, but the pieces won't move themselves. That's where movements come in. They're not subtle; they can't manage all the details of this transition. But they can build up pressure on the system, enough, with luck, to blow out those bags of money that are blocking progress with the force of Typhoon Haiyan on a Filipino hut. Because if our resistance fails, there will be ever-stronger typhoons. The moment to salvage something of the Holocene is passing fast. But it hasn't passed yet, which is why September is so important.

Steve Stockman, a devoted fascist and former drug addicted congressman from Texas was defeated in 1996 after he was caught conspiring with the right-wing terrorists who blew up the Oklahoma City Federal Building. When people forgot, he slipped back into Congress in another backward, right-wing, lo-info Texas district. As you can see from his insane twitter feed today, he is carrying water for the Big Oil interests who have funded his repulsive political career. Fighting Climate Change won't be easy as long as there are corrupt politicians like Stockman, Upton, Reichert and Collins serving their own careerist interests in Congress, stomping on the interests of their own constituents-- and on humanity and God's beautiful Earth. Yeah, oogabooga, asshole!

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