Op-Ed

Although Things Looks Bleak, There Are Politicians Fighting for the Environment

Mussels cooking in their shells.

Anchorage, Alaska breaking a record 90 degrees, sparking wildfires.

A “precipitous” decline in Antarctic sea ice.

Climate disasters occurring every week.

Ecocide.

Climate change is only just beginning to give us a taste of what it’s capable of.

And it’s only 2019.

Last October, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released an alarming report stating the world has about 12 years to halt coal consumption and slash carbon dioxide emissions to prevent the atmosphere from warming more than 1.5 degrees Celsius–2.7 degrees Fahrenheit–over pre-industrial levels.

Even a half-degree increase puts us on track to experience more devastating hurricanes like last year’s Michael, coastline inundation, floods, wildfires, drought, food shortages, mass human and animal migrations, and ecocide.

International borders, economies, food and water supplies, health, education, transportation, energy sources, are all predicted to change with the climate as the planet warms faster than scientists predicted.

We’re looking at acidic oceans dissolving coral reefs, cities like Manhattan and Miami inundated, extreme and persistent heat waves, food shortages, threats to governments’ stability, more frequent and larger wildfires, growing risks to property and life, mounting air pollution levels, increases in diseases, hunger, and mass migrations.

To prevent further significant warming, the IPCC report states all nations must develop herculean “negative emissions” programs to scrub carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

A recent Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences study shows sea-level rise could be doubly dire as previously predicted due to accelerated Antarctic and Greenland ice sheet melting.

The previous worst-case scenario, one meter by 2100, no longer applies

Some scientists believe the sea level rise by 2100 will be even higher than the study indicates.

In terms of health:

“The Midwest alone, which is predicted to have the largest increase in extreme temperature, will see an additional 2,000 premature deaths per year by 2090.”

Zika virus, dengue fever, chikungunya, and West Nile cases are expected to more than double by 2050.

There’s the desire among some to scream that our polticians aren’t doing anything, or at least enough.

That frustration is warranted, especially when we consider we have an entire political party (Republican) parroting the fossil-fuel industry lie that climate change is a “hoax.”

And while it’s true the Democratic National Committee refuses to hold a presidential primary debate solely about the climate crisis, it is not time to give up hope.

Some lawmakers have consistently heeded scientists’ warnings and are using their influence and legislative authority to do something.

Washington Gov. and presidential candidate Jay Inslee is staking his entire run for the White House about climate change’s exigencies.

And then there is Vt. Sen. and presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, who three years ago was the only contender for the White House to make climate change a key policy issue.  

Sen. Sanders today declared climate change an official emergency via official Senate resolution, and New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez are Oregon Rep. Earl Blumenauer followed suit in the House.

The resolution states:

“The global warming caused by human activities, which increase emissions of greenhouse gases, has resulted in a climate emergency [that] severely and urgently impacts the economic and social well-being, health and safety, and national security of the United States. [Congress] demands a national, social, industrial, and economic mobilization of the resources and labor of the United States at a massive-scale.”

A Sanders spokesperson said

“President Trump has routinely declared phony national emergencies to advance his deeply unpopular agenda, like selling Saudi Arabia bombs that Congress had blocked.

“On the existential threat of climate change, Trump insists on calling it a hoax. Senator Sanders is proud to partner with his House colleagues to challenge this absurdity and have Congress declare what we all know: we are facing a climate emergency that requires a massive and immediate federal mobilization.”

According to the advocacy group Climate Mobilization, hundreds of local governments, including New York City, have already declared climate emergencies.

Last month, New York passed the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act (CLCPA), intended to eliminate greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, making it the second state to intend a carbon-neutral economy following California Governor Jerry Brown’s executive order last year to achieve carbon neutrality by 2045.

The CLCPA serves to:

  • Reduce statewide greenhouse gas emissions to minimize climate change’s adverse impacts;
  • Improve the state’s resiliency to certain effects and climate change risks;
  • Ensure the state’s energy sector transition will create good jobs and protect workers and communities while transitioning to renewable energy;
  • Prioritize disadvantaged communities’ safety and health, control future climate change mitigation’s potential regressive impacts, and adopt policies to aid these communities;
  • Review and prioritize public investment allocation

Bill Ulfelder, New York Executive Director of The Nature Conservancy said:

“We are thrilled that New York State has passed this landmark legislation...a climate deal that will ensure New York is playing an appropriately major role in ensuring the United States significantly reduces harmful greenhouse gas emissions and transitions our economy to a low-carbon future. We commend New York’s legislative leaders for their national climate leadership.”

We have already passed too many tipping points to avoid some of the climate’s most devastating effects, and many scientists theorize the world has begun a sixth mass extinction.

We need to support aggressive climate-change policy, like the “Green New Deal.”

We need to take the fossil-fuel industry head-on.

As long as there is a profit motive, there will never be sufficient action to curb carbon emissions.

It only means the future of our planet, our children, grandchildren, and beyond.

Once it’s over, it’s over.

Yes, nuclear proliferation is a national security threat.

Right-wing extremism is a national security threat.

Gun violence is a national security threat.

The opioid crisis is a national security threat.

Money inundating our political landscape is a national security threat.

Foreign influence in our elections is a national security threat.

The Republican party is a national security threat.

The Trump administration is a national security threat.

But the climate knows no borders, does not respond to threats or political gamesmanship.

It doesn’t care who is sitting in 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, or anywhere else.

It affects everyone everywhere, regardless of race, religion, creed, or country.

We’re all in this together, borders be damned.

Things are getting ugly, but despair is not an option.

We are the country that transformed our economy to end a crippling depression in the 1930s.

A decade later, we transformed our manufacturing sector to help defeat fascism.

We answered President Kennedy’s call to put men on the moon.

We answered the Civil Rights Movement’s call to grant voting and civil rights to African Americans after Dr. King proved we can overcome nonviolently.

Innovation is a quality that has always defined us. 

Let’s rise to the occasion!

Let’s mobilize!

Image credit: enviroethics.org

Ted Millar is writer and teacher. His work has been in featured in myriad literary journals, including Better Than Starbucks, Straight Forward Poetry, The Broke Bohemian, Caesura, Circle Show, Cactus Heart, Third Wednesday, and The Voices Project. He is also a contributor to Op-Ed News, Liberal America, and Liberal Nation Rising.

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