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The Logic of Emergency: Strategy for a Climate Tea Party

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opednews.com Headlined to H2 1/14/14

The Ruthless Logic of Climate Emergency

Since emergency is a common English word, most U.S. kids can roughly define it before reaching middle school. Yet most U.S. adults (even those not duped by Koch brothers' propaganda) seem utterly clueless that our climate--and therefore humanity itself--is facing one.

This article is written for the shockingly few adults who grasp the dire urgency of global warming, and who realize we now need our government's command-and-control powers as desperately as we would in the wake of a Category 5 hurricane. I hope it offends everyone else. Like a needed but unwelcome wake-up call. And it should, since I spare no one's pet preconceptions, but just ruthlessly follow the logic saving our climate requires.  

 

From http://www.flickr.com/photos/92487715@N03/11062448793/: Boston Tea Party Ship--Let's throw climate traitors overboard! (2013-10-01 - 17.00.01)
Boston Tea Party Ship--Let's throw climate traitors overboard! (2013-10-01 - 17.00.01)
(image by Bob Linsdell)

My Two (or Three) Governing Assumptions

Two assumptions govern everything I'll say: (1) the timetable for effective climate action is so narrow it's a matter of years, not decades, and (2) since government command-and-control powers are absolutely critical, any effective climate solution must be found through politics. I also embrace a third crucial principle, but it's more like a corollary of (1) and (2)--and of deeply pervasive U.S. political corruption--than an independent assumption. Namely, that forcing our government to take effective climate action simply can't wait for overall campaign and lobbying reform. No, we must browbeat our current government, corrupt as it is, into stroke-of-midnight climate rectitude.

The verb browbeat is precisely what makes me think of a climate-action Tea Party, for what more effective agent of political browbeating have we seen than the Tea Party--Republican moderates' worst nightmare? And, as I'll explain shortly, all the requisite elements now seem to be in place for building a climate-champions' version.

Before elaborating the "construction materials" now available to form a climate-action Tea Party, I wish to provide some evidence for my governing assumptions, since they're so critical to my case.

First consider (1), the narrowness of the timetable. The science literature substantiating this is vast--and terrifying--and can be found (in layperson-friendly "executive summaries") by scanning the contents of any major climate blog, like Joe Romm's Climate Progress. What strikes me is that certain "bellwether" predictions of climate models (leading indicators of things to come) like glacial, polar, and permafrost ice melt, and ocean warming and acidification, are happening faster than forecast by most models. And the frequency of extreme weather--result of a more energy-pumped atmosphere ("a climate on steroids")--is another climate-model prediction that's kicked in alarmingly fast. If a world-renowned climatologist, like NASA's (now retired) James Hansen, can see a single anti-climate project (albeit a huge one) like the Keystone XL pipeline as "game over" for the climate, it strikes me we're already pretty near the point of no return. What's equally telling, Hansen retired early from his distinguished NASA post precisely to devote his energies to full-time climate activism--and many climate scientists, who vastly prefer the lab to the limelight, are (if not retiring early) still following in Hansen's activist footsteps. Some nagging fly must be troubling their routinely placid activist ointment.

Not merely the rapidity of climate change confirms my assumption of a narrow timetable, but the fact that it's a global problem. Remember, even if we can browbeat U.S. pols into climate righteousness, we still have a world of fossil-fuel consumers--some in extremely energy-hungry developing nations--to convince. Granted, in per-capita consumption, Americans are by far the worst fossil-fuel offenders, but China and India together dwarf our population, and Brazil's not exactly minuscule. We can hope the good old U.S.A., by dint of its "hard" and "soft" power, will be the first in a line of climate-action dominoes, but that's hardly a given. So, we must allow years (let's pray not decades) for the world to replicate our rebirth into climate righteousness--which vastly shortens the timetable for action here. 'Nuff said for assumption (1), the desperate shortness of our climate timetable.

Let's move to assumption (2), that government command and control is our climate's only salvation. This assumption is of course intimately linked to assumption (1), our minuscule window for action. Now, if we had forever for a political revolution to take place, or for a lifestyle revolution in people's reliance on fossil fuels, we could spare ourselves all need for up-tempo reliance on government command and control. But a political revolution (with which I have strong sympathies) would simply remake government's command-and-control powers in a more responsive, populist mold, and that remaking would itself demand considerable time. If there's a faster way of seizing our government's command-and-control powers to save the climate (and I think there is), it's deeply irresponsible (given our desperately short action timetable) not to use it.

And if we wish to rely instead on a revolution in lifestyles, all I can offer is Jerry Seinfeld's sardonic catchphrase "Good luck with that." Besides the will, most Americans lack the time, money, and knowledge to radically reduce their fossil-fuel use. The whole point of invoking government command and control is to make fossil-fuel producers pay the full climate cost of their carbon dioxide or methane pollution, thereby counteracting the artificial cheapness of these fuels and making renewables more attractive. An excellent climate-action bill cosponsored by Bernie Sanders and Barbara Boxer, the Climate Protection Act of 2013, does precisely that, while further rebating the carbon tax government would collect to consumers to aid with the costs of overhauling their carbon-based lifestyles--a scheme warmly advocated, notably, by top climatologist James Hansen. Needless to say, fighting to pass the Climate Protection Act would loom large in the strategy of a climate-action Tea Party. But here, I mean simply to stress that without such a tax-and-rebate scheme, saving the climate through massive voluntary changes in lifestyles strikes me as some overly mellow Deadhead's 4 a.m. pipe dream. "Morning Joe" is a far better drug for climate savers.

Building on Billionaires

So down to brass tacks: What materials lie at hand to build a climate-action Tea Party, and what would this "party" actually do? Now for me, the question of "building materials" is one of exciting recent developments. For the absence of a key construction item--billionaire backers--was a fatal design flaw in True Blue Democrats (TBDs), my earlier pet political building project. For TBDs, like the climate-action Tea Party, was an attempt to apply wildly successful Tea Party strategy and tactics to a noble end: to browbeat Democrats into behaving like progressives. What I gradually came to realize (and felt really stupid for having missed) was that an absolutely essential ingredient in the Tea Party "concrete" was billionaire backing--and that billionaires were hardly ready to back a movement to make Democrats genuine progressives. Which might mean, after all, taxing billionaires into nonexistence.

But billionaires, too, must live on planet Earth, and so (unless they're oil-and-gas men, for whom destroying the climate is the core of daily operations) they might throw some bucks into saving it. Especially if such public-spirited action helps to salve their consciences for holding so much unjustified wealth. And others, whose philanthropic focus is not necessarily climate, might be persuaded to aid the climate cause as an integral part of their own preconceived public-service schemes. And in fact, even Bill Gates has jumped on the climate bandwagon, though sadly (and predictably, since it less impacts his business interests), he has thrown his weight on the side of remediation (a lunatic scheme) rather than mitigation. But I see two other billionaires (if properly cajoled and directed) emerging as potential political "life-jackets" for climate action's losing cause: Tom Steyer and Pierre Omidyar. They must loom large on the radar of a climate-action Tea Party.

How so? Well, finance whiz Steyer has had a "religious awakening"--one apparently genuine enough that he's putting big money behind it--that directly involves the climate-action cause. Now I don't know as much as I should, but I sense Steyer has been misled in directing his efforts by political third-graders like Bill McKibben, and that he's actually wasted time and money on trying to persuade Obama, of all people. While even McKibben seems to be outgrowing his Obama fairy tale, his influence could mislead Steyer into placing too much trust in mainstream Democrats, worst of all, Hillary Clinton. (He may have at least the good sense to steer Steyer toward the Climate Protection Act.) Climate Tea Partiers must persuade Steyer that Democrats must be browbeaten into climate righteousness--and in this, Pierre Omidyar could be our staunchest ally.

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I am a veteran anti-fracking and Occupy Scranton PA activist, most recently founder of the True Blue Democrats progressive revolt movement. However, currently revamping my political strategy in light of experience, I've folded up True Blue (more...)
 

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In any earlier (now aborted) political project, Tr... by Patrick Walker on Tuesday, Jan 14, 2014 at 9:13:51 AM
I think your strategy is worth a shot.  But l... by Paul Roden on Tuesday, Jan 14, 2014 at 11:02:07 AM
Paul, thanks deeply for your interest and input.... by Patrick Walker on Tuesday, Jan 14, 2014 at 11:33:40 AM
Breaking out of the framing that has relegated pre... by Philip Zack on Tuesday, Jan 14, 2014 at 11:45:09 AM
Philip, The one big bit of hope I see in Omidya... by Patrick Walker on Tuesday, Jan 14, 2014 at 11:56:20 AM
Excellent article and I hope it leads to great re... by Richard Schwartz on Tuesday, Jan 14, 2014 at 12:06:06 PM
Richard, Thanks for your generous compliment. Yo... by Patrick Walker on Tuesday, Jan 14, 2014 at 12:16:11 PM
"If you're not (a) open-minded and (b) deeply focu... by R. A. Landbeck on Tuesday, Jan 14, 2014 at 12:09:09 PM
Hi, R. A. I have to give some hours to my day job... by Patrick Walker on Tuesday, Jan 14, 2014 at 12:28:59 PM
I agree that it is important to elect more Democr... by Richard Schwartz on Tuesday, Jan 14, 2014 at 12:12:15 PM
Hi again, Richard I heard of this organization un... by Patrick Walker on Tuesday, Jan 14, 2014 at 12:25:57 PM
If I haven't already made it abundantly clear, th... by molly cruz on Tuesday, Jan 14, 2014 at 12:15:44 PM
Climate change is something like the Titanic. It r... by Greg Greg on Tuesday, Jan 14, 2014 at 1:21:18 PM
Greg, My point is that some of the "stinking rich... by Patrick Walker on Wednesday, Jan 15, 2014 at 6:52:35 AM
I'm with you Pat. Our present Sisyphus-like c... by (h)ugh wynne on Tuesday, Jan 14, 2014 at 2:18:41 PM
Just lose the Tea Party stuff...I am thinking, it ... by Kyle Christensen on Tuesday, Jan 14, 2014 at 3:42:03 PM
Kyle, I've emphasized the Tea Party only because... by Patrick Walker on Wednesday, Jan 15, 2014 at 7:47:09 AM
Green Tea Party?  Whatever the name, I do be... by Burl Hall on Wednesday, Jan 15, 2014 at 4:56:48 AM
Burl, I sympathize deeply with not wis... by Patrick Walker on Wednesday, Jan 15, 2014 at 6:39:10 AM
I agree that government needs to act to actually C... by Philip Pease on Wednesday, Jan 15, 2014 at 12:26:00 PM
Philip, I'm glad you included the fact... by Patrick Walker on Wednesday, Jan 15, 2014 at 12:44:39 PM
Maybe you're kind of slow.  I held my nose a... by Sorgfelt on Wednesday, Jan 15, 2014 at 7:44:10 PM
It's by no means clear we have access to billion... by Patrick Walker on Wednesday, Jan 15, 2014 at 8:51:30 PM