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OpEdNews Op Eds    H3'ed 4/10/14

The Climate-Change Speech President Obama Must Make

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Victim of Climate Change
Victim of Climate Change
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The newly released Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report reads like a science-fiction writer's vision of the Apocalypse. Rapidly melting ice caps; rising sea levels; intensifying heat waves, super storms and mega droughts; acidifying oceans, failing fisheries and dying coral reefs, collapsing water supplies, declining crop harvests, teeming eco refugees and escalating global conflict are already happening now, and going to get much worse, says the report.  

Our fossil-fuel addiction, if unabated, endangers ourselves, our children, and their children -- civilization itself. But our President fails to lead. While his Secretary of State recognizes climate change as "a weapon of mass destruction," President Obama has yet to make a single significant policy speech about human-caused climate change and the unparalleled tidal wave of human suffering it is bringing to the world -- making it the dominant moral issue of the 21st century. 

The President's legacy will clearly be judged on his ability to emancipate us from the tyranny of fossil fuels, and on his willingness to stand up to an industry that has knowingly committed vast offenses against humanity and nature, plunging us toward planetary ecocide. It is time for the President to oppose the treacheries of the fossil-fuel industry and its allies who have profited heavily from human suffering, and made a calculated attack on our environment, our democracy, and peoples worldwide.

What follows is some of the imagined content of the climate-change speech President Obama must make to the nation, and the world.  See the full speech here.  

Emancipation from Fossil Fuels: A New Birth of Freedom

Mr. Speaker, Mr. Vice President, Members of Congress, fellow citizens: Good evening, I come before the Congress and the People of the United States tonight because no country can hide from the horrific harm of carbon pollution, the corrupting influence of the fossil-fuel industry, their paid denier minions, or the reality of the great danger we face as a nation. 

Just over one hundred and fifty years ago, President Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation proclaiming the freedom of slaves in the states that were still in rebellion. That proclamation made the eradication of slavery and the goal of reuniting the Union inevitable. Tonight I am proclaiming our "Emancipation from Fossil Fuels." I do so for the safety and security of our nation, our children, and their children. This proclamation will make the United States the leader in combating global climate change, and release big oil's stranglehold on our nation's energy policy and our democracy.

I am taking this step because the evidence that climate change is happening, that it is a threat to our economy, our national security and prosperity, is unequivocal. There are those in my administration who have urged me to use moderation when addressing this issue. This I cannot do, because the predominant moral issue of the 21st century has now become climate change. Its security threat to our nation is now greater than the threat of Nazism faced by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Its economic threat is now greater than the threat of the Great Depression, also met head-on by that same President. And it is now an even greater moral threat to our country than that of slavery, as faced by President Abraham Lincoln. Our fossil-fuel addiction, if unabated, threatens our cities, our livelihoods, our economy, our security, our children and grandchildren, and most species on the planet. It is a threat as well to this nation's moral compass, which has always guided us to improve life for our most vulnerable citizens. We now must shoulder the responsibility for keeping the planet habitable, or we will all suffer the consequences together. 

I am proclaiming emancipation from fossil fuels tonight, in significant part because of industry malfeasance and resistance to all logical argument. Our domestic oil, gas and coal companies did not deserve blame when the risks of climate change were first revealed to Congress in 1988. But the fossil-fuel industry does deserve blame for its willful campaign of delay, denial, and obfuscation conducted since 1988, as CO2 emissions responsible for our catastrophic global warming have risen apace. More than 60 percent of the carbon emissions now threatening our planet occurred since that date, 25 years ago. For decades these companies have intentionally, and with calculation and deceit, cultivated scientific ignorance that demonstrates a "treasonous disregard" for the people of this nation, our economy, our security, and the future of all humanity.

My administration unequivocally supports the climate-science community, which is under politically orchestrated assault by the fossil-fuel industry on the legitimacy of its scientific assessments. In support of this assertion I have asked for a prompt report from the National Academy of Sciences, for advice on climate-change technical issues, a report due in the next 90 days. I am also establishing a White House Council on Climate that will include a new Cabinet Secretary, members of Congress, members of the business and agricultural community, academics, and engaged and informed individuals to advise me on the public-policy initiatives required to effectively address this crisis. I also issue a warning to the fossil-fuel industry: Further attempts to corrupt our democratic political system to serve their own profits will not be tolerated by me, this administration, or by the American people. Their honest efforts to assist us in effectively meeting this crisis will be welcomed; their resistance will not stand. 

Therefore I will no longer use moderation in addressing the climate crisis. I will not equivocate -- I will not excuse -- I will not retreat a single inch -- and I will be heard.

I am, today, directing every agency of government to develop detailed plans, to be submitted to me within six months to advise me and the newly formed White House Climate-Change Council on the immediate steps that our government will take to not only mitigate the effects of this climate disaster, but to do everything in our power to avoid the worst possible outcomes. 

Climate change will affect the basic elements of life for people around the world -- endangering access to water, food production, threatening health and the environment. These disruptions will no doubt strain civil authority around the globe, bringing unrest, failure of government services, and even the collapse of nations. Therefore, I am asking the Joint Chiefs of Staff of the U.S. military to come to me with a plan in six months to address climate-change threats to global and national security.

Because I refuse to condemn this generation and future generations to a planet that's beyond fixing, and since we will be judged as a people, and as a society, and as a country on where we go from here -- tonight, I am sending a new Energy and Climate Bill to Congress, and will campaign across the country to engage and inform citizens of their moral responsibility to the security of our nation, and for them to demand that their state and federal elected representatives do the "People's bidding," instead of that of the fossil-fuel lobby and their political contributors. 

Unfortunately, our individual pocketbooks don't feel the true costs of what it takes for Americans to enjoy the energy derived from a ton of coal, or a barrel of oil. And that's one reason we make so little effort to use it efficiently, conservatively, or wisely. That's why I am asking Congress to pass a bill shifting all energy subsidies and tax incentives formerly applied to fossil-fuel production to sustainable energy research and production. 

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Andrew Willner has been a city planner, furniture designer, sculptor, boat builder, environmentalist, Permaculturist, Transition advocate, story teller, blogger, and photographer. He was Executive Director and Baykeeper at NY/NJ Baykeeper (more...)
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