By Miryam Ehrlich Williamson
We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.
Al Gore, in an op-ed piece in the February 28 New York Times, gives us a briefing on climate change. If this doesn’t brace you for the phone calls I’ll ask you to make later in this essay, I guess nothing will. And that would be sad.
Here is what scientists have found is happening to our climate: man-made global-warming pollution traps heat from the sun and increases atmospheric temperatures. These pollutants — especially carbon dioxide — have been increasing rapidly with the growth in the burning of coal, oil, natural gas and forests, and temperatures have increased over the same period. Almost all of the ice-covered regions of the Earth are melting — and seas are rising. Hurricanes are predicted to grow stronger and more destructive, though their number is expected to decrease. Droughts are getting longer and deeper in many mid-continent regions, even as the severity of flooding increases. The seasonal predictability of rainfall and temperatures is being disrupted, posing serious threats to agriculture. The rate of species extinction is accelerating to dangerous levels.
The United States, long the leader in dumping climate-changing carbon dioxide into the air, must now become the leader in reining in emissions – before currently inhabited land masses become uninhabitable, before droughts in some places and floods in others wipe out agriculture in both and spread hunger and starvation beyond our ability to imagine. Before our grandchildren grow old and aware enough to demand to know what in hell we were thinking in the early years of the 21st century when we were warned, and warned again, that this was what would happen.
Here’s a simple statistic from the US Department of Energy that shows why the US must lead in the effort. It’s true that China leads the US in the overall number of metric tons of carbon dioxide it emits (6,534 million vs 5,833 million in 2008). But when you look at emissions per person – a far more accurate way of judging who the wasteful ones are – you find that Americans accounted for 19.2 metric tons of CO2 in 2008, while Chinese people accounted for 4.9 metric tons. The world average in that year was 4.5 metric tons. So calculated on a per-person basis, it’s easy to see why we must set the example for others to follow.
Last summer the House of Representatives passed a clean energy and climate change bill. If the Senate had enacted one as well, even if there wasn’t time before December and the Copenhagen climate conference to reconcile the two into one that President Obama would sign, the outcome of the conference would not have been as anemic and disappointing as it was. Now we’ve got to catch up.
This week will see a concentrated 72-hour effort on the part of dozens of organizations, including labor, business, religious, veterans, and environmental groups to flood Senate offices with the message that we want our senators to enact a comprehensive clean energy and climate change bill that will not only make us right with the world, but will also inspire other nations to do the same.
Call your senators on Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday. Start early, and keep calling until you get through. Tell the person you talk with that you want the bill to include
- a strong investment in clean energy to create American manufacturing and construction jobs and
- a cap on carbon pollution that limits the amount of carbon companies can emit, that gives them incentives to do so, and that holds violators accountable.
Repower America is providing a toll-free phone [1-877-9-REPOWER (1-877-9-737-6937)] that will help you connect to your senators’ offices. All you need to know is what state you live in. You’ll receive suggested talking points and hints on being effective when you call.
If you click here now, Repower America will send you an e-mail reminder.
As the organization points out:
Successful legislation isn’t just important here in the U.S. As we saw at the Copenhagen Climate Conference, countless nations are relying on our action to catalyze global efforts to promote clean energy and reduce carbon pollution.
In other words, the whole world is watching.