By Bill Henderson
06 November, 2007
they will ask about us - 'What were they doing? What were they thinking
about and how could they let that catastrophe happen?' " (Al Gore)
said at a climate change conference in Berlin. " 'Didn't they listen
to the scientists? Didn't they see the glaciers and polar caps melting?
Didn't they see the fires?
"Or will they ask another
question. I want them to look back at 2007 and ask: 'How did they find
the moral courage to rise up and solve the problem everyone said was
impossible to solve?' "
serious are we about global warming?
There was a great Hillary
Clinton cartoon in the Guardian:
Off in the distance is the
White House. There is a fence stretching like a tightrope to the White
House. Ms. Clinton is balanced on the fence walking very carefully.
The Washington Diary column
under the cartoon described Ms. Clinton as the front runner far ahead
of her Democratic rivals and now jousting Republicans as well more than
a year before election day. But she must be constantly careful in her
positioning because one mis-step could cost her the presidency.
I'm neither for nor against
Ms. Clinton. Like her husband - and Karl Rove - she is a consummate
politician playing the American political game. What is important to
me is the horrendous democratic failure implicit in this most important
election on the planet as humanity stumbles towards and maybe even over
a climate change threshold with an ever increasing probability of catastrophe,
Climate change danger and
needed mitigation is a life and death issue dwarfing every other campaign
issue combined and US leadership is an absolute necessity if there is
to be an effective multilateral mitigation strategy. America has been
the leader in crafting the present fossil fuel based global economy;
America is the most powerful country economically and militarily and
American based companies dominate the global economy. But America's
leaders are in an electoral straightjacket on this most important issue.
Ms. Clinton and each of her
Democratic and Republican rivals must be very careful to say nothing
about climate change that might offend and alienate either core constituency
members or hoped for swing voters. In fact, climate change is much too
volatile a subject and carefully crafted responses will be used to neutralize
what should be most important election issue ever. The economy, health
care, Iraq, energy, etc will instead be the debated issues of the campaign.
Plus, as always, it's the economy stupid, and leadership blah-blah,
and probably this election whether Republicans play footsy in airport
washrooms or whether Hillary knew about Monica - but didn't really care
cause she's a lesbian.
Climate change and effective
strategies for emission reduction will not be the central issue of the
08 election. No candidate can afford to speak openly about climate change;
no candidate can show leadership in either informing Americans about
the dangers and critical importance of climate change or in building
a platform based upon an effective mitigation strategy. No candidate
will show leadership in questioning whether an effective mitigation
strategy is even possible without governance innovation like the New
Deal or a wartime-style coalition government.
Nobody will show leadership
in using the election to educate Americans the way Al Gore used the
movie medium. Americans now know climate change is real and man made,
but who is going to educate Americans that climate change is seriously
civilization threatening, even humanity threatening; that dangerous
climate change, perhaps even runaway climate change, could lead to extinction
not only for man but for almost all of the flora and fauna with which
we share creation on this small blue planet?
The unfortunate truth is
that Ms. Clinton and her fellow candidates are not leaders and if there
is to be a strong public mandate for emission reduction for the winners
of the 08 election a much more robust American public consensus on the
dangers of climate change and the need for deep GHG emission reductions
now, this decade, will have to be built and forced into the campaign
by scientists and activists already aware of our precarious predicament.
Politicians in America don't
lead - they are pushed. There is less than a year left to build such
a robust consensus on climate change to free up the electoral process,
to push aside the vested interests that do not want change, to create
an opportunity for a climate change mandate so that needed emission
reduction is possible. Those that recognize the danger must get much
more innovative in making state of the art risk and mitigation science
impossible to ignore.
bill (at) pacificfringe.net
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