“Climate measurements continue to become both more precise and more reliable – and thus, more terrifying. A new report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which combines the work of 2,000 scientists from 154 countries, drawing from millions of observations from more than 9,000 scientific publications, confirms and strengthens previous predictions and adds one new and very important observation. Even 100 percent emissions reductions will no longer keep our climate from changing dangerously.”
The author of this report, Bruce Melton, goes on to say that we have the technology to remove CO2 from the atmosphere. That would cost a lot of money worldwide, but it is a doable amount, similar to our Pentagon budget for one year. If we continue to work at business as usual, with only limited efforts to reduce our greenhouse emissions, we will pass “tipping points” in the atmosphere, which will make climate change uncontrollable.
Meanwhile, most economists are still relying on economic growth to increase employment and improve the national budget. The problem with this pleasant script is that it totally ignores climate change, which is becoming an increasingly powerful force in the economy. Economic growth alone will increase the release of greenhouse gasses and the killer storms, fires, droughts and floods that are making much of the world uninhabitable.
We all know that the Congress is almost incapable of passing major legislation due to partisan gridlock. The coal, oil and gas interests have protected their profits by spending millions funding lying science, false publicity and Congressional campaign chests. The Koch Brothers, through their favorite organization, Americans for Prosperity, have persuaded 169 Members of Congress to pledge to obstruct any legislation related to climate change that would cost money. More people must die, more businesses and homes be destroyed, before this corrupted Congress will do anything to respond to the attack of climate change, and that is too late. That is the dilemma.
Responding to the Attack
The answer might be found in our past. In January 1942, about a month after Pearl Harbor, President Roosevelt established the War Production Board (WPB) by presidential decree. It coordinated the conversion from peacetime production to the manufacture of urgently needed military equipment. Industry responded by producing thousands of tanks, planes and other equipment far ahead of schedule, which contributed greatly to the allied victory.
Again we are under attack. The National Climatic Data Center tracks US weather events that do more than a billion dollars in damage. From 2001 to 2012, climate events caused $477 billion in property damage and 3,952 deaths. That is more than died in the Twin Towers attack of 9/11, or US troops lost in Afghanistan.
What we need, right now, is an agency, like the WPB, that can close down coal burning generators, slow oil drilling and limit fracking for natural gas. All of these operations contribute to CO2 and methane in the atmosphere. As these carbon sources of energy are reduced, we must replace them with wind, solar and other sustainable energy sources – in a smooth transition that does not leave anyone without the energy they need to live and work. Taxation is the most effective means of reducing the use of fossil fuels – leaving some in the ground for careful use by future generations. That tax income can be used to facilitate other aspects of the conversion.
The agency could be called the Livable Climate Agency. If properly constituted, with the best atmospheric scientists, economists and others and given the power to change our energy sources, we can moderate climate change. It would also be responsible for training carbon workers for jobs in solar and other new energy industries. National transmission lines need to be integrated into one hardened system that can transmit the new electricity from the deserts and plains, where it is generated, to the cities and industrial centers where it is needed.
This transition from carbon fuels to alternative energies cannot be left to the shifting winds of politics. It is not just our people, but people all over the world who are suffering from the events of climate change. If we act, it is likely that others will follow. In the United States, we have the equipment and technology not only to lead, but also to benefit from this historic transition.
The membership of climate change organizations and related movements to preserve the natural world should insist that the creation of a Livable Climate Agency must be a major plank in any political party that wants their vote.
This is a crisis! We must act promptly and forcefully, while we can. The choice is clear, either we stop burning fossil fuels, or much of the Earth will be uninhabitable.