Running out of Time…
The Sleeping Giant
There are many historical precedents to support the case that American climate change leadership is coming. One need look no further than the events following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour. Almost overnight, Americans were united as never before and their mighty industrial economy was retooled for wartime production. From that moment onwards the outcome was all but inevitable. America would prevail over the forces of fascism and despair. Japan’s General Yamamoto was quick to recognize this and has been widely credited with the remark:
“I fear all we have done is to awaken a sleeping giant and fill him with a terrible resolve.”
How right he was.
The question arises, “What will it take to awaken Americans to the threat of climate change and fill them with that “terrible resolve”? It was widely anticipated that Hurricane Katrina would do the trick, then Hurricane Sandy. Now California is in the midst of a withering “500 year” drought with the taps being turned off to vast agricultural holdings and whole towns for the first time in the state’s history.
If the shock value of these unprecedented climate events have not been sufficient to tip the scales towards American climate change leadership one has to wonder just exactly what it will take.
As a Canadian, I find myself once again looking south of the border for signs of leadership in the fight to reverse our doomed fossil fuel-addicted trajectory. The Harper Government in Canada is hell-bent on transforming Canada into a global petro superpower at precisely the moment when sanity dictates that we should should be hitting the brakes on the oil and gas industry. This unfortunate regression is being achieved through a systematic and deliberate attack on our democracy and a callous disregard for the science-based implications. And through obstruction and outright sabotage of international efforts to achieve binding protocols to deal with our climate crisis. In short the Government of Canada has become an international climate outlaw and a threat to our common inheritance and future. Not exactly the beacon of promise we used to have a reputation for, and with luck, will have again in future.
So, along with the rest of the world, Canadians have to look for signs of American climate change leadership and hope that Churchill was indeed right in his assessment. Can Americans eventually be counted upon to do the right thing, and if so, will it come in time to prevent the runaway scenario, where no amount of intervention, no matter how massive, will be able to put the climate genie back in the bottle? In the worst-case projections this could lead to temperatures on Earth approximating those of Venus. This would not be good news for liitle league games, candlelit dinners, walks on the beach and that sort of thing.
We can take some comfort from the fact that, despite the raucous objections from the flat-earthers in the halls of Congress, American public opinion and with it the ponderous machinery of government is awaking to the call for action. Large sectors of the American economy have already risen to the occasion, not out of a sense of duty to future generations so much as out of a sense of opportunity. Crisis = Opportunity, as in the chinese characters.
The transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy sources is going to require the equivalent of a new industrial revolution as well as a major national mobilization on the scale of WWII. And a radical shift in our way of thinking about our relationship with nature.
Historically, these kinds of revolutions result in booming economies, not the reverse as the naysayers would have us believe. There are trillions of dollars in investment capital sitting on the sidelines right now, stalled in a moribund economy with no sense of direction. The most forward-looking corporations and financial institutions instinctively recognize that fossil fuels do not have stellar long term prospects and are quietly positioning themselves to take full advantage of the coming energy revolution. They will be highly responsive and ready to ante up when that moment arrives. The best of them will thrive in the new environment and the reactionary behemoths that are holding back the inevitable will be rewarded by seeing their share prices go to zero.
The reason we can be so confident of this outcome is that this time around nature will be calling the shots and will ultimately dictate the outcome. And Mother Nature has already served notice that we are in immediate danger of outlasting our welcome if we do not radically clean up our emissions act. Our best scientists have told us this repeatedly and science happens to be the closest thing we have to a crystal ball.
American Climate Change Leadership – The Science
America remains the world’s undisputed science superpower, a fact that is often overlooked when considering the scientifically-illiterate bufoons that all too often misrepresent it in government. American science has an enormous footprint worldwide and is credited with more Nobel prizes and peer-reviewed papers than the rest of the world put together. Both the lion’s share of research into and solutions to the climate crisis will continue to be made by American science. When scientists of the caliber of James Hansen, the world’s leading climatologist speak, you would be well advised to pay attention and to not give equal billing to the so-called experts who are on the payroll of Big Oil and Coal’s disinformation campaigns. A lot of these same people used to work for Big Tobacco sowing the same seeds of doubt and we all know what happened to their credibility.
See James Hansen’s TED Talk
Americans can be justifiably proud of their science heritage. American science is the best in the world and a rigorous peer-review protocols ensure that there is no tolerance for a fudging data. When the overwhelming majority of bona fide climate scientists declare that the verdict is in on anthropogenic climate climate change as they have done repeatedly it is time to stop paying attention to the charlatans and move on to solutions.
In 1962 President Kennedy made the surprise announcement of his intention to put Americans on the Moon within the next ten years. The Moon Project was to revitalize and transform almost every aspect of American life.
“We choose to go to the moon. We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win.” John F. Kennedy 1962
Kennedy’s call to action spurred an unprecedented investment in research and development which not only landed Americans on the Moon in less than ten years but also produced unimagined spinoffs ranging from Teflon to GPS that have secured America’s technological edge over the rest of the world ever since. Who could doubt that a similar presidential directive for an all-out war against climate change would produce similar, if not even more impressive results?
What ARE we waiting for???
America’s international reputation could be restored to its former glory by providing real climate change leadership. And the know-how to defeat a common and all too real enemy. What are we waiting for? President Obama has paid lip service to a war on climate change but the reality has been little more substantial than a game of footsie as in the spectacle over the Keystone Pipeline. Imagine President Obama, himself a masterful orator calling for an all-out war on climate change and you get some idea of what is possible, and what must be done.
The stakes in this epic struggle boggle the imagination and precious time has been wasted through paralysis and denial.
Step up to the plate America. The world is depending on you as never before.
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