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The Logic of Emergency: Strategy for a Climate Tea Party

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The Ruthless Logic of Climate Emergency

Since emergency is a common English word, most U.S. kids can roughly define it before reaching middle school. Yet most U.S. adults (even those not duped by Koch brothers' propaganda) seem utterly clueless that our climate--and therefore humanity itself--is facing one.

This article is written for the shockingly few adults who grasp the dire urgency of global warming, and who realize we now need our government's command-and-control powers as desperately as we would in the wake of a Category 5 hurricane. I hope it offends everyone else. Like a needed but unwelcome wake-up call. And it should, since I spare no one's pet preconceptions, but just ruthlessly follow the logic saving our climate requires. 

My Two (or Three) Governing Assumptions

Two assumptions govern everything I'll say: (1) the timetable for effective climate action is so narrow it's a matter of years, not decades, and (2) since government command-and-control powers are absolutely critical, any effective climate solution must be found through politics. I also embrace a third crucial principle, but it's more like a corollary of (1) and (2)--and of deeply pervasive U.S. political corruption--than an independent assumption. Namely, that forcing our government to take effective climate action simply can't wait for overall campaign and lobbying reform. No, we must browbeat our current government, corrupt as it is, into stroke-of-midnight climate rectitude.

The verb browbeat is precisely what makes me think of a climate-action Tea Party, for what more effective agent of political browbeating have we seen than the Tea Party--Republican moderates' worst nightmare? And, as I'll explain shortly, all the requisite elements now seem to be in place for building a climate-champions' version.

Before elaborating the "construction materials" now available to form a climate-action Tea Party, I wish to provide some evidence for my governing assumptions, since they're so critical to my case.

First consider (1), the narrowness of the timetable. The science literature substantiating this is vast--and terrifying--and can be found (in layperson-friendly "executive summaries") by scanning the contents of any major climate blog, like Joe Romm's Climate Progress. What strikes me is that certain "bellwether" predictions of climate models (leading indicators of things to come) like glacial, polar, and permafrost ice melt, and ocean warming and acidification, are happening faster than forecast by most models. And the frequency of extreme weather--result of a more energy-pumped atmosphere ("a climate on steroids")--is another climate-model prediction that's kicked in alarmingly fast. If a world-renowned climatologist, like NASA's (now retired) James Hansen, can see a single anti-climate project (albeit a huge one) like the Keystone XL pipeline as "game over" for the climate, it strikes me we're already pretty near the point of no return. What's equally telling, Hansen retired early from his distinguished NASA post precisely to devote his energies to full-time climate activism--and many climate scientists, who vastly prefer the lab to the limelight, are (if not retiring early) still following in Hansen's activist footsteps. Some nagging fly must be troubling their routinely placid activist ointment.      


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