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Three Ways to Fix the Climate in 2012 and Beyond

For related articles and more information, please visit OCA's Environment and Climate Resource Center page and our Organic Transitions page.

Over the last two years, the consequences of 150 years of fossil-fuel development have materialized with a vengeance. The U.S. has experienced the worst drought in 80 years, replete with unprecedented Western fires and fears of widespread crop failure. This on the heels of record-breaking U.S. spring temperatures, with record daily highs outpacing record daily lows at a staggering pace of 12:1 since the start of the year. This on the heels of record U.S. flooding throughout the Mississippi basin last year. These examples reflect only the U.S. experience, in a world where record-breaking extreme weather is becoming the norm.

It's hot. It's going to get hotter. And despite the politics of the moment, extreme weather will eventually drive a national consensus on climate action. What can each of us do to insure we get there soon, rather than too late?

There are three answers. The first is to build political power. Elect clean-energy champions at the municipal, state, and national levels who can pass policies enabling a clean-energy revolution. The second is to stop expansion of the global carbon infrastructure. This will cut pollution - some - but will also build the morally grounded movement that must ultimately drive a strong clean-energy politics. Answer three? Grow the green shoots of the emerging sustainable economy.

Job #1: Politics

Nationally, global warming is barely getting a mention in the 2012 election. There has been some sparring over "clean-energy future" versus "Solyndra waste and fraud." Romney has tried to beat Obama with a Keystone pipeline stick. But Obama has had little incentive to campaign hard on a green economy, while Romney wants to steer clear of his flip-flopping record on climate.

That said, this election matters, and the presidency is critical. Depending on the outcome, Clean Air Act regulation of carbon pollution will either unfold in a slow and steady manner, or it will be gutted. Critical Supreme Court appointments will shape the next 20 years of judicial decisions at they relate to action on climate. Finally, it is possible that, freed from reelection constraints, Obama may develop into the kind of visionary leader who could drive legislative gains post-2014, particularly if extreme weather continues to pound the country.

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