It’s Not Our Fault. Except That It Is. We Are Complicit Because We Know. Now We MUST Act

This post follows up on Thursday’s report on climate change and the possibilities for reforming the Supreme Court. Climate change is not on the radar for most Americans, so it is incumbent upon those that understand its importance, to act, not with marches but with conversations.Saturday, Oct. 13, 8:30am on KSFR 101.1 FM. Paul Gibson with Senator Peter Wirth.  We will be discussing the coming Roundhouse Session, as well as ways the Roundhouse could help cities trying to develop low-income affordable housing. It is also Pledge week and for those individuals making a $100 donation to KSFR during the show, you will be able to go on a private Roundhouse tour with Sen. Wirth and it won’t be just a conversation about the various rooms, but he has promised to tell stories about what happens behind the scenes. So listen in on Saturday at 8;30 and make a pledge.  KSFR is a local treasure, so we need to support it. Because the studio will be in use all week for pledge drive, I can’t record a show next week. So, on the 20th, there will be a special show, 30 minutes of my (Paul) talking about our economic and political situation. No guest. No notes.  On to climate change and Supreme Court reform below.

The Nation Magazine Offers Support for Thursday’s Suggestion That We Add More Justices and Impose Term Limits

From The Nation:  “Progressives must also make structural reform of the courts a priority. A century ago, presidential contenders like Theodore Roosevelt and Robert La Follette proposed sweeping reforms of the federal judiciary, which was well understood as a reactionary threat. There were calls for legislation and constitutional amendments that would give Congress the power to defend laws that the Supreme Court sought to overturn, and to change the courts themselves with term limits for judges and provisions for the recall of errant jurists. President Franklin Roosevelt tried in the 1930s to expand the Supreme Court so that dinosaur justices appointed in the distant past could not block the New Deal. These calls for reform were dismissed as radical. But history often reminds us that the radicalism of one moment is the common sense of the next. That next moment has come.”  The Nation

At a meeting I attended late this past week, someone wondered out loud if it wouldn’t be all out war if the Dems. did take the White House and Senate in 2020 and promptly passed legislation to add two new Judges and impose a 20 year limit on terms. My response was that this war started long ago, with the lack of any y authentic effort to reach across the aisle on anything during the Obama administration, the calculated undermining of an the democratic process and the GOP’s own stalling of the justice approval process not just in relation to Garland and the Supreme Court, but in relation to other Obama’s judicial appointments, every one of which encountered partisan GOP delays. So the war is on and as noted in The Nation article above:  what goes around, comes around. From Paul:  Payback is a bitch. Click here to read the full Nation article, but only AFTER you read the critically important commentary on climate change below.

The Clock Is Ticking and That Clock May Be the Ammo We Need…If We Can Wake Up a Sleeping America

On Thursday, we reported on the 700-page report published by the UN’s International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).  The focal point of the report was:  What difference would restricting warming to 1.5C make? And the flip side of this: What happens if we don’t do this?  And finally, a third theme:  What must we do to keep global warming to no more than a 1.5Celsius increase?  A key finding of the new IPCC report is the dramatic difference that restricting warming to 1.5C above pre industrial levels would have on the global environment. The scientists found:

  • By 2100, global sea level rise would be 10cm lower with global warming of 1.5C compared with 2C.
  • Extreme heatwaves will be experienced by 14% of the world’s population at least once every five years at 1.5C. But that figure rises to more than a third of the planet if temperatures rise to 2C
  • Arctic sea ice would remain during most summers if warming is kept to 1.5C. But at 2C, ice free summers are 10 times more likely, leading to greater habitat losses for polar bears, whales, seals and sea birds.
  • If warming is kept to 1.5C, coral reefs will still decline by 70-90% but if temperatures rise to 2C virtually all of the world’s reefs would be lost

For me, the above bullets are too nerdy to be compelling and they are certainly not the speaking points I want if I am canvassing my community or talking with a friend who is a climate change skeptic or even one who is sympathetic, but sees climate change as a future challenge that we’ll figure out. So there is work to be done developing compelling language that presents the scope of the horror in terms most anyone can understand. But one thing from the IPCC report was pretty unequivocal and clear: “It’s a line in the sand and what it says to our species is that this is the moment and we must act now,” said Debra Roberts, a co-chair of the working group on impacts. “This is the largest clarion bell from the science community and I hope it mobilises people and dents the mood of complacency.”

At the current level of commitments, the world is on course for a disastrous 3C of warming, a scenario that would bring almost unimaginable destruction to the planet and likely very nearly make human life extinct. But, the report authors are refusing to accept defeat, believing the increasingly visible damage caused by climate change will shift opinion their way. “I hope this can change the world,” said Jiang Kejun of China’s semi-governmental Energy Research Institute, who is one of the authors. “Two years ago, even I didn’t believe 1.5C was possible but when I look at the options I have confidence it can be done. I want to use this report to do something big in China.”

While looking for articles that covered the release of the IPCC report, I found an article from Vox by Mary Annaise Heglar . That article did more to actually motivate me than anything I’d read in the admittedly dry IPCC report. In The Big Lie Were Told About Climate Change That It Is Our Fault, Annaise Heglar has penned a highly personal and powerful story of how an editor with little understanding of climate change or concern fell into a job as editor of an environmental organization and so began to read and read and read. And the more she read the more depressed she got, until she was bordering on being unable to function socially, breaking down into tears without warning. The truth was just too much to bear. I think we have all been there. Perhaps as recently as last week. But Annaise Heglar goes on to chart her path from depression and shame to anger and activism. Two quotes from her report:

I had known climate change was real. I had an inkling that it was not far away. But I didn’t know just how bad it was. I didn’t know how many innocent  people were already suffering hideously. Pick a natural disaster — wildfire, hurricane, mudslide, or heat wave, many of which research shows have already been exacerbated by climate change — it’s always the people with the least to lose who get hurt the most. I didn’t know how many people had been marked as allowable casualties because they were born in the wrong places under the wrong circumstances. Right at that very moment. ”  Mary Annaise Heglar, Climate Activist

And the 

The IPCC report revealed that a mere 100 companies are responsible for 71 percent of global climate emissions. These people are locking you and everything you love into a tomb. You have every right to be pissed all the way off. And we have to make them hear about it.” Mary Annaise Heglar, Climate Activist

The article goes on to describe how the fossil fuel industry is gaslighting all of us into believing that if we just recycle, ride our bikes, and put up solar panels, we will be fine. The subtext there is: it is up to you. When the truth is our personal conservation efforts contribute an insignificant, though worthy impact. It is those 100 corporations and their avarice; it is those corporations and their willful burying of their own research that described clearly the path down which we have been headed. It is those corporations that need to be the target of our rage. It is a tremendous article well worth reading. It will make you feel better. Click her to read the Vox report.

But while Annaise Heglar cares passionately about climate change, apparently most Americans simply don’t. An article from The Verge comments on a Gallup poll conducted in March:  “More than half of Americans seem to think that climate change won’t affect them personally, a new poll shows. Only 45 percent think that global warming will pose a serious threat in their lifetime, and just 43 percent say they worry a great deal about climate change. But climate change is already affecting us — so why don’t people realize that? The reason has to do with a mixture of politics and psychology. The poll, conducted by Gallup, shows that many Americans ‘perceive climate change as a distant problem,’ says Anthony Leiserowitz, director of the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication. A lot of people think that we won’t bear the brunt of climate change until 2050 or 2100, and that other parts of the world will be affected, not the US, not their state, their city, or their community. ‘As a result, it becomes psychologically distant. It’s just one of thousands other issues that are out there.’ ”

The Verge article concludes that at least for now, if someone is worried about having to pay their hospital bills, they are going to be less concerned about melting sea ice in the Arctic. So here we have a challenge: vastly increasing the proportion of Americans who view climate change as an imminent catastrophe. Certainly, Hurricane Michael and before that Florence have made an impression. With seas warming and rising, the frequency, intensity and scope of hurricanes will only increase and the devastation will, as well, but the IPCC report also brings the tipping point for catastrophe to 12 years, within most of our projected lifetimes.

The Gallup poll also found that while only 64 percent of Americans think that global warming is caused by human activities, 97 percent of climate scientists believe this, so we have some work to do on this front as well, if we are to make a litmus test issue out of commitment to substantially address climate change. It will be critical to make sure that 90% of Americans understand that we (or rather corporate America) is responsible for our current catastrophes and our far bleaker future. So there is work to be done and I see the following as the most immediate tasks:

  • Develop a specific highly readable platform, drawn from the UN report that describes the exact policies we expect our elected officials to embrace;
  • Identify a core group of existing environmental groups at the local, state and national levels and encourage their directly tying positions on these policies to their political endorsements;
  • Develop a grassroots, non-partisan community education campaign with an emphasis on neighbor to neighbor canvassing and friend/peer to peer conversations, launched as soon as feasible;
  •  Press all Democratic candidates for President and other national, state and local candidates to embrace a commitment to the platform of policies articulated in the UN report and make this a litmus test for contributions and support of any kind.

We need to find ways to translate the nerdy IPCC report into far more accessible and frankly terrifying weapon. And then those environmental organizations who have been in the trenches forever need to galvanize an army of supporters and unleash conversations through canvassing, dinner conversations, staff meetings, in faith assemblies, anywhere that people assemble. Reports can be ignored, people can select their news source and effectively shutter themselves from truth. But your neighbor, colleague, cousin, high school pal, child care worker, member of your faith group or union, these people know you and to a degree trust you. And we can not be silent and we must use these relationships to inform and to anger. Roxanne and I went to the Lensic last night to hear Rev. Barber. He drove home the critical importance of being engaged, that in these times, the sidelines is not an option. While the precise nature and leadership of the nationwide campaign has yet to take form. Trust it will form and trust that Retake will not just tell you of it, but cajole you to get in the game. We have a planet to save.

If you are looking for an accessible, clear, common language article describing the contents of the IPCC report, click here to read a report from The Guardian.  Very readable, very motivating.

After I complete the series of KSFR radio shows on affordable housing, I will use that platform to bring environmentalists into the studio to talk tactics, to react to the IPCC report, and to tell you what they are doing and what you can do to support their efforts. Somehow, someway, we need to make climate change more than just an issue among issues and elevate it into the issue of our times. Because it is.

In solidarity,

Paul & Roxanne

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