Viewpoint: In midterm elections, vote for climate action

There are many specific issues to drive voting these midterms – health care, gun violence prevention, women’s reproductive rights, immigration reform – arguably the most important elections of our lifetime, but the one that addresses an existential threat to our lives and our planet is climate change.

Rather than unify the nation around a disaster, climate catastrophes have become more political than ever. Indeed, we see that some Americans are more valuable to protect and restore than others; depending upon how you voted, you will be more deserving of aid than others.

But while the government rushes money to open roads and restore power in precincts that voted the right way, there is no interest, no money, to address the cause of these climate catastrophes or even rebuild for sustainability or mitigation.

Indeed, Republicans are intent on shutting down climate science and doing everything possible to keep an economy running on fossil fuel rather than clean, renewable. Indeed, during that mind-exploding interview with “60 Minutes,” Trump declared he didn’t believe global warming is caused by human activity and that climate change could simply reverse on its own. He knows this because, after all, he has a big brain and scientists who warn of disaster have a political agenda.

Those scientists recently came out with a report that gives specifics to the catastrophic impacts of climate change that will be apparent by 2040. But tell that to the people of Puerto Rico, Texas, Florida, the Carolinas, and the people of island nations that are literally drowning today.

“It’s telling us we need to reverse emissions trends and turn the world economy on a dime,” Myles Allen, an Oxford University climate scientist and an author of the United Nations the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report, told the New York Times (Oct. 7, 2018).
Donald Trump’s reaction to the report? Well, he’s been so busy holding campaign rallies and attacking “evil” Democrats, who will turn America into socialist Venezuela if they ever get power, but nothing to say about the national security and public health threats that climate change poses. And this after Hurricane Michael tore through the $3.4 billion Tyndell Air Force Base in Florida.

The New York Times in an editorial said governments would literally have to change their fossil-fuel dependent economies dramatically unless the planet’s temperature change so radically by 2040 that human societies and the animal kingdom won’t be able to adapt fast enough.

The editorial referred to Trump as an “outlier” among government leaders who, following Obama’s lead, joined the Paris Climate Accord to to mitigate climate change. I would use different terms for Trump: “Saboteur.” “Criminal.”

Interestingly, even Saudi Arabia, which is holding a “Devos in the Desert” conference to reduce its economy’s dependency on oil, sees the handwriting on the wall: demand for oil will decrease because 1. fossil fuels are being depleted or too expensive to extract and 2. nations are moving away from fossil fuels to power their society.

But Trump? He boasts that the U.S. has become the biggest producer on the planet. Meanwhile, he makes us vulnerable to Saudi Arabia’s threat to push up the price if the US retaliates for murdering Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi.

Trump, on the one hand, likes to boast that the U.S. has “led the way” to reduce its carbon emissions. But the statistics are from 2005 to 2017, before Trump and his criminal enterprise at the Environmental Un-Protection Agency reversed course, actually switching the incentives to transition to clean, renewable energy.

He canceled the Coal Power Plan, gave extensions to coal-fired plants, reversed fuel economy standards, said it’s A-OK for coal plants to spew methane and by the way, a little radiation is good for you.

This wasn’t always a partisan issue (remember Newt Gingrich and Nancy Pelosi commercial together?) until the Republicans, bought by the fossil fuel industry declared climate change a hoax perpetrated by the Chinese to weaken the US economy.

They cast climate action as “socialist” (as they do on Medicare, Social Security, Obamacare) and a betrayal of America’s sovereignty (America First!)

What is so conveniently ignored by Republicans (who claim to worship capitalism) are the costs to the economy by failing to address climate change.

Count the billions in disaster relief and add the billions to rebuild infrastructure, lost productivity because people can’t work or their workplaces are destroyed. And maybe calculate the cost of lives destroyed by health problems, injuries and premature death.

Put a dollar figure on that. The Trump Administration won’t.

But since trade (cash on the barrel) is the only foreign policy Trump seems to care about, the 194 other countries who signed the Paris Climate Accord should strike back.

President Emmanuel Macron of France at the United Nations suggested that France either would not forge a trade agreement with a country that was not part of the Paris Climate Accord, or it would require mitigation. “That means there is no comprehensive agreement if [the nation is] not in line with Paris … France continues to spearhead this global fight against climate change…In the G7, I will work to see the Paris obligations increased.”

Other countries should impose a tax on imports from the United States, or ban American products entirely. And these small island nations, like Indonesia and the Philippines, that are being inundated by rising sea levels, should sue the United States for relief.

It is crucial for voters need to elect representatives at every level of government, local, state and federal, who acknowledge this existential threat and vow to take climate action.

About the author

Karen Rubin

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