Important article on Global warming

Please pass on. Mahalo.
Jim Albertini
Wanted: A Climate Bailout
by Mark Hertsgaard

What a difference an emergency makes. Scare people enough and $700
billion can materialize almost overnight. The White House can repudiate
its core economic philosophy--government should leave markets
alone--within hours. Congress, where spending bills sometimes wait years
to reach the floor, can pass one of the costliest laws in its history
within days. Even the endlessly fickle media can provide 24/7 news
coverage, making the emergency the topic on everyone's mind.

When will we see this same sense of urgency devoted to the greatest
emergency of our time? You wouldn't know it from our politicians or TV
shows, but the climate crisis is even more serious than the financial
crisis. The financial crisis, while painful and severe, can be resolved,
given time and wise policies. The climate crisis, not so. The earth's
climate system has tipping points beyond which no return is possible.
Yet there is a very real danger right now that sliding oil prices will
lull the public into an even deeper complacency.

The system passed the first major tipping point twenty years ago, when,
according to 1988 Congressional testimony from James Hansen, the chief
climate scientist at NASA, man-made global warming began. A second
tipping point was passed a few years ago, when global warming began
triggering climate change: abnormal droughts, storms and other extreme
weather. The problem is, once climate change begins, it cannot simply be
turned off. The inertia of the climate system ensures that even if every
country in the world went green as quickly as possible, the earth would
still be locked into fifty more years of rising temperatures and the
impacts they unleash. Thus, by 2050 European summer temperatures will
routinely reach the record highs experienced in 2003, when an estimated
70,000 people died. The snowpacks atop many of the world's mountains--a
source of drinking and irrigation water for more than a billion
people--will have melted and shrunk. Sea levels will be rising

We are now in danger of passing a third tipping point--the descent into
cataclysmic, irreversible climate change. Hansen returned to Capitol
Hill in June, on the twentieth anniversary of his 1988 testimony, to
warn that the earth is on the verge of "disastrous climate changes that
spiral dynamically out of humanity's control," causing "mass extinction,
ecosystem collapse and dramatic sea level rises." To avert this
catastrophe, Hansen continued, "is, barely, still possible. It requires
a transformative change of direction in Washington in the next
year"--that is, by the end of 2009, when the world's governments will
meet in Copenhagen to negotiate new reductions in the greenhouse gas
emissions that cause global warming.

Every candidate running for election, and every journalist covering
them, should be required to spend the twenty minutes it takes to read
Hansen's latest testimony, because they obviously still don't get it. We
face a code-red emergency. At stake is the survival of human
civilization. Yet the candidates and media treat global warming as just
another issue. Even Barack Obama, who takes the problem seriously, seems
not to grasp the urgency of the moment. (The same is true in Europe,
where governments have invoked the economic downturn as grounds for
delaying emissions cuts.)

The United States and the world need to launch a climate rescue plan
that is at least as ambitious as the financial rescue plan. We need a
massive shift of government incentives and funds away from fossil fuels
and toward energy efficiency, solar and wind power, and other low-carbon
alternatives. We must also end rampant deforestation, which causes 20
percent of global greenhouse gas emissions while imposing enormous
economic costs. (A new study by the European Union found that
deforestation costs far more every year than the financial crisis,
because when forests disappear humans must pay for ecosystem
services--storage of water, neutralization of carbon dioxide--that
previously were free.)

The good news is that a massive green jobs and investment program is
economically appealing and politically plausible. The program would pay
for itself over time by generating additional income, profits,
innovation and market opportunities, which doubtless accounts for the
support it has gained from such mainstream sources as New York
Times columnist Thomas Friedman, not to mention the Democratic
presidential nominee. A green jobs and investment program is the core of
Obama's proposed energy policy as president, but he is still thinking
too small: he proposes spending $15 billion a year for the next ten
years, when the crisis calls for spending much more, much faster.

Friends of the Earth was the first environmental group to oppose the
$700 billion bailout, warning that it would put the next president "in a
fiscal straitjacket." But a straitjacketed Obama should still spend big
to go green, says Friends of the Earth president Brent Blackwelder.
"There is enormous public support for it, and it's what the climate
requires." It's also what the economy requires: with a
recession/depression threatening the global economy, deficit spending is
the least of our worries. Only massive pump-priming through
well-targeted government spending can protect jobs and living standards
and stimulate an eventual recovery. Take a lesson from the Wall Street
bailout, adds Blackwelder; a climate rescue plan must not reward the
same bad actors that got us into this mess. Just as the financial crisis
stems from investment firms exploiting insufficient government
regulation, so the climate crisis stems from energy corporations
blocking regulation of greenhouse gas emissions, in part by
misrepresenting the science of global warming. In his recent testimony,
Hansen declared that the CEOs of fossil energy corporations "should be
tried for high crimes against humanity and nature," adding that he
welcomed the chance to testify. In the meantime, let's at least strip
those CEOs of their de facto veto power over government policy.
Otherwise, the green revolution--our best hope against impending climate
chaos--will come late or not at all.

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Jim Albertini

Malu 'Aina Center for Non-violent Education & Action

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