New Hope for the Climate

Summary by Chad Tolman

Al GoreAl Gore posted an important and inspiring article in the June 18 issue of Rolling Stone titled, The Turning Point: New Hope for the Climate – It’s time to accelerate the shift toward a low-carbon future.  Here are some selected parts: “In the struggle to solve the climate crisis, a powerful, largely unnoticed shift is taking place. The forward journey for human civilization will be difficult and dangerous, but it is now clear that we will ultimately prevail. The only question is how quickly we can accelerate and complete the transition to a low-carbon civilization. There will be many times in the decades ahead when we will have to take care to guard against despair, lest it become another form of denial, paralyzing action. It is true that we have waited too long to avoid some serious damage to the planetary ecosystem – some of it, unfortunately, irreversible. Yet the truly catastrophic damages that have the potential for ending civilization as we know it can still – almost certainly – be avoided. Moreover, the pace of the changes already set in motion can still be moderated significantly.”

“The utilities are fighting back, of course, by using their wealth and the entrenched political power they have built up over the past century. In the United States, brothers Charles and David Koch, who run Koch Industries, the second-largest privately owned corporation in the U.S., have secretively donated at least $70 million to a number of opaque political organizations tasked with spreading disinformation about the climate crisis and intimidating political candidates who dare to support renewable energy or the pricing of carbon pollution.”

“The second reality ignored by the Koch brothers is the one they least like to discuss, the one they spend so much money trying to obfuscate with their hired “merchants of doubt.” You want to talk about the uncompensated use of infrastructure? What about sewage infrastructure for 98 million tons per day of gaseous, heat-trapping waste that is daily released into our skies, threatening the future of human civilization? Is it acceptable to use the thin shell of atmosphere surrounding our planet as an open sewer? Free of charge? Really?”

“Just as the extreme-weather events we are now experiencing are exactly the kind that were predicted by scientists decades ago, the scientific community is now projecting far worse extreme-weather events in the years to come. Eighty percent of the warming in the past 150 years (since the burning of carbon-based fuels gained momentum) has occurred in the past few decades. And it is worth noting that the previous scientific projections consistently low-balled the extent of the global­ warming consequences that later took place – for a variety of reasons rooted in the culture of science that favor conservative estimates of future effects.”

“The U.S. military has taken notice of the strategic dangers inherent in the climate crisis. Last March, a Pentagon advisory committee described the climate crisis as a “catalyst for conflict” that may well cause failures of governance and societal collapse. “In the past, the thinking was that climate change multiplied the significance of a situation,” said retired Air Force Gen. Charles F. Wald. “Now we’re saying it’s going to be a direct cause of instability.”

“In November 1936, Winston Churchill stood before the United Kingdom’s House of Commons and placed a period at the end of the misguided debate over the nature of the “gathering storm” on the other side of the English Channel: “Owing to past neglect, in the face of the plainest warnings, we have entered upon a period of danger. . . . The era of procrastination, of half measures, of soothing and baffling expedience of delays is coming to its close. In its place, we are entering a period of consequences. . . . We cannot avoid this period; we are in it now.”

“We have the policy tools that can dramatically accelerate the transition to clean energy that market forces will eventually produce at a slower pace. The most important has long since been identified: We have to put a price on carbon in our markets, and we need to eliminate the massive subsidies that fuel the profligate emissions of global-warming pollution.”  (emphasis added)

“It will be essential for the United States and other major historical emitters to commit to strong action. The U.S. is, finally, now beginning to shift its stance. And the European Union has announced its commitment to achieve a 40-percent reduction in CO2 emissions by 2030. Some individual European nations are acting even more aggressively, including Finland’s pledge to reduce emissions 80 percent by 2050.”

“Is there enough time? Yes. Damage has been done, and the period of consequences will continue for some time to come, but there is still time to avoid the catastrophes that most threaten our future. Each of the trends described above – in technology, business, economics and politics – represents a break from the past. Taken together, they add up to genuine and realistic hope that we are finally putting ourselves on a path to solve the climate crisis.”

How long will it take? When Martin Luther King Jr. was asked that question during some of the bleakest hours of the U.S. civil rights revolution, he responded, “How long? Not long. Because no lie can live forever. . . . How long? Not long. Because the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”