Fix the Climate, or the Kid Gets It
What it's going to take to get action on global warming
Let's see. In climate news today, we have Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) announcing that you can get a climate bill through the Senate—so long as you include billions in loan guarantees for nuclear plants (because, well, the market thinks they're lousy investments and won't finance them. Safety issues aside.). Meanwhile Big Ag becomes the latest industry to launch a campaign to kill what measly climate legislation is on the table (never mind that farmers in general, and the heartland in particular, are likely to see some of global warming's worst effects). The Freakonomics guys muddle the issue with junk science. We're headed for a potential debacle during the global climate talks in Copenhagen, and virtually no one in Washington can really be bothered to pay attention to the issue anyway because health care reform is sucking up all the oxygen. Great!
So what is it going to take to get action on this issue? You know the answer—we all do: It's going to take popular pressure, aka politicians feeling that they have to produce something on this issue to get reelected. And that, in turn, takes convincing Americans that something we care about is actually at risk here.
And of course something is. Climate change poses the greatest danger not to polar bears, not to glaciers or beaches, but to our kids. Their world, if you read the scientific predictions, is one where the Southwest is a dust bowl; 30 percent of the planet's species go extinct; 200 million people become climate refugees. And those are the relatively moderate scenarios--there are also the scientists who, looking back over millions of years' worth of geologic evidence, suggest that the last time we had carbon levels like those we're headed for now, sea levels were 80 to 130 feet higher than they are today.
That's grim stuff, which is why, most of the time, our reaction is "quick, give me something else to think about!" But the love of our children is a powerful force, and it has motivated enormous change in the past. It hasn't become a real factor on this issue—but what if it did? As Clara and I write in our editors' note for the upcoming issue of Mother Jones, which is almost entirely devoted to this topic:
"We still have the power to shape their future. Just for perspective: The entire sum required to buy off Third World opposition to carbon caps is around what we spent to bail out Fannie, Freddie, and AIG. And hey, Europe's on the hook for at least half. Our kids will measure us by how long we tarried. What will we tell them?"
To dramatize this point, we did something unusual for this special issue: We printed four different covers, featuring four different children and four different headlines. Now it's your turn. Next week, on the eve of International Day of Climate Action, we'll debut an app that lets you put your own picture (of your kid, yourself, your cat, your pet lizard) on our cover, and share the image with your friends and your members of Congress. There's also a contest to create new headlines for the climate cover—we'll feature the best on our home page.
Meanwhile, today is Blog Action Day, which means that nearly 8,000 blogs from all around the world are posting climate-change content today. One of the first entries comes from British Prime Minister Gordon Brown. What's he got to say?
Like every parent, I want to leave a safe and secure world for my children. And I want to be able to look them in the eye because our generation stood up for their future.
Hint, hint, White House Blog: President Obama, no doubt, would agree.
You can follow me on Twitter here. Clara tweets here. Our DC bureau chief, David Corn, tweets, as do our colleagues Daniel Schulman, Nick Baumann, Kate Sheppard, and Rachel Morris. And of course you can follow Mother Jones itself.