A forest fire rages in California, in the grips of a record-breaking drought. Photo: jcookfisher via Flickr.com.
23rd February 2014
Fossil fuel interests are calling all the shots in the US Congress, writes Ralph Nader. Now is the time for Al Gore and other wealthy 'Greens' to finance a strong lobby for the climate in Washington DC. The cost? Just $25 million a year would pay for 100 lobbyists.
Megabillionaire Michael Bloomberg, already funding efforts to reduce coal usage, could write the check out of his hip pocket.
Every year, from Antarctica to Greenland, from the Andes to Alaska, the ice is melting, the permafrost is melting, and very soon the Arctic may have a re-unprecedented ice-free season.
Every year, more and more businesses are speaking out on how climate change is damaging their businesses.
Insurance companies were in the lead on sounding the alarm on global warming. Just a few weeks ago, Coca-Cola's vice president for environment and water resources, Jeffrey Seabright, spoke to the New York Times.
"Increased droughts, more unpredictable variability, 100-year floods every two years" were affecting the supply of sugar cane and sugar beets, he told them, "as well as citrus for our fruit juices."
Corporations and economists are changing sides
Every year, companies quit the climate-denying US Chamber of Commerce, and instead attend conferences on the threat of climate change at places like the annual World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland for big businesses and politicians.
Every year, more mainstream and conservative economists and companies declare their support for a carbon tax.
In Washington, Jim Yong Kim, president of the World Bank, has put climate change on center stage for becoming what he said is a chief contributor to rising global poverty rates.
Every year, there are more demonstrations and marches of people and students around the world demanding action, conversion to renewable energies, and conservation efficiencies. University students are increasingly demanding their schools' divestment of stock from fossil fuel companies.
Every year, its seems records are being set for sea level rises, more furious storm surges, heat waves, floods, typhoons, and droughts.
The stumbling block: Congress
Yet every year one institution allows no change in its political climate; nothing is warming up our Congress of 535 legislators who are split between believers and disbelievers on the climate change crises. The result is worse than gridlock; it has become somnolence.
While people may become more frugal in their energy consumption and while businesses may use more renewable energy, a comprehensive national energy conversion mission, reflecting the urgency of action, has to go through Congress.
Omnicidal as it is, climate change has been taken off the table on Capitol Hill. Yes, there are some bills languishing in the hopper, some statements in the Congressional Record.
But overall for different Democratic and Republican reasons, Congress has gone AWOL since the energy bill was blocked in the Senate seven years ago.
Denialist Republicans, feeble Democrats
The Republicans are aggressive climate-change deniers. Senator James Inhofe (R-OK) calls global warming a "massive hoax" and is willing to debate any Democrat.
And by and large, most Democrats are concerned but unwilling to make it a campaign or electoral issue. They're even unwilling to take on Mr. Inhofe.
Somehow, they've myopically convinced themselves - even those with grandchildren - that the fast-looming peril provides no net electoral or campaign cash advantages.
This shocking Congressional bubble has avoided the intense focus of the environmental lobby. Astonishingly, there are fewer than a half dozen scattered lobbyists in Washington DC working in persona, full time directly on Congress and its role regarding climate change.
We need 100 climate lobbyists in Washington
To open up this critical Khyber Pass, called Congress, blocking action on climate change we need, as a minimum, a new 100-person lobbying organization with laser beam, daily focus on every member of the Senate and the House of Representatives.
This group would have the requisite scientific, legal, organizing, public relations, and political experience. Every day, the 535 members of our national legislature would feel the light, the heat, and the might of what these hundred advocates unleash directly and indirectly.
The Pentagon's study a decade ago would be brought to bear with its dire message that climate change is a national security priority. The federal government's procurement budget would be steered toward renewable fuel and efficiencies specifications for the energy it purchases.
The protest activity at the grassroots, which now bursts mostly into the ether, would be sharply redirected to each member of Congress.
The cost - $25 million per year
The Congressional hearings would garner regular, intensive and productive national attention. The electoral campaigns of both parties would not be allowed to sideline this giant backlash from nature so abused by humankind.
Where would the $25 million annual budget come from for such a lobbying group working to prevent trillions of dollars and millions of lives from being lost?
The question is almost absurd were it not for the bizarre aversion to this focus by well-heeled and leading advocates of addressing climate change.
Bloomberg, Steyer, Paulson, Gore - why don't you pay up?
Megabillionaire Michael Bloomberg, just named the United Nations special envoy for climate change and cities, already funding efforts to reduce coal usage, could write the check out of his hip pocket.
Billionaire Tom Steyer, a big time opponent to the XL pipeline from Canada and a proven environmentalist from California, could also handily write the check.
Very wealthy Henry M. Paulson Jr., former head of Goldman Sachs and US Treasury Secretary, who is working with Bloomberg and Steyer to commission an economic study on the financial risks connected to climate change, region by region across the US economy, could also write the check.
And don't forget Al Gore, the leading global publicist of what climatologist Lonnie Thompson of Ohio State University called a "clear and present danger to civilization". The former Senator - who received the Nobel Prize in 2007 for highlighting the perils of global warming and climate change - could also fund and lead such a group.
Any one of them could foot the bill
Why, readers may ask, am I suggesting a sum small enough that one person could foot the bill for such a portentous peril?
Because small sums are better at shaming all those well-endowed institutions and individuals, who know better, but inexplicably have not transformed their concerns into really powerful, serious pursuits for the human race and its more vulnerable posterity.
Ralph Nader is a consumer advocate, lawyer and author of Only the Super-Rich Can Save Us! He is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion, published by AK Press. Hopeless is also available in a Kindle edition.
This article was first published on Counterpunch.
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