Saturday, December 27, 2008

Economic Insecurity & the Climate Crisis: There is a Magic Bullet, There is a Holy Grail

Celtic Triple Spiral/Triple Goddess Symbol

The financial services industry has claimed an ever-growing share of the nation’s income over the past generation, making the people who run the industry incredibly rich. Yet, at this point, it looks as if much of the industry has been destroying value, not creating it. And it’s not just a matter of money: the vast riches achieved by those who managed other people’s money have had a corrupting effect on our society as a whole. Paul Krugman, 12-19-08

The world must avoid backsliding in fighting global warming and work out a "Green New Deal" to fix its twin climate and economic crises, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said ... Coping with the financial crisis would need a "massive stimulus," he added. "A big part of that spending should be an investment -- an investment in a green future." Reuters, 12-11-08

After a year in which it nearly lost its compass, the campaign against climate change heads into 2009 needing top-level political commitment, creative thinking and a deep well of money. Next year holds a big dream: by its end, the world will have forged a treaty in Copenhagen to shrink global warming from mankind-threatening juggernaut to manageable problem. Agence France Press, 12-14-08

The United States faces the possibility of much more rapid climate change by the end of the century than previous studies have suggested, according to a new report led by the U.S. Geological Survey. Washington Post, 12-25-08

Economic Insecurity & the Climate Crisis: There is a Magic Bullet, There is a Holy Grail

By Richard Power

2008 was a do or die deadline for the USA; it chose life and reason over madness and death. 2009 is a do or die deadline for the nations of the world as a whole; will we collectively choose life and reason over madness and death?

For years, some of us have been insisting that the climate change resulting from global warming must be understand as perhaps our greatest national and global security threat.

For years, some of us have been pointing out that even if we had not been confronted with the challenge of climate change, we would have been confronted with a global sustainability crisis in regard to water, food, sanitation, energy, etc.

For years, some of us have also been warning of hell to pay for the reckless, selfish and short-sighted economic philosophy that has dominated our national psyche and plundered our national wealth over the last few decades.

Lo and behold, the clock has run out on the time left for coming to grips with the Climate Crisis just as the Financial and Economic Crisis gets under way.

Emerging from this perfect storm of crisis is a three-headed monster (climate change, the sustainability meltdown and the spectre of a second Great Depression); this hell spawn threatens to devour the future.

But there is a magic bullet that will slay this three-headed monster. There is a holy grail that will renew the land it is laying to waste. But the magic bullet is not any one technology (certainly not "clean coal"), nor is the holy grail any one plan (and certainly not one proposed by T. Boone Pickens).

No, this magic bullet, this holy grail, is hidden within the collective will, conscience and common sense of humanity; and it can only be revealed by a critical mass of leaders at all strata of society and all dimensions of endeavor.

Of course, humanity has not exercised its collective will, conscience or common sense in quite some time. As the people of Rwanda and Darfur can attest. Yes, in a romantic moment, in 2000, humanity resolved to achieve the UN Millennium Development Goals, but now in 2008, half-way to the deadline, humanity is on track to fail in that effort. Yes, in 2000, humanity also signed the Kyoto Accords, albeit with a trembling hand, but it has been backing away from the treaty ever since.

It is important to understand how different our economic and environmental circumstances would likely be today if the planet's greatest economic, technological and military power had been under different leadership over the last eight years. But it will not do us too much good here and now. The question of the moment? Does the incoming Obama-Biden administration really understand? Do Hillary Clinton and Larry Summers really understand? Do a sufficient number of US Senators from both sides of the aisle understand?

The USA desperately needs the trillion-dollar stimulus package that the Obama team is reported to be developing. But that stimulus needs to not only re-build the deteriorating infrastructure of the USA, it also needs to turn it green at the same time. Is there sufficient political courage to get this done? Is there sufficient political courage to even propose it?

And even if the answer to those questions is a surprising yes, what about the other great nations? The EU? Yes. But what about the Russians, the Chinese and the Indians? If the G-8 talks out of both sides of its mouth, why should the G-20 listen?

2007 Nobel Peace Prize winner Al Gore and Sir Nicholas Stern, the former Chief Economist and Senior Vice-President of the World Bank, are two of thosespeaking out with the authority of their vision. They are articulating how to weather the perfect storm and slay the three-headed monster.

In a recent blog post, Gore had both encouraging comment on Obama's energy/environment team of Carol Browner (Assistant to the President on Climate Change and Energy), Nobel prize winning physicist Steven Chu (Secretary of Energy) and Lisa Jackson (EPA Director)and an admonishment to the rest of us: Barack Obama has selected an exceptional team to lead the fight against the climate crisis ... While this is an amazing group of public servants, we must recognize that there is still a very difficult challenge awaiting us before we can pass new laws that truly solve the climate crisis. Public support for doing the right thing is more crucial now than it ever has been. Al Gore, 12-19-08

In a recent interview with Le Monde (translated by Leslie Thatcher of Truthout), Lord Stern talked about the synergies available in coming to grips with both the climate crisis and the economic crisis at once.

Here are a few excerpts from Lord's Stern responses to Le Monde's questions (but I urge you to click on the link and read the whole of it):

The economic crisis will cause a 4-5 percent global GDP reduction for two or three years, while, if we don't act today, the planetary crisis - I use this term rather than "environmental crisis" which I consider too limited - will have still more serious effects over time scales from fifty to a hundred years. Not only in terms of destruction of value, but also in terms of the natural catastrophes, human migrations, and conflicts between communities it will engender. ... these two crises, economic and planetary, have one thing in common: they're the consequence of a system that does not evaluate the risks that its operation generates, that does not take into account the fact that it may end up destroying more than the immediate profit it procures and that, finally, underestimates actors' interdependence. ...
The instruments of political economy that must be implemented have to be in proportion to the seriousness of the crisis: extremely powerful. ...
At issue is a major political choice we must make right now, taking advantage of the opportunity offered by implementation of the rescue plans and recovery policies announced these last few weeks, and also those still to come.
For example, why not direct the aid offered to the automobile industry and all public assistance in general towards research and development of an economic model and technologies that act in concert with the fight against global warming.
Why not guarantee first those bank loans towards investments in clean technology and renewable energy? Why not change the tax code to reduce the relative price of those technologies and those energies?
All those initiatives are recovery measures. Today, we have the possibility to create a technology shock equivalent to the one industry experienced with the appearance of railroads or electricity, the source of long phases of economic growth.
Le Monde Interview w/ Sir Nicholas Stern, Translated by Leslie Thatcher, Truthout, 12-13-08

Let us hoped the messages of Gore and Stern are echoed in the streets and on the air waves, let us hope they are heeded in the corridors of power.

You and I must be in the vanguard -- in words, thoughts, prayers, and especially deeds. Please go into this Julian calendar New Year with open eyes, a simple message and a strong voice.

If you have not already joined the Alliance for Climate Protection, Al Gore and I urge you to do so. Click here.

For an archive of Words of Power posts on Economic Insecurity, click here.

For the Words of Power Climate Crisis Updates Archive, click here.

Click here for access to great promotional tools available on The Eleventh Hour action page.

To sign the Live Earth Pledge, click here.

For analysis of the US mainstream news media's failure to treat global warming and climate change with accuracy or appropriae urgency, click here for Media Matters' compilation of "Myths and Falsehoods about Global Warming".

Want to participate in the effort to mitigate the impact of global warming? Download "Ten Things You Can Do"

Want to join over one million people on the Stop Global Warming Virtual March, and become part of the movement to demand our leaders freeze and reduce carbon dioxide emissions now? Click here.

Center for American Progress Action Fund's Mic Check Radio has released a witty and compelling compilation on the Top 100 Effects of Global Warming, organized into sections like "Global Warming Wrecks All the Fun" (e.g., "Goodbye to Pinot Noir," "Goodbye to Baseball," "Goodbye to Salmon Dinners," "Goodbye to Ski Vacations," etc.), "Global Warming Kills the Animals" (e.g., "Death March of the Penguins," "Dying Grey Whales," "Farewell to Frogs," etc.) and yes, "Global Warming Threatens Our National Security" (e.g., "Famine," "Drought," "Large-Scale Migrations," "The World's Checkbook," etc.) I urge you to utilize Top 100 Effects of Global Warming in your dialogues with friends, family and colleagues.

Richard Power's Left-Handed Security: Overcoming Fear, Greed & Ignorance in This Era of Global Crisis is available now! Click here for more information.

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