The results of the US midterm elections, with the Democrats retaking the House and some governorships, are a victory in the sense that our country avoided falling into the abyss—a horrible place where our economics, our humanitarian values, and our politics run amuck. Supposedly, there will now be checks on Trump, his administration, and the GOP’s attempts to undermine our environmental health while trying to erase Climate Change from our nation’s responsibilities:
With Democratic Majority, Climate Change Is Back on U.S. House Agenda Fossil fuel supporters will still control the Senate, but the House will soon be able to turn a spotlight on climate change and Trump's retreat from responsibility. With their win of control of the U.S. House of Representatives, Democrats will now have the numbers to put climate change issues back on the congressional agenda. But the Republicans reinforced their firewall against any legislative efforts in the Senate by gaining at least two new members with poor records on confronting the climate crisis. (November 7, 2018) Inside Climate News [more on Climate Change for our area]
Still, we are poised on the precipice and will only back away from it when our country not only acts on Climate Change, but when we free the science of Climate Change from our politics altogether. In recent years, every US election seems to amplify our country’s ambiguity towards Climate change, instead of clarifying it.
Some suggest that the Democratic victory may yield little with regard to Climate Change action, that Democrats may muffle a strong Climate Change agenda because this issue is still so divisive that it may hinder party unity and prospects for more victories to come.
Dems damp down hopes for climate change agenda Democrats are unlikely to pursue major climate change legislation if they win the House majority, despite a growing body of evidence suggesting time is running out to address the issue. 10/17/2018 The Hill)
If we leave our efforts to address this crisis to our political convenience, it seems unlikely that we’ll make sufficient progress—even if the consequences of extreme weather, flooding, and the heat become more dire. Denier backlashes against catastrophes, or the latest refuge of climate denial – that it’s too late to do anything about it -- seem more likely to drive our politics awry on this crisis rather than a collective rational move towards it. All our other efforts—greening our businesses, honing the economics of renewable energy, and shaping our own lives to live more sustainably—are limited, perhaps prohibitively so, because of our political dysfunctionality.
In the New York Review of books “A Very Grim Forecast”, Bill McKibben, our foremost environmental writer and climate activist, provides a sober look at the background to the new IPCC’s report. It is, indeed, grim. But it’s important feedback at this critical stage that we aren’t doing remotely enough to address Climate Change.
There are those messaging Climate Change who focus on humanity’s amazing ability to adapt—where we shouldn’t worry about the day-to-day seesaw of climate action and the resistance to that. This brand of human hubris goes something like this: We’re not only really good at adapting but excel when confronted by a climate change. Neandertals, a tough, cold-weather sister species (they weren’t our ancestors), perished during a long cold spell but our species met the challenge and prevailed. However, thinking that just because homo sapiens are able to disrupt an entire planet’s climate system doesn’t mean we have a clue on how to restore it to a livable world. It’s absurd. It’s like thinking because you have the ability to wreck something profoundly intricate, you can fix it. (Try that with your Smartphone.) How do we get 7+ billion people to quickly bring down our planet’s temperature and put back together the resiliency and robustness of our pre-industrial environment? How? Details, please?
However aware we are of the implications of Climate Change and despite the clarity coming from scientists on this crisis, we still don’t have a unified planetary response that will avoid a complete disaster—for humanity that is (Earth doesn’t really care if we’re around or not). The midterm elections can only be hopeful if whatever we gained are now pressed.
Democrats cannot be shy about pushing our country to address Climate Change and putting our fossil fuels legacy behind us. This includes not just winning battles but framing the problem so that the public understands its priority and urgency. It’s going to be far tougher than before the 2016 elections because the Trump/GOP debacle affords too many people the delusion that some could weather this existential crisis unscathed in a finite planet. They won’t. Because this crisis is a complete environmental breakdown, we will all get swept away eventually.
Climate Change must rise to the top of our country’s concerns, where the US not only returns to the spirit of the Paris Accord, but leads this worldwide effort. Is this a mind-blowing fantasy? Not really. What is a mind-blowing fantasy is thinking we can fix this crisis with anything less. Remember, it’s not just the warming, it’s everything else too—justice, poverty, pollutions, loss of biodiversity, and centuries of humanity’s environmental abuse that are bottlenecking Climate Change into an emergency.
No half-hearted efforts, mixed messages, muted language on the full implications of Climate Change and what needs to be done to fix it will do. Politely giving in to those who want business as usual and pandering to the same political strategy that is only capable of moving one step forward and two steps backward will produce the very catastrophe that we must avoid. The planet will warm more, with us and our future cooking on it.