Global warming is the most serious crisis that humanity has ever faced. The world is headed directly towards a cliff in the dark: We know the cliff is ahead of us, but we don’t know how soon we might reach it. Some people think that the countries of the world will not be able to do what is necessary to avoid millions of people suffering the death penalty as a result of global warming. When they express their defeatist attitude to others, they make things harder for those of us actively fighting global warming. Nobody can predict what the future will bring.
The coal, oil and automobile industries certainly have great power, but those of us fighting global warming also have some advantages. Politicians go to Washington, D.C., intending to do the right thing; in lobbying them, grassroots activists can explain to them that the coal companies do not want the right thing.
Environmentalists can use a moral logic in saying that people have an obligation to act as good stewards of the planet on behalf of future generations. Many of the possible victims of global warming cannot vote or speak out because they are not yet born.
Workers who lose their jobs because of the fight against global warming can hope to get green jobs, such as in public transit or renewable energy. Unemployed workers who are over 40 or who live in rural areas could have trouble finding work. UO sociologist Michael Dreiling suggests using the late labor leader Tony Mazzocchi’s idea of paying workers not to work — workers who lose their jobs because of the battle against global warming could get the equivalent of Social Security disability payments.
A single-payer health care system like in Canada would allow coal miners who become organic farmers to not have to worry about losing their union health insurance.
The U.S. government cannot deal with the global warming crisis alone, nor can it force a solution on the world; international negotiations are required. At the 2011 Durban Climate Change Conference, the world’s poorer countries agreed that they would be willing to have their greenhouse gas emissions limited under a new global warming treaty (they had no such obligations under the Kyoto Accord). The U.N. Durban conference created a timetable under which the Paris conference of December 2015 is the deadline for the world’s countries to negotiate a new treaty that would be ratified by 2020.
The Eugene-Springfield Solidarity Network/Jobs with Justice (ESSN) is a social justice organization that strongly supports justice for the labor movement, and social justice generally. ESSN brought Mark Reynolds of the Citizens Climate Lobby (CCL) to Eugene to start a local CCL chapter. CCL is creating the political will for Congress to pass a carbon tax under which all the tax money would go back to households. Putting a price on carbon would make the Keystone XL Pipeline economically unviable.
The U.S. Senate would need to ratify a new global warming treaty by a two-thirds majority. President Obama seems to have decided that the U.S. should not sign a treaty that the Senate would not ratify. Unless he can see how senators vote on a specific global warming bill, he cannot judge how strong of a treaty the U.S. should sign. China, India and the rest of the world’s poorer countries must agree that a new treaty is fair to them.
The CCL national leadership is aware of the need to convince Republican politicians that they should support a carbon tax, so CCL is attempting to organize chapters in more conservative parts of the U.S. CCL is unlikely to be successful without protests on the streets, but people can both protest and lobby.
One hopeful sign: the Financial Times reports that in the wake of the partial government shutdown, officials of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce have indicated an intention to fund candidates in 2014 Republican primaries who would oppose Tea Party politicians.
The challenge that global warming poses is indeed great, but as J.R.R. Tolkien has Elrond say in The Fellowship of the Ring, “There is naught that you can do, other than to resist, with hope or without it.”
by: Milton Takei and Shelley Pineo-Hensen, Ph.D.