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Sunday, Brendan Smith and Jeremy Brecher  asked Are Progressives in Denial About Climate Change?  

If you listen to right wing commentators, you might think American progressives are leading the charge to protect our planet from climate change. Would that it were so!

Smith and Brecher lay out a series of challenges and issues that coalesce to keep this from being so ... and this is a true travesty because far too many progressives fail to understand the situation.

Every Progressive should recognize and incorporate, deep in their soul, the plain fact:  Global Warming is the single most serious threat to Progressive ideals, concepts, policies, and aspirations through the 21st century ... AND today.
This is not just a let’s wait until tomorrow issue, that should be put in the back of the line to deal with after other issues, we must address it with urgency today if we hope for a progressive world tomorrow.

Making climate chaos even more pressing is the reality that it interacts with and impacts on every aspect of modern human existence from our water supplies to our food to our health (linkages health, energy, climate change) to our economy to our energy systems.

Without better energy policies starting now, the future could be bleak economically for decades to come with the impending strike of Peak Oil.  Amid recessions and depressions, what happens to mental health programs?  What happens to music in the classrooms when communities are stressed to deal with droughts and wildfires? What happens for training programs for the economically disadvantaged among us when military forces are deploying to keep climate refugees from our shores? Will there be funding for these and other progressive causes amid the economic stresses caused by climate chaos? I doubt it.  Don’t you?

A key study on how to 'mitigate' Peak Oil concluded that serious action should begin 20 years before the peak hits to avoid serious impacts and over ten years beforehand to avoid massive economic disruption. The vast majority of serious analysts put peak as falling within that ten-year window (actually, as having already hit, masked by the economic crisis),  we are now in our second swift peaking of oil prices, as we saw in 2008, with accompanying economic and other havoc -- and are almost certainly headed toward future (and even larger) oil spikings with associated economic havoc.

We are, in the United States, seeing budget cutbacks to arts programs, school systems, parks budgets, mental health care programs, public infrastructure investments, health care services, ...

Peak oil, however, might be a low-cost challenge compared to unmitigated climate catastrophe ... which will send the possibility of 'progressive' agendas into the trash-heap of history.

With ever-increasing environmental stresses, global refugee and food crises, multiple-Katrina-like challenges and choices over whether to protect or abandon America’s coastal infrastructure, will Head Start funding be secure?  Will Americans focus on expanding GLBT rights? Will these and other progressive concerns be the top of the agenda?

I doubt it.

Don’t you?

Jerome a Paris has written eloquently about his son's illness and discussed how this illness drives his passionate concern about energy and global warming issues.  He has written how desiring a world where his son (and others similarly challenged) can have a fruitful life drove him to a fundamental realism about the criticality of turning the world toward a better path in the face of Peak Oil.  He brought me – and many others – along with him.

NNadir, one of the strongest proponents of nuclear power at DKos, expressed how having children drives his passionate advocacy of what he views as a key tool for carving a survivable path to a better future.

So I'm writing all about nuclear power for a wholly selfish reason, to protect my own.    More nuclear reactors in my view will give everybody's children, including my own, their best shot.

They are not alone ... so many others are driven to change by their desire to foster a better (or less worse?) life for their children ... and, by extension, others’ children.

I share their passion.  

Staring one’s children in the eyes and considering the world that we are creating should be enough to motivate any of us toward change.

And, they motivate me to fight for a better world for me, for you, for my children, for yours, for all of us ... for US and the world.

Considering the potential implications for feeding an ever-growing population amid increasingly disrupted weather conditions does not make me sleep easily at night. When a key scientist from the Stern Review on the Economics of Climate Change tells me that, if things go well, we might lose "only" 30 percent of the world’s species by 2050, I listen ... and I tremble.

I think of myself and you, of my and your children.

We, collectively, have created and are creating a world that is already and will be radically different for our children than what we enjoyed growing up and what our civilization enjoyed growing up.  

30% of species extinct by 2050???  If things go well, that is ...

And, these crises interconnect.  Some of the paths toward Peak Oil mitigation, to solving potential oil challenges, could greatly exacerbate Global Warming challenges.  Fossil fuel from tar sands, heavy oil, shale oil will put far more carbon into the atmosphere to get that gallon of fuel into a Hummer than would be the case for Texas sweet crude.

But, the opportunities exist to enable us (US and all of us) to turn aside from our headlong rush into the economic disaster of Peak Oil and massive destruction of catastrophic Climate Change.

Now, dealing competently with these challenges is neither an easy task nor a quickly resolved one.  And, navigating a path through the Peak Oil minefield while charting (and sailing) a course through the turbulent seas of Global Warming is critical for ensuring a decent future for us all (US and the world).

Al Gore speaks of the calling of a generation.  That this is beyond politics and partisanship, that this is the moral and ethical challenge for this generation.  And that we must rise to the challenge as did The Greatest Generation in World War II.

For those focused on "national security", they must realize the ‘security’ implications of an economically disrupted world experiencing weather/climate conditions increasing refugee movements and driving natural disasters.  For those most concerned with traditional economic measures, they must realize that Peak Oil threatens decades of negative GDP growth and that Global Warming is already hurting the economy. (Tried to get insurance for a beach home recently? Concern about food prices amid agricultural production disruption?)

While these are challenges for us (US) all, progressives should realize the particular critical necessity to deal effectively (seriously) with Peak Oil and Global Warming.

Without resolving (mitigating) these challenges, Progressive dreams for a better tomorrow risk becoming dim memories rather than a reality of daily life.

To be clear:

* I advocate single-payer health care and contacted Members of Congress urging a sensible health care system.

* I believe in helping those who have problems feeding their families, want decent leave policies, value arts programs in schools, etc ...

* I believe in and fight for an equitable economic system, with viable paths for all in society to have rewarding and meaningful employment options.

* I believe in 'progress', that we have an obligation to strive for a 'More Perfect Union'.  

All of that striving will, however, fail and become fantasy if we do not act seriously to turn the tides on Global Warming's rising seas.  We have the ability to enable progressive opportunities into the future with Energy Smart, win-win-win policies to deal with Global Warming.  

A quite simple Climate Change Reality: The reality of climate change, it is the progressive crisis!

NOTE: I want to be clear. Assessing the realities and dimensions of climate change should NOT be a partisan issue, even if debates over which policies / policy constructs are / could be most effective certainly is ground for politics.  This diary / discussion is to highlight that 'climate change' is not 'wait until tomorrow' because there is something more important to do today: for many reasons, including that 'progressive' causes will fall by the wayside in the face of unchecked climate catastrophe.

Originally posted to A Siegel on Fri Jun 17, 2011 at 09:14 AM PDT.

Also republished by E-V Guide, Kosowatt, and Climate Hawks.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Ahhh jeeze, look.... (8+ / 0-)

    weiner! republicans! elections! not enough clapping!

    There's all kind of serious stuff blowing in the wind, and you want to talk about the end of the climate and most of the human race???



    Antemedius | Liberally Critical Thinking

    by Edger on Fri Jun 17, 2011 at 09:19:34 AM PDT

  •  Thank You! (11+ / 0-)

    It really can't be said enough. This is THE crisis of our time. We can't afford to ignore this, to keep this on the back burner. We can't allow Congress to cut green jobs programs and block EPA implementation of carbon emission regulations, and we have to keep working on the state and local level to push for more progressive climate policy.

  •  interestingly (6+ / 0-)

    Fidel Castro, who is gravely underestimated as an intellectual force, has written brilliantly on this issue and has put out some remarkable papers arguing the same thing:  this is the germinal issue of our time.

    "never trust a rich man when he offers you a truce"

    by KibbutzAmiad on Fri Jun 17, 2011 at 09:29:47 AM PDT

  •  Thank you (10+ / 0-)

    I've been striving to frame my thoughts on this and you do it so well.

    To put it starkly - if you ignore climate change then efforts you make elsewhere are probably inconsequential in the long term.

    "We are normal and we want our freedom" - Bonzos

    by matching mole on Fri Jun 17, 2011 at 09:31:04 AM PDT

  •  hard to envision (4+ / 0-)

    how to make serious progress on this issue as long as the right continues to deny anthropogenic climate change as a political tenet.

    "never trust a rich man when he offers you a truce"

    by KibbutzAmiad on Fri Jun 17, 2011 at 09:31:37 AM PDT

  •  This is one of those issues (6+ / 0-)

    There are issues and there are what I call Meta Issues.

    The greater problem that the entire political system is prone to is that this is the slowest sector within the overall society to respond to conditions that are proving urgent in the social sector.  

    If you look backwards at the past century or so, it is obvious that true innovation has taken anywhere from a few decades to a few centuries.  

    The early adopters tend to be people who are young and can seize on innovation as necessary and important in a way that people who are older and more encumbered cannot.

    However, that natural process for proving innovations before they can be adopted is not fast enough anymore.

    The global climate change issue has arisen in urgency just within the past few election cycles.  Essentially it is a new issue.  Generally, that would mean for enough people to get into gear on it, would require a few decades.

    There are lots of issues out  there.  Education and the dumbing down of America,  the fact that jobs are being lost and not recovered and the middle class is heading towards the endangered list, the  broken down health care system and the need for get massive change through a recalcitrant Congress,  and the rise of the Neanderthal Republican.

    Given the overload that contemplating a list like this produces, it is easy to see why global warming just sounds like another issue among many.

    The fact is that there are in fact, a series of Meta Issues that are different from other issues.

    What they are bringing into question is whether or not the entire human race can be brought into a decision making process  if these issues affect the future  of everyone.  

    That kind of issue has not been around for all that long and there is no precedent for having to deal with things on that level.  

    Multinational corporations have been operating out of view  and out of the scutiny of anyone, and yet they have the most impact on a variety of Meta Issues.

    What is needed is a larger view of what is going on and to view global climate change and the other Meta Issues as having greater urgency and importance that the other issues which are also have great impact.  

    This is beyond the sort of discussion that is ordinary.

    If you add this to the other global concerns that must be considered, we are looking at possibly not surviving into the 22nd century.  That ought to be getting people's attention.

    Thanks for pointing this out.

    hope that the idiots who have no constructive and creative solutions but only look to tear down will not win the day.

    by Stuart Heady on Fri Jun 17, 2011 at 09:36:05 AM PDT

    •  it is interesting (6+ / 0-)

      that this:

      If you add this to the other global concerns that must be considered, we are looking at possibly not surviving into the 22nd century.  That ought to be getting people's attention.

      Seems to be one of the issues that drives the fundies nuts on this topic, and makes it such a useful wedge issue.  God, of course, they argue, is the only force that can destroy the world or impact the climate in such a profound way.  I'm not sure how to deal with this topic anymore in general discussions with people because it has become such an absurdly politicized one by the right.

      "never trust a rich man when he offers you a truce"

      by KibbutzAmiad on Fri Jun 17, 2011 at 09:39:27 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  The way to deal with right wing bias (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        A Siegel, KibbutzAmiad, RunawayRose

        has to be seriously considered.  I would propose that the loud denials and anti science protestations are beginning to wear thin.  

        The only course is probably to just ignore them and dismiss them as fools.

        If one isn't quite sure of this or that aspect, it should not take away from what is generally prudent:

        It would be better to do something to prevent catastrophe than to wait and see what it looks like.  

        hope that the idiots who have no constructive and creative solutions but only look to tear down will not win the day.

        by Stuart Heady on Fri Jun 17, 2011 at 10:36:15 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  here is (8+ / 0-)

    a link to some of the writings by Castro on this

    It is difficult to talk to Americans about Castro's writings because of their pre-conceived opinions of him as a political leader but he has really written some of the most accessible and blunt stuff on this topic.

    "never trust a rich man when he offers you a truce"

    by KibbutzAmiad on Fri Jun 17, 2011 at 09:36:48 AM PDT

  •  heh (9+ / 0-)
    The problem with doing nothing is that you never know when you are finished.

    It would be funnier if all we were doing is nothing.

    Oh no.

    We are still INCREASING the amount of greenhouse gas we emit. This experiment is akin to waking up each day and drinking a small glass of poison. If it didn't kill us yesterday, then we drink a slightly larger glass each day.

    Then the GOP/denier crowd shrieks: "SEE! I told you poison isn't poisonous!"

    Avoid loud and aggressive persons, they are vexations to the spirit.

    by LaughingPlanet on Fri Jun 17, 2011 at 09:37:26 AM PDT

  •  Just about every morning our local wingnut radio (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    A Siegel, Edger, PeterHug, RunawayRose

    jock will mention that climate change is a hoax....He's an ex-actor.

  •  Even amongst those who (7+ / 0-)

    accept that climate change is real and (at least in part)  caused by man, most fail to recognize the extreme urgency for action. It seems that most believe that we have many decades to get serious about dealing with climate change and have overly simplistic notions of what it will take to deal with it. The reality is that we probably only have 3 or 4 years in which to start and it will be an enormous undertaking. It's not like we can turn this ship around on a dime.

    This video offers the best explanation I've seen of the immensity of effort that will be required:

    I just don't see much hope that enough action on climate change will come soon enough to make a meaningful difference. I sure hope I'm wrong.

    "To say that our aggressive bombing of Libya does not rise to the level of 'hostilities' flies in the face of common sense and is an insult to the intelligence of the American people." – Congresswoman Lynn Woolsey

    by Sagebrush Bob on Fri Jun 17, 2011 at 09:42:59 AM PDT

    •  Thanks so much, Bob (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Sagebrush Bob, RunawayRose

      This should be required viewing in every U.S. science classroom. My kids and I will be watching it this summer.

      If only we could condense its contents into a 60 second sound-bite!  

      •  Glad you liked it. (2+ / 0-)

        I keep posting this video periodically but very few seem to have the patience to watch it. I think what he has to say is extremely important and understood by few.

        "To say that our aggressive bombing of Libya does not rise to the level of 'hostilities' flies in the face of common sense and is an insult to the intelligence of the American people." – Congresswoman Lynn Woolsey

        by Sagebrush Bob on Fri Jun 17, 2011 at 11:23:08 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  I've seen Nate (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          talk a few times and have read much of his work.  For a variety of reasons, I find him slightly too pessimistic -- at least in terms of efficiency and technology -- but that is a pessimism assuming we decide to take the problem(s) and act seriously.  That assumption, however, is a pretty huge leap of faith.

          Blogging regularly at Get Energy Smart NOW! for a sustainable energy future.

          by A Siegel on Fri Jun 17, 2011 at 12:35:08 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Well so far it seems (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:

            that most climate change projections have proven too optimistic. I do hope the opposite is true with him but I kind of doubt it - especially since I see little chance that our political establishment is capable of providing the leadership required to deal with this.

            "To say that our aggressive bombing of Libya does not rise to the level of 'hostilities' flies in the face of common sense and is an insult to the intelligence of the American people." – Congresswoman Lynn Woolsey

            by Sagebrush Bob on Fri Jun 17, 2011 at 06:00:52 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

  •  Yes, Progressive leadership is in denial (7+ / 0-)

    about the impacts of peak oil and climate change.

    They mostly aren't in denial about the reality of climate change. However, they set their priorities in a way that puts climate change, energy and peak oil way down the list.

    They don't get it.

    look for my eSci diary series Thursday evening. "It's the planet, stupid."

    by FishOutofWater on Fri Jun 17, 2011 at 09:46:31 AM PDT

  •  This is so important and informative... (5+ / 0-)

    as your diaries usually are, A. Siegel.

    Thank you for all you do!

    "For coal to be 'clean,' it must magically float out of the ground" - RL Miller

    by Hopeful Skeptic on Fri Jun 17, 2011 at 09:50:53 AM PDT

  •  Nobody Knows How to Get the Political System (4+ / 0-)

    to address problems that are less severe and more immediate.

    The case needs to be put before forces in society that have the power to act themselves or to give government that power.

    I'm afraid it's probably madness to put in the amount of time it's likely to take to empower our system before we can start in on a meaningful response.

    We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

    by Gooserock on Fri Jun 17, 2011 at 09:51:35 AM PDT

  •  I can attest to the correctness of this diary (7+ / 0-)

    Look at Europe -  how the abolishment of national border controls and the establishment of free movement within the Schengen was seen as one of the great achievements of European progress.

    Now we have an increasing stream of boat people coming in from Africa - via Spain for years already, now the floodgates are open via Libya. That this has escalated now through the Libyan crisis is a vagary of the moment. The stream of people by itself has nothing to do with Libya, but everything to do with the deteriorating conditions on all the African continent south of the Sahara. In no small part it is blowback for Europe´s own economical policy - such as in the fact that the legal and illegal emptying of West African seas by European trawler fleets has destroyed the livelihood for millions and millions of West Africans. Where would they go? A large and growing number try the way north, believing that they are less likely to starve if they make it here.

    This is a fore taste of the kinds of streams of uprooted humanity that the climate consequences of mostly our behaviour will set in motion.  It is small yet in comparison to what is sure to come on the current path. And yet - the effect on Europe is that it has put our free movement system under critical strain: at first the rich northern countries didnt take it seriously as their problem if Spain had boat people. Now Italy in return said OK, we´ll let them all in, give them a stamp, and then they can take the train to Franbce or Holland or wherever. And so as a consequence European countries are on the verge of reinstalling the very border controls they eliminated, and Europe as a whole is on the point of losing one of the great progressive advances it had made. That is how it will work with the consequences of climate change as well. It will not hit us physically - it will hit us mentally first. People will not credit the threats from outside to their own earlier emissions - they will credit them as threats to the outside, feel threatened, and react by the age old regressive reaction of threatened animals.

    this diary has it exactly right.

  •  I agree with you (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    A Siegel, Edger, PeterHug

    but it leads me to a different place.

    -We probably have at most ten years.

    -Current Republicans will never, ever do anything.  Unto death.

    -Current Democrats, with few exceptions will not do anything against the wishes of the plutocrats.

    -It will take as lot longer than ten years to fix the Democrats.

    National and state politics seem to me to be a total writeoff.

  •  I can't give up because I have (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    marsanges, A Siegel, RunawayRose

    grandchildren (and my friends have grandchildren and some of you have grandchildren), but I really have very little hope.  While we are already seeing the beginnings of the trouble in store, the worst of it really won't hit for generations.  Getting people who are focused on quarterly Stock Market reports to consider 5-year plan capital expenditures is next best thing to impossible.  Getting those same people to realize that changing direction now means security in 2050 is really impossible.  Getting people who vote against feeding children and want to throw seniors on the streets to do anything that doesn't line their pockets (or the pockets of their "masters") is a whole other dimension of impossibility.

    The odds are about 10% it's already too late.  In 2008 if we'd mobilized like we did for WWII to get off fossil fuels in 10 years, we might have pulled this off - and yes, it's perfectly possible to get off fossil fuels in 10 years if we put that kind of energy (ha! a pun!) into the process (although not via nuclear - they take too long to build, and use too much water anyway).  We're in the 3rd year of that 10 and...

    While there is no "silver bullet" we know the "silver bbs" needed to get this done and we have some 14 million un- and underemployed folks who'd love to do it.  Retrofit every building in America for efficiency, double the average mpg and halve the average miles driven for the entire national "fleet" (however it takes - even if it means pairing a hummer with an EV rather than getting rid of the hummer), PVs on every south-facing roof surface, small wind in every back yard and large wind offshore, baseload plants using landfill gas, geothermal, and other non-extractive sources...  We can do this.  Randy and Rosie the Riveters are waiting for the go ahead.  Will we?

  •  What's the status of EA2020? (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    matching mole, RunawayRose

    The last I heard of it was around 2008 or so...

  •  And what is even more infuriating is that (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    A Siegel, RunawayRose

    many of the "other" problems (Social Security, the economy, high oil prices, etc) would be solved or sgnificantly improved if the USA was making a serious effort to reduce our carbon emissions!

    Renewable energy brings national security.      -6.25, -6.05

    by Calamity Jean on Fri Jun 17, 2011 at 10:44:56 AM PDT

  •  Climate Change is the Legacy Issue of all-time (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    There are issues of the moment. Health care seems the most urgent. There are issues that are legacy issues, such as the national debt. Many environmental issues fit into both categories, as they pose current challenges for our health, and also involve impacts on our world which will be felt for decades.

    And then, there is this one, legacy issue that transcends all, because our response may determine the legacy that this generation of humans (not just Americans) will leave for all those who follow us, unto eternity. HOw and why some among us prefer to pretend it's not a real problem and that we do not have a responsibility to do something about it, I cannot fathom. I cannot understand how a political party can sell itself as the party of personal responsibility and ignore this most demanding of all responsibilities.

    Coming Soon -- to an Internet connection near you:

    by FischFry on Fri Jun 17, 2011 at 10:55:30 AM PDT

  •  Do you follow Post Carbon Institute? n/t (0+ / 0-)

    Hopes to be Reporting LIVE from Durban @COP17 ...

    by boatsie on Fri Jun 17, 2011 at 01:59:46 PM PDT

    •  "Follow ..." (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      is the wrong word ... on my "energy favorites" ... which is something like 8500 sites, nowadays.  I read some of their work and familiar with many of the people there.  

      Blogging regularly at Get Energy Smart NOW! for a sustainable energy future.

      by A Siegel on Fri Jun 17, 2011 at 02:10:51 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  i meant are you aware of ... (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        A Siegel

        Their work gets better all the time, IMO. I sometimes cross post for them here. One of their members joined Kos but got into a rather ugly altercation ... he wasn't aware of how this community can jump on someone and so he continued holding to his guns with the use of the word 'pansy' and got banned. A big loss for DK, I felt.

        Hopes to be Reporting LIVE from Durban @COP17 ...

        by boatsie on Fri Jun 17, 2011 at 02:21:13 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Do you think (0+ / 0-)

    that going after Sherrod Brown as has done is a constructive way to get there?

    Darwinic pilgrims claim the image fills them with an overwhelming feeling of logic. --The Onion

    by mem from somerville on Fri Jun 17, 2011 at 02:59:13 PM PDT

    •  Sherrod Brown ... (0+ / 0-)

      is a "progressive", on many policy issues, who has been a road-block to progress on climate issues. A "concern troll", if you wish, who has spouted truthiness-laden talking points to undermine the EPA and paths toward a more aggressive (or even a mild) tackling of climate-change related issues.  

      Have I tracked what is doing? No.  Is Sherrod Brown basking in glory when it comes to leading the charge on climate chaos mitigation? No.

      Blogging regularly at Get Energy Smart NOW! for a sustainable energy future.

      by A Siegel on Fri Jun 17, 2011 at 03:49:36 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Well, I am sure that (0+ / 0-)

        pretty much every politician has some positions someone isn't going to like. But I'm just not on board with coming here to collect money for that effort--and manipulating this community they way they did.

        Sherrod maybe isn't your go-to guy on that issue, but I am going to have to part ways with people who are actively working to do Republican's opposition research jobs.

        Darwinic pilgrims claim the image fills them with an overwhelming feeling of logic. --The Onion

        by mem from somerville on Fri Jun 17, 2011 at 04:14:00 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

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