Sohn: Climate change is not a single-issue danger

Sohn: Climate change is not a single-issue danger

August 25th, 2019 by Pam Sohn in Opinion Times

Aerial view of large icebergs floating as the sun rises near Kulusuk, Greenland in mid-August. Greenland has seen two of the biggest melts on record since 2012. (AP Photo/Felipe Dana)

Photo by Felipe Dana

It's as easy as taking candy from a baby to accuse Republicans of useful idiocy when it comes to climate change: They stampede over each other running for cover to avoid talking about historic glacier melt and the hottest July on Earth ever in recorded history.

But what is the excuse for all but one Democratic presidential candidate (Jay Inslee, who last week dropped out when he couldn't gain traction in the polls)? And what is the Democratic National Committee's excuse?

They don't seem to have one. They, too, just mouth platitudes and bury their heads in the sand. What? They fear being labeled "radical liberals?" Or "concerned pragmatists," even?

Naomi Klein put it exactly right Wednesday in an open letter to the DNC via theintercept.com:

"DEAR MEMBERS OF THE DNC:

Your meeting in San Francisco this weekend takes place against a backdrop that is literally on fire. You are gathering one month after the hottest month ever recorded in human history. You are meeting on the same week that smoke from a record number of wildfires in the Amazon rainforest turned day into night in the Brazilian megalopolis of São Paulo. And you are meeting just days after Iceland's prime minister led her country in its first funeral service for a major glacier lost to climate change.

"This is the terrifying context in which you will vote on a series of resolutions to determine whether the presidential primaries will include a dedicated debate about the climate emergency. Not the already scheduled climate "forum" or climate "town hall," which will surely be fascinating for those who seek them out — but a formal televised debate among the top candidates vying to lead your party and the country.

"... [U]se your power to turn that debate into a reality. ..."

Instead, those party leaders say the rules on debates "are already set." Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez has said the party "will not be holding entire debates on a single-issue area."

That's hoisting himself on the height of useful idiocy. Climate change means everything about our existence will change: Habitat, jobs, health, energy, transportation, economy, political power, hunger, public safety, migration, everything. What single part of "single-issue" do you see here?

The International Panel on Climate Change in October said we had about a dozen years to get this right. That means our next president will have 10 years. As Klein's letter points out, "Not 10 years to agree on a plan or 10 years to get started on the plan. It will have 10 years to get the job done."

She was on a roll.

"What matters is that we act like we're in an emergency. Because it is only during true emergencies that we discover what we are capable of. During emergencies, we stop all procrastination and delay. We no longer do things just because that's the way they have always been done — instead, we suspend business as usual and do whatever it takes to get the job done. ... A very good place to show the country what this actually looks like is to vote to have a climate debate, precedents and procedures be damned."

For our Republican friends, here's a little dare: Beat the Democrats to this all-important debate — a debate that voters are ready for, even eager for. Ask the Trump-voting coal miners who in July visited Washington to demand that Congress protect their pension plans. Despite Trump's repeated promise to revive the coal industry, the miners have seen six coal companies declare bankruptcy since October — victims of cheaper alternative energy and the cost of coal's inherent toxic pollution — both to the Earth and to the miners themselves.

A friend recently told us about getting on one of Rep. Chuck Fleischmann's "town hall" phone conferences to ask about climate change policy. (The friend admitted that he told the screener he wanted to ask about border security, a ploy that did in fact get him unmuted.)

"I told him that I was concerned that his website made absolutely no mention of environment or climate change and yet our military strategists see climate change as one of the biggest, if not the biggest, threat to us in the world. I pointed out that it was causing migration, starvation, wars, and was also threatening our military bases. Chuck's pivot response was, "Well, we have Oak Ridge and they are working on nuclear power and I'm behind them."

The friend said he tried to point out to our representative that nuclear power would do little to nothing to offset climate change and rising temperatures, "but Chuck was ready to get off the subject telling me and the other listeners that there were thousands in the queue waiting to speak with him and that he had to move on."

The Union of Concerned Scientists in July released a report titled, "Killer Heat in the United States: Climate Choices and the Future of Dangerously Hot Days (2019)." The report includes data and fact sheets for all 433 Congressional districts in the contiguous U.S.

Historically, the Third District has seen 37 days a year with a heat index above 90 degrees. If our leaders get busy and do something to succeed in limiting global warming to 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit, we'll still see an increase to 82 days a year with that dangerous heat. If our leaders do nothing, by midcentury we'll see 90 such days a year, and by late century, we'll see 120 of those days — four months of 90-degree heat indices. And by the way, historically we've seen zero days with a heat index above 105. But if Republicans — and Democrats — do nothing, we'll see 20 by midcentury and 50 by late century.

How will that affect agriculture, health, energy, jobs, the economy? Single issue? Hardly.

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