I took this photograph this morning, at a latitude of north 42 degrees 32 minutes 58 seconds, not far from the border with Canada.
As you can see, the grass is green, and has recently been cut. There isn’t a flake of snow on the ground.
We’re now entering the middle of December, and I have yet to shovel the front sidewalk. Last year was like this, too, and people around here are wondering if we’re going to have another year without a winter.
So, what’s the big deal? Don’t people enjoy a bit of respite from winter?
Sure, it’s lovely not to have to break out a snow shovel, but in the larger scheme of things, it’s more trouble than it’s worth. Last year’s lack of a winter set the stage for agricultural disasters all across the northern part of the United States, as fruit crops set flower far too early. The lack of spring snowpack meltoff set the stage for an historic drought that is still going on, and extreme weather events cost the American economy hundreds of billions of dollars.
Now, the agricultural economy of the Midwest is preparing for another climate-related blow. Due to the combination of the drought and what has been the hottest year on record, the Mississippi River is nearing record-low levels that will, some time in the next few weeks, completely stop barge traffic on the river, in what locals are calling a “slow motion natural disaster”. Billions of dollars of commodities will sit undelivered.
There are entire industries that depend upon normal winter weather to succeed economically. For example, there’s the winter sports industry. Protect Our Winter has tallied up 211,900 jobs in the United States that depend on winter sports activities. Climate change is placing those jobs in peril.
I think of these things when I see Democratic voters making excuses for Barack Obama’s neglect of climate issues. They say that dealing with climate change must wait until the economy improves, but the fact is that the climate crisis is one of the factors that’s holding the economy back.
For 25 years, corporate polluters have come up with excuse after excuse to delay action to confront climate change. With every round of new excuses, the expense of dealing with the crisis has become larger. In the last few years, Americans have begun to pay the price of delay. We’re paying higher prices for food. We’re paying for increased disaster relief. We’re suffering from lost jobs and lower wages.
Right now, we’re paying the price of climate change, but we’re still not doing anything to solve the problem. It’s as if we’re living in a house with a rotting roof, and we’re paying every month to replace books, and furniture, and appliances that are being ruined when the rain comes in from the outside, but still, we’re refusing to pay the price to fix the roof. We’re using the money instead to keep on putting gas in the big SUV that’s sitting in the driveway.
In the one month since he has been re-elected, Barack Obama has signed a law to ban participation of US airlines in a European carbon trading system, opened up huge new areas of the Gulf of Mexico to offshore oil drilling, and blocked international negotiations for a climate change treaty from moving forward. President Obama is moving America even further away from responsible climate action.
It’s not going help matters for rank-and-file Democrats to continue to make excuses for Obama, simply because he’s “their” President. President Obama needs to hear from Americans that his neglect of climate policy is not acceptable.
Some are saying that Barack Obama can’t act on climate change because the politics of the time isn’t right. “Politics is the art of the possible,” they say. These people need to consider, however, is the reason that climate action has become politically impossible. The reason is that the majority of Americans who understand that climate change is a real and serious problem have been mostly silent. Very few have spoken out against Barack Obama’s bad record on the environment.
“Electing a Republican would make things worse!” they’ve said. Well, congratulations to them on preventing the election of a Republican President. Instead, they’re re-elected an anti-environmental Democrat. Millions of people who like to think of themselves as environmentally-enlightened voted for a President who has made it clear he doesn’t intend to take the climate crisis seriously.
So, if politics is the art of the possible, these voters need to ask themselves now what they can possibly do to make the political situation better.
Climate action is possible. It’s more than possible. It’s necessary.
If you voted for Obama, it’s your responsibility to act on this issue – now.