Climate Change: End of the Silence?
By Jose Aguto on 10/01/2012 @ 03:07 PM
Living in “1984”
For the past two years many people deeply concerned about climate disruption have felt like it was Orwell’s "1984." As the persistent drum beat of record-breaking high temperatures, massive forest fires and drought damaged crops hammered the United States this summer, mainstream media coverage underreported potential links to global warming. Since 2010, media coverage of the climate crisis, which is predicted to have impacts upon human society of unprecedented scope, had nearly dropped off a cliff.
On Capitol Hill, where exists one of the greatest institutions to turn the national and global tide from inaction to solutions, the prospect of climate legislation literally disappeared. Rather, climate advocates endured a House of Representatives exceptionally hostile to safeguarding the natural environment. And while skeptics ramped up assertions that climate change is a hoax, the vast majority of scientists polled - 84% and 97% - who assert it is real, did not receive vigorous support in response. With the public confused and the economy in recovery, the mere mention of the phrase “climate change” itself became a policy decision, omitted for example from President Obama’s April 2012 Earth Day Proclamation.
The Weather and the People Speak
The conspiracy of the silence could not last perhaps because it is simply unconscionable to avoid action in the face of overwhelming experience and evidence of climate disruption’s profound and grave challenge to our very existence. This summer’s unprecedented drought, withering crop production, wildfires, and fisheries disasters are causing many to re-think whether climate disruption exists, or if it should be a top priority, thus reversing trends in public awareness and media coverage. Members of Congress such as Rep. Jim Moran (through House Resolution 672) and Sen. John Kerry began to speak out.
This increasing awareness is now extending to the voting public including the independent vote cherished by all candidates during this election season. A flurry of grassroots and grasstops efforts has arisen in just the past two months, demanding that one or both of the presidential candidates talk about climate change and/or clean energy. Petition drives were initiated by:
- Climate Summit 2013 Coalition;
- League of Conservation Voters;
- Global Solutions;
- Mom’s Clean Air Force;
- Climate Reality Project;
- National Wildlife Federation;
- Interfaith Power & Light; and
- Energy Action Coalition.
Many of these efforts are seeking to have the topic discussed during the presidential debates. A large group of donors threatened to withhold funding from President Obama’s reelection campaign unless he broke his silence on climate change.
Will Candidates Utter Meaningful Sounds Though?
The nation is no longer silent about climate change, and politicians, however reluctantly, are compelled to speak about it. Mitt Romney and President Obama have ended their silence by expressing their views on climate change during their respective conventions. Both candidates responded to a question on climate change, for which Pres. Obama called it one of the biggest issues of this generation, and Mitt Romney acknowledged the world is getting warmer and human activity contributes to it.
And so, the silence on the climate crisis is over. It is a step both significant and small, for practically any sound is better than deafening nothingness--yet because we’re coming from nothingness, this sound could still mean very little. The ultimate barometer of success is whether we can transform this step into the necessary moral, political, economic, and social will to create a future in which future generations thrive in peaceful and sustainable co-existence each other and all of God’s Creation.
In this era, how do we prevent catastrophic impacts of climate disruption upon ourselves, our children, and future generations? In this election cycle, how do we get all candidates for political office to recognize and act upon these grave threats?
Those who seek a peaceful, sustainable, and thriving global community recognize that humanity in the aggregate operates in systemic disharmony and unsustainability with the Earth and our future. Urgent and dramatic reductions in global greenhouse gas emissions are a necessary first step in the right direction. This step requires the kind of buy-in and commitment of a scope not seen, and perhaps even greater than that of the civil rights movement. It requires the return and commitment of many currently disillusioned with national politics and disengaged from our democratic processes. While that disillusionment may be valid, it can also be replaced by seeking, voting for and electing public servants to national office who will serve in the interests and well-being of the people and future generations.
Right now, what we have are two presidential candidates who have merely said that climate human-caused climate disruption is real. Existing energy and environmental policies in the aggregate are increasing, not decreasing global greenhouse gas emissions. President Obama and Mitt Romney have not provided a tangible plan or steps necessary to prevent catastrophic consequences of climate disruption. We are trying to have them to say more and to act if elected. This election season offers the voting public the opportunity to change the membership of a Congress with the lowest approval rating in history.
What You Can Do
In addition to exercising the right to vote, people can get candidates to “walk the talk” or change course in other ways. A sufficient amount of “people power” will enable us all confront the climate crisis with the optimism and resolve that comes from shared meaning and purpose.
In the short term:
- 1) Sign onto one, many, or all, of the petition drives listed above. FCNL is co-originator of the Climate Summit 2013 petition as an expression of concern by many sectors of civil society.
- 2) Ask all candidates whether they recognize the harm climate change will have upon today’s and future generations; and
- 3) Ask current members of the House to acknowledge the reality and harm of climate change and commit to action by endorsing House Resolution 672.
In the slightly longer term, many of the organizations which have grassroots petition drives are collaborating on more consolidated and coordinated activity. In these multiple efforts to harness the concern of the American public, our nation’s great democratic tradition is being applied.
Start of a Social Movement?
Is this the start of a movement? It remains to be seen, but the potential is great. For example, the Climate Summit 2013 petition (of which FCNL is a founding member) sought the support not only of organizations with well- known concerns about the climate crisis, but also from organizations representing farmers, peoples of color, communities of faith, youth, academia, business, labor, and state, tribal and local government officials. It asks that the next President not just talk about climate change, but host a summit inviting civil society to join in designing and implementing solutions.
The impacts of climate disruption are not just environmental in nature – they are matters of faith, human rights, economic well-being, food and water availability, national security, poverty, and justice. This in turn requires a movement of true partnership across sectors civil society in shoulder-to-shoulder collaboration. Both the broad message and membership is mandatory if we the climate advocacy community and the world at large, are to create the social movement that Gus Speth, Bill McKibben and others have said is necessary to address the climate crisis.
These are times of great potential and urgency. We are honored and humbled to join efforts to solve the climate crisis. We hope you will join the social movement, strengthened by the moral conviction that this is not about us, but for our children, future generations, and our Earth.