An existential climate change fight

An existential climate change fight

Col. Lawrence Wilkerson, a former chief of staff to Secretary of State Colin Powell, made a return visit to Temple Emanuel of Great Neck on Dec. 2,  to lay out a rather dire forecast of “The Consequences of Climate Change: A National Security Perspective.” 
He couldn’t help but register a bit of panic over the incoming Trump Administration and its crew of climate-deniers and Big Oilmen.
“We have gone from ecstasy before the election to despair,” he says. We can’t afford to lose ground over the next four or eight years.”  
That’s because once the earth heats more than two degrees, “it is enough to start the process to the point where it is unrecoverable. We will accelerate so fast that by the end of the 21st century, we will see dire developments.”
Indeed, if you thought that a few million Syrian refugees could destabilize European democracies, think what hundreds of millions of climate refugees, would mean.
“By 2065, you are talking about machine guns on the border shooting people.”
We’ve actually already seen that happen: when police snipers murdered two black people as they tried to cross the Danziger bridge to flee New Orleans flooding after Hurricane Katrina.
The U.S. military, which is seeing its own military bases impacted by rising sea level, impeding its ability to deploy its air force and troops, or build submarines, is already concerned, but is unable to do anything for fear of being perceived as acting “politically.” 
As a result, “sea rise alone, will force the defense department to divert 10 to 20 percent of its $600 billion budget make its military installations resilient. 
“The Air Force at Langley already has days when jets can’t take off because the runways are flooded,” he said. “The military has no question at all about the climate changing and changing rapidly and that it’s changing faster” than previously projected.
Superstorms like the tsunami in Indonesia, the supertyphoon in Philippines or Katrina that supposedly shouldn’t happen except once a century are hitting every decade.
“The military sees the risk, wants something done,” he continued. “They don’t want to be the only ones who watch and then become the hammer, manning the machine guns on the border.”
Wilkerson did not offer much in the way of solution, beyond his organization, Climate Security Working Group, lobbying Congress members individually (he said he had a hopeful meeting with Joni Ernst and Charles Grassley). 
That is futile, though, because you have a Congress and a Trump Cabinet that is wholly in bed with donors from fossil fuels. 
Wilkerson said he was an “optimist.” But what a difference a couple of weeks makes.
Trump has doubled down to undermine Obama’s climate action efforts and reverse the transition to clean, renewable energy, after feigning that he was “open-minded” in an interview with the “failing” New York Times, and a pretend meeting with Al Gore. 
Trump says he will shut down NASA’s Climate Research division, pull the U.S. out of the Paris Climate Agreement, and reverse course on Obama’s Clean Power Plan (which his pick to lead the EPA, Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt is fighting to overturn in court). 
His transition team has demanded the names of all Department of Energy employees and contractors who have attended climate change policy conferences; many have reported a climate of intimidation, and there is fear of a witch hunt. 
He is installing oil men and climate deniers in key governmental positions. 
His pick for Secretary of State, ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson, not only has oil deals with Vladimir Putin, but vigorously supports the Trans Pacific Partnership, which empowers corporations to sue localities for “lost profits” when they adopt regulations for environmental protection.
What’s left to be done?
I find myself rooting for other counties to treat the U.S., under Obama the world leader on climate action, as a pariah, especially if Trump tears up the Paris Climate Agreement, and slap carbon fees and for the UN and international court to prosecute the U.S. for actions that result in the death and unliveability of lands, especially island nations like the Marianas. 
Fight corporations that are not making the transition to clean energy — boycott products, fight permits, cram stockholders meetings, or alternatively, divest and drive down stock prices of offending corporations and climate deniers. Sue to recover costs when pollution impacts public health, require new projects to address clean energy and water. 
Block rate hikes and actions of utilities that refuse to adopt the Clean Power Plan standards.
Work at the state and local level to instill a culture of sustainability, and codes and legislation that incentivize transition to clean renewable energy and a sustainable environment.
We need to back organizations like the Environmental Defense Fund and Natural Resources Defense Council, that have the best strategy to do this, and promise to take the U.S. Government and the EPA to court for violations of their Constitutional requirement to protect the health and welfare of people. 
We need to protest, to occupy, to boycott, to conduct unrelenting shaming campaigns of companies, corporate executives, investors and politicians who put short-term personal gain over long-term havoc.

By Karen Rubin

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