Supreme Court Puts the Pressure On

Bill McKibben, an AlterNet guest columnist, is spearheading the Step It Up 2007 campaign. A scholar-in-residence at Middlebury College, McKibben's newest book is the forthcoming Deep Economy: The Wealth of Communities and the Durable Future. His column is reprinted by permission from Grist. For more environmental news and humor sign up for Grist's free email service.

Everyone's getting into the act!

The news this week that the Supreme Court has decided global warming is a problem, and the U.S. EPA can't just ignore it, is significant for two reasons. One, it's the law of the land. And two, just as importantly, it's one more sign that the tide has finally begun to turn.

Official Washington has spent two decades pretending that the laws of physics and chemistry don't apply inside the Beltway. But now Congress is taking it seriously, and so is the Supreme Court. The White House is the last bunker, and even there people must be turning a bit pale at reports from the front.

That's why it's more important than ever that those of us who know enough and care enough to take action ratchet up the pressure. The oil companies and the coal barons read the newspapers too -- they know that their days of a free ride are coming to a close, and the only question now is how high the fare is going to be.

But the answer to that question will decide the climatic future. You can be sure that they're preparing to sign on to the weakest deal possible -- and announce it as a triumph, the first step forward. CEOs will pose with congressfolk, editorialists will delight. But if the deal stinks -- if it falls short of the targets scientists now tell us are necessary -- than the celebration will be short-lived. Instead of a solution, it will mean only that the lid's been knocked off the pot and the pressure dissipated.

This moment won't arrive again for a few years (it's been 15 years since health-care reform disappeared from the congressional agenda) and by the time it finally does, the deepest kind of damage will be done. The White House is in a bunker, but there's another bunker to fall back to, and that's what's so perilous about the politics of the moment.

Which is why 80 percent by 2050 as a rallying cry is more important than ever. We need to remind both our opponents and our allies that compromise on the essentials simply isn't going to do the trick. It's not a political problem -- it's a problem of chemistry, and chemical reactions don't bargain.

We will pass the 1,200 rally mark today at Step It Up '07. In every corner of the country, people are demanding real action. And they're starting to be heard.

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