We're Screwing the Environment the Same Way We Screwed the Economy

Lately, the United States hasn't been very good at looking down the road. Its captains of industry and government admittedly blew the economic meltdown, even as its sellout media kept urging buys on stocks that were mostly worthless. Too bad the environmental meltdown is following the same, lame script.


According to a new study from the United Nations Environment Program, countries combating catastrophic climate change aren't lacking in resources or reasons; they're simply lacking ambition. It seems that, as with the economic meltdown, they'd rather wait until the crisis has already ripped the roof off the world as they knew it, before doing anything significant about it.

"The U.S. is in danger of losing the race in the new global energy economy," Angela Anderson, program director of the U.S. Climate Action Network, explained to AlterNet. "The reason is simple power politics. The entrenched fossil fuel industries are fighting tooth and nail to maintain their supremacy. They are fighting with campaign contributions and scare tactics that do nothing but block the actions Congress and the president could take to make the U.S. a real leader."

And they're succeeding wildly. After the so-called ClimateGate crap-sling purposefully peaked during last year's Copenhagen summit, global warming skepticism apparently rose in the UK and no doubt elsewhere. Consistent denier drumbeats from Fox News and its jackasses like Glenn Beck and others have further poisoned the well. Worse, there are allegations that even officials in the Obama administration, such as David Axelrod and Rahm Emanuel, are actively standing in the way of catching the U.S. up on global climate change efforts, as they forage among more domestic issues like the cratered American economy or the health care hornet's nest for worthier poll-bait.

But they are missing the obvious, as usual: Like Earth itself, America's regional and international problems are intricately networked, and they can all be ameliorated by accelerating the development of tomorrow's global energy economy today. More jobs, less waste, annihilation averted. Seems like easy street, right? Wrong.

"There are political strategists in the party who don't see this as the winner it is, and this is something we push back against," Andrew Light, senior fellow at the Center for American Progress told AlterNet. "You've got a huge campaign on the right to mobilize in favor of every specious claim against climate science. But there's not enough of our own mobilization on the ground to counter that."

Light feels that the non-binding Copenhagen Accord still cleared enough hurdles to avoid being a political laughing-stock. "Many will complain that the Copenhagen meeting did not achieve its goal of delivering a new final climate agreement," he wrote in an analysis published in February. "But it avoided a much worse outcome, namely locking in a legally binding agreement that would not reach climate safety."

He's being kind. Last year, China overtook not just the United States but also Denmark, Germany and Spain to become the world's largest manufacturer of wind turbines, which is to say the engine of the wind-power economy. China also passed a law in December demanding that its energy companies buy all their energy from renewable resources. "China is spending more of their economic stimulus on moving away from coal," Light told AlterNet. "They're doing more in terms of efficiency, solar power and transportation, and they have a more ambitious fuel-economy sector."

Meanwhile, Brazil voluntarily passed a law mandating a 39 percent reduction in emissions by 2020, the international deadline for peak emissions, which must necessarily decrease thereafter if we have any hope at all of restricting our global temperature increase to a still-lethal 2 degrees. According to the new UNEP study, that may still not be enough to avoid escalation of our current war on terra.

The maddening tangle eventually caused the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change's executive secretary Yvo de Boer to resign, effective July 1, perhaps in frustration. (It's hard to tell, given that he's defected to multinational services firm KPMG, which in 2005, among other controversies, admitted to creating fraudulent tax shelters for its mega-rich clientele.)

You know things are bad when even Osama bin Laden is making more sense on climate change than the Obama administration. "The world is held hostage by major corporations, which are pushing it to the brink. World politics are not governed by reason but by the force and greed of oil thieves and warmongers and the cruel beasts of capitalism," the notorious Saudi terrorist argued in a recent audiotape aired on Al-Jazeera. "The effects of global warming have touched every continent. Drought and deserts are spreading, while from the other floods and hurricanes unseen before the previous decades have now become frequent."

When it comes to America's environmental mindset, the cruel beasts bin Laden mention are currently best represented by cap-and-trade bills and giveaways to the nuclear industry. Right now, a bizarro hydra comprised of John Kerry, Joseph Lieberman and Lindsay Graham are trying to push through climate change legislation that would create a largesse for both, as well as the coal industry, while tossing scraps to more beneficial renewable energy resources like wind, solar, tidal power and more.

As brilliant BBC documentarian Adam Curtis argued in his 1992 series Pandora's Box, the nuclear industry has had 60 years to get its act together, and all it has really managed to produce is environmental catastrophes like Three Mile Island and Chernobyl. As for the cap-and-trade scam, if you think a bubble-addicted Wall Street, doped up on a steady diet of proprietary Ponzi algorithms and blockbuster bonuses, isn't looking to game a potential trillion-dollar market to its advantage (and therefore your disadvantage), I've got a McMansion in Detroit to sell you.

No, the U.S. government has yet to fully embrace the further horrors that await it down that road it unceasingly ignores. It's business as usual, as it gives away billions to rapacious banks, and next to nothing to its increasingly disenfranchised public. This in spite of the fact that quick movement on a clean-energy reboot would heal both its battered populace and its bank accounts. It's enough to turn a treehugger into a terrorist.

"People understand that clean energy investments lead to less dependence on oil, greater security and new jobs," Anderson said. "So the public shouldn't be blamed for the politicians' failure to stand up to special interests, and do what is right. The so-called scandals are orchestrated campaigns to confuse people about climate and convince them they don't have to worry about it. But Congress and the president are not confused, and know full well how serious the situation is. It's their job to enact the policies to protect Americans from catastrophic climate change and to keep us competitive."

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