Elizabeth Warren had the perfect response to CNN's terrible question about climate change and lightbulbs

Elizabeth Warren had the perfect response to CNN's terrible question about climate change and lightbulbs

On Wednesday, CNN finally provided an extended (very, very extended, in an effort to evade DNC rules on debates) look into the Democratic proposals for combatting climate change. The repeated message was that we must undertake a comprehensive, economy-wide effort to quickly cut carbon emissions. We must change how we power our homes, and our cars, and what industry can and cannot dump into the air as by-product of its daily manufacturing efforts. At stake is the well-being of literally billions of people, the shape of our coastlines, the ability of agriculture to feed us, and which plants and animals will vanish from our local landscapes.

That did not stop the usual rebuttal, this time offered by CNN host Chris Cuomo. Saving the very atmosphere that sustains us is certainly an important goal, to be sure, but is it so important that we must mandate efficiency standards for light bulbs?

Presidential contender Sen. Elizabeth Warren wasn't having it. "Give me a break," she responded. “This is exactly what the fossil fuel industry hopes we’re all talking about. They want to be able to stir up a lot of controversy around your light bulbs, around your straws and around your cheeseburgers. When 70 percent of the pollution, of the carbon that we’re throwing into the air, comes from three industries.”

Yes. And orchestrating important-person breakouts about lightbulbs and "Banning cows!" is therefore the go-to argument of lobbyists and their bought lawmakers alike. Saving the very atmosphere that sustains us will impinge upon your light-bulb freedoms, Americans. Can we tolerate that? We may save the Florida coastlines, but some say the living would envy the dead.

It is the same sort of Fox News frothing that sustains industry and conservatism both: the orchestrated goading of the public into a belief that sinister forces are, on every single morning, only a single light-bulb victory away from destroying America as we know it. Such conspiracies are the Hummel figurines of the right, hoarded and cherished, and the ability of any charlatan in an expensive suit to tap into the conspiracy hive-mind and market their own new, useful panics is ... not new.

It may take an extremely gullible person to shriek, on command, "But what about our light bulbs!?"—but America has millions, and they all watch the same television channels.

The three industries Warren identified as responsible for 70% of belched daily carbon are, by the way, the building industry (which uses both wood and steel in massive quantities), the electric power industry (most of the electricity that flows into your home still comes from burning something, from coal to gas), and the fossil fuel industry itself. It is those three industries that must make enormous, consequential changes, or all the light bulb standards and straw bans will amount to very little indeed. We must develop a renewable, likely plant-based alternative to single-use plastics; this is an industrial imperative. We cannot continue to burn fossil fuels—or anything else—to power our cities or our cars; we must shift, in rapid and massive fashion, in such a way as to leave most of the remaining stuff in the ground. We must reforest to a greater extent than we harvest, retrapping carbon in nature's best-designed containment devices.

This is all extremely frightening to, specifically, the fossil fuel industry, and it continues to be the prime driver behind the belief that Americans ought to tell the children and grandchildren to go to hell, if the alternative is any specific minor inconvenience. But it is a ruse. It's meant to keep the public distracted by minor mischief for as many quarters as those industries can muster, squeezing out every last possible dime before the public finally realizes, in the form of new heatwaves, droughts, storms, and tides, that the results are already upon us.

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