Global Warming: Not Just Another Issue

I’ve been in and around the environmental movement since the
first Earth Day in 1970, which I attended while living in
Philadelphia, Pa. For many years I’ve been following news
reports and articles about the dangers of global warming. In
2002, during my Green Party U.S. Senate campaign in New
Jersey, this was one of my top issues. Among other things,
we distributed over 100,000 copies of a campaign brochure
which prominently featured this position: “Move towards
energy independence, reverse global warming and create jobs
through a crash program to get energy from the sun, the wind
and other renewable fuels.”

But the truth of the matter is that, while I’ve done what I
could in the context of my primary political and life
commitments, I’ve seen this as one of a number of major
issues, like racism, corporate exploitation, sexism, war,
health care, workers’ rights, etc. I haven’t felt that it
needed any special priority.

As the new year begins, however, that has changed. My major
new year’s resolution is to become more directly involved in
helping to build a massive and activist movement as quickly
as possible on the issue of global warming or, to be more
accurate, catastrophic climate disruption.

This is not just another issue. It is an absolutely central
one. There is widespread agreement in the world scientific
community that unless we dramatically shift from the use of
fossil fuels to the use of clean and renewable energy, we
are facing a truly apocalyptic future. Among the likely

-The Hadley Center, a major climate research laboratory in
Britain, recently said that, “by 2040, most of the world’s
forests will begin to die.” (1)
-The near-disappearance of arctic sea ice. “It is 40%
thinner than it was forty years ago.” (2)
-“Climate change would probably exacerbate hunger and
poverty around the world. . . People who are highly
dependent on farming, fishing or forestry will see their
livelihoods destroyed.” (3)
-We will see heat waves worse than the one last summer in
Europe that killed upwards of 35,000 people.
-Hurricanes, tornadoes and other severe storms will become
more frequent and deadlier. May, 2003 brought 562 tornadoes
to the United States, 163 tornadoes higher than the previous
monthly high of 399, set in 1992.
-Island nations in the South Pacific are already seeing the
drastic effects of global warming as the sea rises. Many
small nations face disappearance under water.
-“Results of a major study showed yesterday that more than a
million species will become extinct as a result of global
warming over the next 50 years.” (4)
-“New research in Australia suggests that the amount of
water reaching the rivers will decline up to four times as
fast as the percentage reduction of rainfall in dry areas.
This, alongside the disappearance of the glaciers, spells
the end of irrigated agriculture.” (5)
-The melting of the glaciers and arctic sea ice could lead
to a shutting down of the Gulf Stream, “which bathes the UK
and northwest Europe in warm water carried northwards from
the Caribbean” (6) And because the Gulf Stream is the
“engine” powering what is called the “Great Ocean Conveyor.
. . a twisting, swirling current that wends through all the
world’s oceans,” (7) “the possibility exists that a
disruption of the Atlantic currents could have implications
far beyond a colder UK and northwest Europe, perhaps
bringing dramatic climatic changes to the entire planet.”

This is much more than “another important issue.” It is hard
to describe it as anything other than the major issue of our
day. Can you get more basic than the survival of life on
earth as we know it?

We won’t be able to move from a world of massive inequality,
racism, war and poverty to a world of economic and social
justice unless we who are pro-justice activists-ALL of us,
not just those who are part of the environmental
movement–prioritize this and move quickly to build a
powerful, visible, broadly-based and unified movement in the
United States to make this an issue the rulers and their
parties must respond to. And 2004 is very much the year to
do it. Such a campaign is a natural for those of us who
understand how tied in the Bushites are to the oil and coal
companies and who are working to mobilize the largest and
broadest vote for democracy, peace and justice in November.

The American people are with us on this issue. “A survey in
1999 found that 62% of the public favored renewable energy
over conventional sources. . .The Sierra Club in a similar
survey showed 80% supporting change.” (9) We need a
sophisticated, multi-tactical, emergency campaign to save
life on earth, one which involves everything from door to
door campaigning to full-page ads in major newspapers to a
massive march on Washington in the fall to persistent
pressure on Congresspeople, including non-violent sit-ins at
their offices if necessary. Such a campaign could begin to
turn that public opinion into concrete legislation to shift
our tax money from the subsidizing of oil, coal and nuclear
into a crash program to move rapidly towards the use of
clean and renewable energy sources and to conserve energy
through the retrofitting and weatherization of all our homes
and buildings.

Such a program is also a massive jobs program. It provides a
strong argument against the plans for on-going war and
empire building in pursuit of control of oil in the Middle

It is “anti-terrorism” program in that it can move us
towards “energy independence” and out of the Middle East. It
can also help lay the basis for an international plan to
transfer clean energy to poor countries. “Virtually all
developing countries would love to go solar; virtually none
can afford it. [A $300 billion a year] fund could come from
a small tax on international currency transactions, which
total $1.5 trillion every day. A tax of a
quarter-penny-per-dollar on those transactions would yield
about $300 billion a year for windfarms in India, solar
assemblies in El Salvador, fuel cell factories in South
Africa, and vast solar-powered hydrogen farms in the Middle
East.” (10)

Perhaps Earth Day this April could become the public
launching point for such a campaign, rather than an
opportunity for polluting corporations to “swallow the
ecological crisis and regurgitate it as a PR opportunity,”
in the words of Vermont environmental activist Doyle

We need to act as if the possibility of a decent future for
our children and their descendants is dependent upon what we
do this year and the next few years. Because it is.

1) Ross Gelbspan, interviewed in the February, 2003 Z
2) Bill McKibben, “Some Like It Hot,” in the July 5, 2001
N.Y. Review of Books
3) The United Nations Environment Programme
4) Steve Connor, “U.S. Climate Policy Bigger Threat to World
Than Terrorism,” January 9, 2004, The Independent
5) George Monbiot, “With Eyes Wide Shut,” in the August 12,
2003 Guardian
6) Bill McGuire, “Will Global Warming Trigger a New Ice
Age?,” November 13, 2003 Guardian
7) Brad Lemley, “The New Ice Age,” September, 2002 Discover
8) Bill McGuire, “Will Global Warming Trigger a New Ice
Age?,” November 13, 2003, the Guardian
9) Sidney J. Gluck, “The Necessity for a New Energy Policy”
10) Ross Gelbspan, “Rewiring The World’s Energy,” December
21, 2003, the Boston Globe