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What If The Man’s Right?

al-gore.jpgAl Gore has a must-read op ed in Sunday’s New York Times. The opening paragraph sounds an alarm that transcends normal political considerations and evokes visceral reactions, pro and con:

WE — the human species — have arrived at a moment of decision. It is unprecedented and even laughable for us to imagine that we could actually make a conscious choice as a species, but that is nevertheless the challenge that is before us.

Our home — Earth — is in danger. What is at risk of being destroyed is not the planet itself, but the conditions that have made it hospitable for human beings.

We don’t usually pay attention to such warnings — we have a derisive term for them: “alarmist.” The conventional wisdom, which will no doubt rain down like acid on the man who keeps telling us that global warming is approaching a planetary crisis, will call this hyperbole, hysterics, or worst of all, just politics.

And it’s not just “they” who will say this; we contribute to the climate in which such responses are the only ones taken seriously. We unwittingly do it to ourselves.

Is our Constitutional framework of checks and balances under assault? Our Bill of Rights under siege? Well, yes; I guess they are. Is the Executive ignoring all limits, engaging in disastrous foreign wars, and threatening more, dragging our prestige through the mud, defying Congress and public oversight? And is our Vice President completely out of control and secretly usurping even the President’s powers? Uh, yes. Has our Justice Department become so politicized that we cannot assume fair administration of law? Do we know they’re using DoJ to smear our party’s officials, shield theirs and drive our supporters from the polls? Check. Have they been violating the law every day by how they spy on us, how they treat detainees, how they make decisions on everything from mine safety to drug testing, to food inspections to environmental protection, to protecting national security secrets and on and on? Uh, I guess they are. Have their judicial appointees broken all links to precedent, threatening to undo individual rights and public protections painstakingly built over decades, and keep doing it for decades? Check. But we all knew that; we predicted it; none of this surprises us anymore; nothing new here.

Think about what we tell ourselves about the merits of starting impeachment proceedings against members of this regime. It has zero chance of success, there’s not enough time, or it would suck the wind out of other priorities, or make the Democrats look bad. No, it’s better to continue investigating — as though we’re hoping to discover something really bad, compared to what we already know. The consensus is we should spend our energy pointing out how obstructionist the other side is while we hope the American people punish their side for the next two years of stalemate more than they punish ours in 2008. Then maybe things will be better by 2009. But the man says we can’t wait:

Without realizing the consequences of our actions, we have begun to put so much carbon dioxide into the thin shell of air surrounding our world that we have literally changed the heat balance between Earth and the Sun. If we don’t stop doing this pretty quickly, the average temperature will increase to levels humans have never known and put an end to the favorable climate balance on which our civilization depends. . . .

As a direct result, many scientists are now warning that we are moving closer to several “tipping points” that could — within 10 years — make it impossible for us to avoid irretrievable damage to the planet’s habitability for human civilization. . . .

To this end, we should demand that the United States join an international treaty within the next two years that cuts global warming pollution by 90 percent in developed countries and by more than half worldwide in time for the next generation to inherit a healthy Earth.

If by the beginning of 2009, the United States already has in place a domestic regime to reduce global warming pollution, I have no doubt that when we give industry a goal and the tools and flexibility to sharply reduce carbon emissions, we can complete and ratify a new treaty quickly. It is, after all, a planetary emergency. [bolding mine]

Suppose the man is right. What if we really do need to make hugely important decisions in the next two years. Not after the next two years, or after the 2008 elections. During the next two years. How does that happen?

I don’t know whether there is any feasible strategy — as in likely to succeed — for doing what must be done. But I believe that to get at everything else we care about, the regime’s continued presence in office is the first problem that must be solved. The message is straight forward: the current regime has violated the trust prerequisite for remaining in office; they are hurting the country now and deserve to be removed and not replaced by more of the same. Everything the regime believes and does stands in the way of every goal the majority of Americans have: justice, international peace and security, fairness and economic security for our citizens, and a little thing like keeping the planet hospitable for humans.

Putting impeachment on the table has always mades sense to me, not because I have any illusions it would likely lead to forcibly removing the regime from office — that may or may not happen — but because their unworthiness for office provides the framework for every other issue we support. Everything they do, every statement of their philosophy, every action they take or fail to take while in office should be made an argument for removing them from office now and preventing their clones from returning in 2009.

Our children have a right to hold us to a higher standard when their future — indeed, the future of all human civilization — is hanging in the balance. They deserve better than a government that censors the best scientific evidence and harasses honest scientists who try to warn us about looming catastrophe. They deserve better than politicians who sit on their hands and do nothing to confront the greatest challenge that humankind has ever faced — even as the danger bears down on us.

It may not be possible to remove them from office before 2009, but I believe every issue we care about can be argued to the America people as dependent on the end of their rule, their governing philosophy, their sound bites and their wannabe successors. And if we don’t make this argument every day between now and 2009, I don’t understand how we’re more likely in 2009 than we are today to listen to the man who wrote this op ed.

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John has been writing for Firedoglake since 2006 or so, on whatever interests him. He has a law degree, worked as legal counsel and energy policy adviser for a state energy agency for 20 years and then as a consultant on electricity systems and markets. He's now retired, living in Massachusetts.

You can follow John on twitter: @JohnChandley