The new Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report reads like a science fiction writer's vision of apocalypse. But President Obama still fails to lead and to deal decisively with climate change and its looming tidal wave of human suffering.
What follows is a portion of the imagined climate change speech President Obama needs to make to the nation, and the world. See the entire speech at www.andrewwillner.com.
President Barack Obama
"Emancipation from Fossil Fuels: A New Birth of Freedom"
Mr. Speaker, Mr. Vice President, members of Congress, fellow citizens: I come before Congress and the people of the United States tonight because we can no longer deny the horrific threat of carbon pollution, the corrupting influence of the fossil fuel industry, or the great danger we face as a nation.
Just over 150 years ago, President Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation. That act made slavery's eradication and the Union's reunification inevitable. Tonight I am proclaiming our emancipation from fossil fuels. I do so for the safety of our nation, our children and their children. This proclamation will make the United States the leader in combating global climate change, and release big oil's stranglehold on our nation's energy policy and our democracy.
I take this step because the evidence that climate change is happening, that it is a threat to our economy, national security and prosperity, is unequivocal. I do so because the predominant moral issue of the 21st century has now become climate change. Its national security threat is now greater than the threat of Nazism faced by President Franklin Roosevelt. Its economic threat is greater than that of the Great Depression, also met head-on by President Roosevelt. And it is now an even greater moral threat to our nation than that of slavery, as faced by President Lincoln. Our fossil fuel addiction endangers our cities, our livelihoods, our economy, our security, our children and grandchildren, and even civilization. It is a threat as well to this nation's moral compass, which has always guided us to improve life for our most vulnerable citizens. We now must shoulder the responsibility for keeping the planet habitable, or suffer the consequences.
I am proclaiming emancipation from fossil fuels in large part because of industry malfeasance. Our domestic oil, gas and coal companies, that served us so well in the past, did not deserve blame when the risks of climate change were revealed to Congress in 1988. But the industry does deserve blame for its willful and treasonous campaign of deceit, delay and denial conducted since 1988, as CO2 emissions responsible for catastrophic global warming have risen apace. More than 60 percent of the carbon emissions now threatening our planet and our nation occurred since that date 25 years ago.
My administration unequivocally supports the climate science community, which is under politically orchestrated assault by the fossil fuel industry. To back this assertion I have asked for a prompt report from the National Academy of Sciences, for advice on climate change technical issues, a report due within 90 days.
I am also establishing a White House Council on Climate to include a new cabinet post, members of Congress, members of the business and agricultural community, academics and others to advise me on the public policy initiatives required to effectively address this crisis.
I also issue a warning to the fossil fuel industry: Further attempts to corrupt our democratic system to serve their own profits will not be tolerated by me, this administration or the American people. Honest efforts to assist us in meeting this crisis will be welcomed; resistance will not stand.
I am also, today, directing every agency of government to develop detailed plans, to be submitted within six months, to advise me and the newly formed White House Climate Change Council on immediate steps our government can take to mitigate the effects of this unfolding climate disaster.
Climate change will affect the lives of people around the world - endangering access to water, food, threatening health and the environment. These disruptions will strain civil authority around the globe, bringing unrest, failure of government services, and even the collapse of nations. Therefore, I am asking the Joint Chiefs of Staff of the U.S. military to come to me with a plan in six months to address climate change threats to global and national security.
Because I refuse to condemn this generation and future generations to a planet that's beyond fixing, and since we will be judged as a people, and as a society, and as a country on where we go from here - tonight, I am sending a new Energy and Climate Bill to Congress. As part of that bill, I will be requesting an immediate shift of energy subsidies and tax incentives formerly applied to fossil fuel production to sustainable energy research and production.
We will take immediate steps to develop a New Green Deal, instituting "a new green industrial revolution" to generate the new technologies needed to overcome the challenge of climate change. This New Green Deal will include a revenue-neutral carbon tax, with all revenues returned to taxpayers as payroll tax cuts. It will redirect a significant portion of military spending to public works projects to harden dams, coastal nuclear plants, airports and other infrastructure against sea rise and flooding, to improve food and water security against drought, give America a world-class public transportation system, and power America with 50 percent renewable energy by 2020, and 100 percent by 2030.
Our "New Green Deal" will also authorize the creation of the Climate Change Corps, the CCC, an organization much like the Peace Corps that will offer climate change mitigation and adaptation technology and techniques to developing nations who desperately need our help.
My administration will also begin negotiations with the United Nations and the world's largest carbon emitters to secure international climate agreements by the end of my term as president. It's time for the U.S. to lead on climate, negotiating binding treaties and accords on greenhouse gas emissions.
Of course, I do not expect these dramatic changes to come easily or without hardship and sacrifice. But failure in the case of climate change is not an option. We must have enough food to eat and water to drink. We must ensure that our infrastructure and government institutions are not threatened at every turn by catastrophic random climatic events. Again, as during the debate over slavery 150 years ago, we face an undeniable moral imperative to act quickly and decisively.
I close by asking: By what name will future generations know our time? Will they speak in anger of the age of the Great Unraveling, when profligate consumption exceeded Earth's capacity to sustain us, when greed and corruption led to a wave of collapsing ecosystems, violent competition for what remained of the planet's resources, and a die-back of the human population? Or will they look back in joyful celebration on the time of the Great Turning, when their forebears courageously embraced the better angels of their nature, turned crisis into opportunity, and learned to live in creative partnership with one another and the Earth?
Good night, thank you, and God Bless the United States of America.
Former NY/NJ Baykeeper Andrew J. Willner is a sustainability consultant and has been an activist in the New York-New Jersey bioregion for more than 25 years. He lives in Keyport, N.J.