Syracuse Post Standard
April 20, 2012
Despite what the junk science funded by the Koch brothers tells Rep. Ann Marie Buerkle, the scientific consensus on climate change is that humans are causing it. No matter how loud the yelling in the right-wing media echo chamber, if we don’t stop releasing heat-trapping gases into the atmosphere by burning fossil fuels by the end of this decade, we are in for a world of pain.
The good news is that once we accept that climate change is really happening, we can take action to stop it. Lasting solutions to the climate crisis are our best hope for building a much more humane economic system — one that closes deep inequalities, generates plentiful, dignified work and radically reins in corporate power. The only losers will be the right-wing climate deniers who profit from the current status quo.
Across the country, Big Coal, Oil, Gas and Nuclear are dangling the jobs carrot to exploit the economic crisis too many Americans are experiencing, while branding those of us trying to end fossil-fuel subsidies as job killers. It’s time to bust that myth. Despite generating $546 billion in profits between 2005 and 2010, ExxonMobil, Chevron, Shell and BP actually reduced their U.S. workforce by 11,200 employees over that period.
Investment in a green infrastructure program would create nearly four times as many jobs as an equal investment in oil and gas (according to the Political Economy Research Institute at the University of Massachusetts–Amherst). Since the private sector is not creating jobs at a rate that addresses the severity of the unemployment crisis, we need to invest in public jobs through a New Deal-style public works program to meet community needs. Central should be community-controlled, renewable energy and a human-centered transit system that allows us to choose between convenient car-free transportation options.
Big energy corporations have not only failed to address climate change, they have actively obstructed measures to address it with their lobbying, campaign contributions and funding of science misinformation.
These climate profiteers stand in the way of a clean energy transition. Our collective future is too important to leave in the hands of a self-serving, profit-seeking elite. Through democratic, public ownership of the big coal, oil and gas companies, we could direct the reinvestment of their $100 billion-a-year profits away from fossil fuels and into renewable energy.
It’s time to ban fracking, stop mountain-top removal, stop arctic and deep water drilling, and stop strip mining the tar sands. It’s time to invest in climate jobs now with a Green New Deal, which must include a just transition program so that workers receive full income and benefits as they make the transition to alternative work when they are displaced by the transition to renewable energy, such as the workers at the nuclear and oil-fired plants in Oswego when we phase them out.
At the recent U.N. Climate Change Conference in Durban, South Africa, the White House continued to block international action on climate change by delaying adoption of a global agreement to reduce emissions until 2020. Too little too late, this is a betrayal of future generations. We need a national policy goal of net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2025 (Tyndall Center for Climate Change Research in the United Kingdom). Industrial countries like ours need to peak in 2015 and then reduce carbon emissions 10 percent year over year for the next decade.
We can do this if we accept our responsibility to one another at this critical moment of opportunity. Exploitation is what’s been done by the powerful, and you can’t run a planet this way — just look at the mess it’s caused. Once we accept the reality of climate change, we can embrace an economy based on cooperation where we’ll all be better off. We just need the courage to face the problem head-on.