Sunday, September 22, 2019



There was a time when we could have an adult conversation about climate change, but then Fat Albert adopted it as his cause celebre after his failure to burnish the Clinton legacy, and the result is two decades of preening, posturing, hurling insults, and general trashing of any sense of “we’re all in this together.” What happens when adult conversation ends? You send in the children, as any of us in big cities could see yesterday. This week I went to a presentation by the incomparable Niall Ferguson, the best economic historian of our time. Niall lamented the sharp Leftward turn of academia, which we have seen at all levels, K-PhD. That’s why I had to laugh at the second article below, with the headline “Young people offer urgent moral clarity to do-nothing adults.” Hmmm, they indoctrinate our youth in ways that would make Lenin proud, then send them out to preach from the Manifesto AND insult us while doing it. What is it with the Liberal mindset that thinks we are so stupid as to be taken in by such an obvious ploy? Why do they think they can convince us of anything by insulting us, telling us that we are stupid or evil or both?

Fat Albert needs to get a grip: “This is our generation’s life-or-death challenge. It is Thermopylae, Agincourt, Trafalgar, Lexington and Concord, Dunkirk, Pearl Harbor, the Battle of the Bulge, Midway and Sept. 11.” This fits another pattern the Left has adopted – as the population remains unimpressed with their claims and theories, those claims become more extreme and delivered at higher decibels. They “bring in the children”, those of us who are parents have all watched our kids have screaming meltdowns, where they blame parents for everything they see as wrong in their lives (which is mostly nothing). I have written before that climate change is the quintessential white girl problem, the crisis du jour for those who have no real crises in their lives, so it makes sense that Liberals would send white girls out to harangue us, as they did yesterday.

Mostly Fat Albert recycles the same-ole-same-ole below, like claiming that climate change is leading to desertification, which it has been doing since the beginning of time. Why do you think the Middle East and Permian basin hold such fantastic stores of oil? He claims existential harm to food supplies, which would come as news to farmers who have been suffering from commodity price declines due to over-production. We had a real crisis last year between the US and Canada due to over-production of milk – the US stupidly sits on a 1.4 billion “strategic reserve” of American cheese – how absurd is that? Fat Albert tries once more to tell us that this is “the gravest threat faced by civilization”, which impresses nobody except those fortunate enough to have all other threats removed from their lives. It obviously impresses many of our youth, the most pampered and cocooned generation in the history of the world. My daughter and her husband have been preparing their car for the arrival of Baby Zion (already pushing 8 pounds), creating a civilian version of an armored personnel carrier, which they then have to take to be inspected to make sure they did everything right. No doubt, Baby Zion will one day undertake a march like the one we saw yesterday, probably by then mandated by the schools as the general population remains unimpressed with efforts to have us take this seriously. Liberals will not quit, they will only get more strident, and the rest of us will continue to note how much their claims diverge from reality and facts on the ground. Who ya gonna believe, Fat Albert or your own lyin’ eyes?

Opinion | Al Gore: The Climate Crisis Is the Battle of Our Time, and We Can Win

Things take longer to happen than you think they will, but then they happen much faster than you thought they could.

The destructive impacts of the climate crisis are now following the trajectory of that economics maxim as horrors long predicted by scientists are becoming realities.

More destructive Category 5 hurricanes are developing, monster fires ignite and burn on every continent but Antarctica, ice is melting in large amounts there and in Greenland, and accelerating sea-level rise now threatens low-lying cities and island nations.

Tropical diseases are spreading to higher latitudes. Cities face drinking-water shortages. The ocean is becoming warmer and more acidic, destroying coral reefs and endangering fish populations that provide vital protein consumed by about a billion people.

Worsening droughts and biblical deluges are reducing food production and displacing millions of people. Record-high temperatures threaten to render areas of the Middle East and the Persian Gulf, North Africa and South Asia uninhabitable. Growing migrations of climate refugees are destabilizing nations. A sixth great extinction could extinguish half the species on earth.

Finally people are recognizing that the climate is changing, and the consequences are worsening much faster than most thought was possible. A record 72 percent of Americans polled say that the weather is growing more extreme. And yet every day we still emit more than 140 million tons of global warming pollution worldwide into the atmosphere, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. I often echo the point made by the climate scientist James Hansen: The accumulation of carbon dioxide, methane and other greenhouse gases — some of which will envelop the planet for hundreds and possibly thousands of years — is now trapping as much extra energy daily as 500,000 Hiroshima-class atomic bombs would release every 24 hours.

Now we need to ask ourselves: Are we really helpless and unwilling to respond to the gravest threat faced by civilization? Is it time, as some have begun to counsel, to despair, surrender and focus on “adapting” to the progressive loss of the conditions that have supported the flourishing of humanity? Are we really moral cowards, easily manipulated into lethargic complacency by the huge continuing effort to deceive us into ignoring what we see with our own eyes?

More damage and losses are inevitable, no matter what we do, because carbon dioxide remains for so long in the atmosphere. So we will have to do our best to adapt to unwelcome changes. But we still retain the ability to avoid truly catastrophic, civilization-ending consequences if we act quickly.

Greta Thunberg at the climate protest in New York on Friday.CreditDamon Winter/The New York Times

This is our generation’s life-or-death challenge. It is Thermopylae, Agincourt, Trafalgar, Lexington and Concord, Dunkirk, Pearl Harbor, the Battle of the Bulge, Midway and Sept. 11. At moments of such crisis, the United States and the world have to be mobilized, and before we can be mobilized, we have to be inspired to believe the battle can be won. Is it really too much to ask now that politicians summon the courage to do what most all of them already know is necessary?

We have the technology we need. That economic maxim about slow-fast phenomena, first articulated by the M.I.T. economist Rudiger Dornbusch and known as Dornbusch’s Law, also explains the tsunami of technological and economic change that has given us tools to sharply reduce global warming pollution much faster than we thought was possible only a short time ago. For example, according to the research group Bloomberg New Energy Finance, as recently as 2014 — a year before the Paris climate agreement was reached — electricity from solar and wind was cheaper than new coal and gas plants in probably 1 percent of the world. Today, only five years later, solar and wind provide the cheapest sources of new electricity in two-thirds of the world. Within five more years, these sources are expected to provide the cheapest new electricity in the entire world. And in 10 years, solar and wind electricity will be cheaper nearly everywhere than the electricity that existing fossil fuel plants will be able to provide.

The Lee-Dekalb Wind Energy Center near DeKalb, Ill.CreditTannen Maury/EPA, via Shutterstock

A solar panel array at the Windorah Solar Farm, near the town of Windorah, in outback Queensland, Australia.CreditDavid Gray/Reuters

This transition is already unfolding in the largest economies. Consider the progress made by the world’s top four emitters of greenhouse gases. Last year, solar and wind represented 88 percent of the new electricity capacity installed in the 28 nations of the European Union, 65 percent in India, 53 percent in China and 49 percent in the United States.

This year, several American utilities have announced plans to close existing natural gas and coal generating plants — some with decades of useful life remaining — to replace their output with cheaper electricity from wind and solar farms connected to ever-cheaper battery storage. As the chief executive of the Northern Indiana Public Service Company said recently, “The surprise was how dramatically the renewables and storage proposals beat natural gas.” He added, “I couldn’t have predicted this five years ago.”

Today, the fastest-growing occupation in the United States is solar installer, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and it has exceeded average job growth sixfold in the last five years. The second-fastest growing job: wind turbine service technician.

In Australia, a high-tech entrepreneur, Mike Cannon-Brookes, is reportedly planning to sell renewable electricity generated in the Northern Territories to South Asian cities over a long-distance undersea cable. Globally, close to 200 of the world’s largest companies have announced commitments to use 100 percent renewable energy, and several have already reached that goal. A growing number of cities, states and provinces have pledged to do the same.

The number of electric vehicles on the road has increased by 450 percent in the past four years, and several automobile manufacturers are shifting research and development spending away from internal combustion vehicles, because the cost-reduction curve for E.V.s is expected to soon drop the cost of the vehicle well below comparable gasoline and diesel models’. Over half of all buses in the world will be electric within the next five years, a majority in China, according to some market experts. At least 16 nations have set targets to phase out internal combustion engine vehicles.

More broadly, the evidence now indicates that we are in the early stages of a sustainability revolution that will achieve the magnitude of the Industrial Revolution and the speed of the digital revolution, made possible by new digital tools. To pick one example, Google has reduced the amount of electricity required to cool its enormous server farms by 40 percent using state-of-the-art artificial intelligence. No new hardware was required. Sustainable alternatives to existing methods of industrial production are being pursued by more and more companies.

Schoolchildren with saplings from the government for planting in Prayagraj, India, in August.CreditRajesh Kumar Singh/Associated Press

Ethiopian children in Addis Ababa taking part in a national tree-planting drive in July.CreditMichael Tewelde/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

A farmer-led regenerative agriculture revolution that is also underway avoids plowing and focuses on building soil health by sequestering carbon dioxide in the ground, making the land more fertile. The farmers are using rotational grazing and planting trees and diverse cover crops to enrich soil and protect against erosion.

And so far, the best available technology for pulling carbon dioxide from the air is something called a tree. That’s why many nations are starting ambitious tree planting efforts. Ethiopia recently reported planting 353 million trees in 12 hours, nearly double the goal of 200 million. Scientists calculate that we have enough available land worldwide to plant between one trillion and one and a half trillion trees. To protect our vast but dwindling forests, new satellites and digital tools can now monitor deforestation virtually tree by tree, so corporations will know if the products they buy were grown on razed or burned forestland.

Yet for all this promise, here is another hard truth: All of these efforts together will not be enough to reduce greenhouse gas emissions sufficiently without significant policy changes. And right now, we don’t have the right policies because the wrong policymakers are in charge. We need to end the mammoth taxpayer-funded subsidies that encourage the continued burning of fossil fuels. We need to place a direct or indirect price on carbon pollution to encourage the use of cheaper, sustainable alternatives that are already out there. New laws and regulations may be needed as well to encourage innovation and force more rapid reductions in emissions.

The political reconfiguration we have desperately needed has been excruciatingly slow in coming, but we now seem to be at an inflection point, when political change begins to unroll more rapidly than we thought was possible. It’s Dornbusch’s Law, brought to politics.

The people, in their true function as the sovereign power, are quickly understanding the truth of this crisis, and they are the ones who must act, especially because the president is not on speaking terms with the truth and seems well beyond the reach of reason.

This will require a ferocious attack on the complacency, complicity, duplicity and mendacity of those in Congress who have paid for their careers by surrendering their votes and judgment to powerful special interests that are sacrificing the planet for their greed. To address the climate crisis, we must address the democracy crisis so that the people themselves can reclaim control of their destiny.

As has often been the case in successful political revolutions, young people have taken up the gauntlet with inspiring passion. Greta Thunberg has stirred millions as the school strike movement she began in Sweden spreads to many countries. The Sunrise Movement, the Extinction Rebellion, Zero Hour and other youth-led movements are gathering momentum daily. On Friday, hundreds of thousands of people around the world were marching and gathering to call for action on climate change. Employees of many corporations are aggressively demanding that their employers take action to help save the climate balance.

Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Senator Edward Markey introduced the Green New Deal at the Capitol in February.CreditPete Marovich for The New York Times

The “blue wave” that gave Democrats control of the House in last year’s midterm elections was fueled in part by concern about climate. The Green New Deal, introduced by Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York and Senator Edward J. Markey of Massachusetts, ties solutions to the climate crisis to environmental justice and a “just transition” that will create millions of well-paying jobs. This effort has won support from many Americans, just as the nuclear freeze movement of the early 1980s attracted wide approval and helped pave the way for an arms control agreement between President Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev, the leader of the Soviet Union.

Virtually all of this year’s Democratic presidential candidates are making the climate a top priority. Many have released impressive and detailed plans that would have been unthinkable only a few years ago. A CNN poll in April found that the climate crisis was the No. 1 concern of Democrats who are registered to vote. Another recent poll showed that a record 79 percent of American adults and 86 percent of teenagers believe, finally, that the climate crisis is caused by human activity, and, even more significantly, so do 60 percent of Republicans. Americans’ disapproval of President Trump’s approach to the climate was higher, at 67 percent, than on any other issue.

College Republicans at dozens of schools have called on the Republican National Committee to support a carbon tax and have loudly warned the party that it will forfeit support from younger voters if it does not. Another recent poll shows that 67 percent of millennial Republican voters say their party needs to do more on climate.

Next year’s election is the crucial test of the nation’s commitment to addressing this crisis, and it is worth remembering that on the day after the 2020 election, the terms of the Paris climate accord will permit the United States to withdraw from it. We cannot allow that to happen. Political will is a renewable resource and must be summoned in this fight. The American people are sovereign, and I am hopeful that they are preparing to issue a command on the climate to those who purport to represent them: “Lead, follow, or get out of the way.”

Al Gore shared the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change for his work to slow global warming. He is the author of, among other books, “An Inconvenient Truth: The Crisis of Global Warming.”

Young people offer urgent moral clarity to do-nothing adults

Opinion by David Gergen and James Piltch

David Gergen is a CNN senior political analyst and professor of public leadership at the Harvard Kennedy School, where he founded the Center for Public Leadership. James Piltch is Gergen's chief research assistant. His writing on civic life and education has appeared in The Washington Post, The Boston Globe, and The Chronicle of Higher Education. The views expressed in this commentary are their own. View more opinion articles on CNN.

(CNN)At certain points in history, when institutions and established leaders have failed to step up and take action, it falls to the youngest among us to take charge. That is happening again these two weeks as a 16-year-old girl from Sweden, Greta Thunberg, is stepping onto center stage to mobilize the world against climate change.

Those of us who are older are well reminded of how the young of this country rose up some 50 years ago in the Civil Rights era. In May of 1963, more than one thousand young people in Birmingham, Alabama, marched through the city to call attention to racial injustice. When many of the children marched again the next day, the notoriously racist sheriff Bull Connor set vicious police dogs on them. The children were under attack -- by the dogs, clubs, fire hoses, and whatever means deemed necessary by the police. The television pictures that night sickened the nation.

The violence continued until the Department of Justice stepped in and the marches came to an end. But even as the marches stopped, the impact of the Birmingham Children's Crusade continued to be felt. The crusade offered moral clarity to the nation and proved pivotal in swaying President John F. Kennedy and Americans everywhere to urgently confront the need for racial justice.

We are at yet another moment in which the voice and efforts of the young are needed. The Baby Boomers and Gen Xers in power have proven unable to take action on a multitude of issues recently. But nowhere is their inaction more glaring than on the issues that threaten the safety of people everywhere and especially millennials and members of Generation Z: first guns and now climate change.

Fortunately, those younger generations are now stepping forward, changing politics and providing a model for budding leaders everywhere. A year ago, after another mass shooting at a high school, this one in Florida, politicians and the NRA performed yet another tap dance, counting on the horror to be soon forgotten. But the surviving students would not allow such avoidance to take place again.

Within 24 hours, one of them, Cameron Kasky, brought his classmates together to form a movement. Cameron chose the name "Never Again," and recruited fellow students, like Emma Gonzalez and David Hogg. Together they quickly mobilized hundreds of thousands of Americans to hit the streets and use social media to take on the NRA and change our politics.

The Parkland students were successful beyond what any other gun control campaign has achieved: not only did Florida pass tougher legislation, but in the 2018 off-year elections, Democratic candidates took up the fight against guns and their party won back the House of Representatives.

The Parkland students visited the Harvard Kennedy School that year, and in conversations, we found that they were hugely impressive. Contradicting critics who lambaste their generation as complacent and ignorant, they proved to be mature, passionate and capable. Notably, they attributed their strength not only to their families, but also to their school's strong emphasis on civics and performing arts. There is surely a lesson there for other high schools.

The success and inspiration of these young activists has spread well beyond the world of guns. In what may turn out to be a modern (and international) equivalent of the Birmingham Children's Crusade, the straight-talking sensation, Greta Thunberg, led children at a protest at the White House last week and will lead one at the United Nations this week. She and her followers will be calling on leaders to stop giving mere lip service to fighting climate change -- and to get real results. Many worldwide will join in solidarity, it appears.

Strikingly, Greta herself cites America's Parkland students as her inspiration. What stands out about both of these young groups of leaders and, in particular, Greta, is the sense of urgency and purpose they bring to public life.

Talking to the adults in power today, Greta has warned, "You've run out of excuses and we're running out of time. We've come here to let you know that change is coming whether you like it or not." Or again, "We children shouldn't have to do this. But since almost no one is doing anything, and our very future is at risk, we feel like we have to continue. ... We children are doing this because we want our hopes and dreams back."

Greta's belief that "no one is too small to make a difference" is clearly spreading throughout this generation, and we are all better for it. While one might disagree with particulars of the Green New Deal, it's hard not to credit a close ally of Greta's, The Sunrise Movement, a group of young people committed to making climate change a defining political issue, with showing the ability to push the climate debate in the US further than almost any other entity.

Some might criticize Greta and her fellow climate crusaders as zealots or as short sighted, just as many said that about the Parkland students. But even if one disagrees with their proposed solutions, don't dismiss the power of children in the streets -- calling for change -- to create an impetus for action.

At least once before, a children's movement was a core inspiration for our country to address its greatest injustices. Today, the young speak with moral clarity again.


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