October, 2008

October 30th, 2008

The Real Election Climate

As voters prepare to make their way to the booths this coming Tuesday, our allies at 350.org remind us to keep climate in mind. We, at Climate Counts, share 350.org’s conviction and hope that whatever administration enters the White House next, will take meaningful action to address the global climate crisis. Enjoy the following guest post from 350.org co-founder Bill McKibben and happy voting.

We’re days away from the election now — the election that may decide not only who sits in the White House, but whether the Atlantic eventually rises up the front steps. Most of the country has been concentrating on the financial meltdown, but even that is as nothing compared to the real meltdown now underway across the planet — our home planet, the one we share whether we’re rich or poor, American or African, or, for that matter, human or plant or animal.

Which is why we’ve been running a campaign all fall to remind the presidential candidates that this election is about Ohio, and Florida, and Pennsylvania — and Bangladesh. That the battlegrounds include New Hampshire and Nevada — and Nairobi. That bailing out Wall Street is about pumping money into the credit markets — and figuring out a way to wean our economy off the gas pump.

Some of us spent last year coordinating a massive nationwide campaign that staged 2,000 rallies in all 50 states, calling for big cuts in American carbon emissions. That work here at home has to continue. When Congress begins a new session in January, we’ll need to push for the first real federal legislation on climate, after two decades of waiting. Not “drill, baby, drill,” but “insulate, baby, insulate.”

But just as important, either Barack Obama or John McCain will need to reengage the United States in the international process for reaching a global agreement on climate change. If we don’t, we can cut as much as we like out of our carbon emissions and it won’t do much to slow the planet’s warming. Even as the financial markets struggle, we have the capital and the technology to make a crucial difference. After all, Americans are the biggest per capita polluters of all, but we’ve played no role in the global climate talks over the last eight years. That must end. Rajendra Pachauri, the head of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, said last year that we have until 2012 to make huge changes as a planet or it will be too late.

Luckily, there’s a process in place. In December 2009, the leaders of the world are scheduled to come together in Copenhagen to negotiate a successor to the Kyoto agreement. If there’s any chance of that meeting providing a real breakthrough, though, there’s much groundwork that needs to be done beforehand. In December 2008, after the American election but before Inauguration Day, the world is meeting in Poland to prepare for the Copenhagen climate talks. The winner of November’s presidential election could rivet the world’s attention on these negotiations if he flew to Poland in December and declared that the United States is back in the game.

To make that happen, we at 350.org are running a campaign to let people all across the planet issue invitations to the president-elect. Just by going here, you’ll be able to compose an invite to McCain and Obama. And if you’re even the tiniest bit tech-savvy, you can add a video version of your invite for our nifty interactive globe. You can also — and this is really key — alert friends all around the world so they can do the same. We want McCain and Obama to know that on every corner of the globe, people are hoping against hope that America is ready to lead again.

The new president needs to bring a clear message with him to Poland, of course — a message that the next administration understands the ever-more-pressing challenge to get the planet’s atmosphere back below 350 parts per million CO2 so that we can slow the melting of the ice caps and ward off massive increases in sea level, so that we can rein in the spread of mosquitoes and avoid climatic upheavals like the failure of the monsoons. McCain or Obama will need to bring plans and policies to mitigate damage that it’s too late to avoid, and to spread the technology that will let China, India, and the rest of the developing world grow without burning their coal. But most of all, our next president will need to bring the spirit of cooperation that’s been missing for so long. Just showing up in Poland would be a good start.

All of us in America will be focusing on the swing states and the key precincts for the next few hours. But here’s an easy way to remember we’re not just Americans. We live on a planet. We’re earthlings too.

  • Brighter Planet's 350 Challenge