Column by Mike Tidwell: Abandoning the climate is a white flag for the planet | Columnists


By Mike Tidwell

At one point in Al Gore’s seminal 2006 film “An Inconvenient Truth,” the former vice president laments that his tobacco-farming parents didn’t stop growing tobacco until their daughter was well. -beloved Nancy died of lung cancer in Tennessee.

“It’s just human nature to take the time to connect the dots,” Gore says in the film. “But…there may be a day of judgment when you wish you had connected the dots faster.”

All these years later, many anxious Americans are hoping that President Joe Biden and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, DN.Y., have fully connected the dots — politically and morally — on climate change. As Gore suggests in the film, global warming is our planet’s terminal disease. Terminal consequences are almost guaranteed unless we apply shock treatment now.

And yet, Biden and Schumer still haven’t found a way to unlock $550 billion worth of climate “drugs” sitting on the negotiating table in the US Senate. The spending, part of an eventual budget reconciliation deal, would transform our country with massive tax credits for wind and solar power, money to decarbonize transportation and funding for a civilian climate corps , among other investments.

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Heaven knows, getting 50 votes for anything in the US Senate is as difficult as battling advanced cancer – painful, nauseating, requiring every ounce of strength. But as tortured as the budget reconciliation process has been over the past year — with Biden’s Build Back Better program scaled back, then stalled completely and now under discussion in a new form — one thing has remained constant.

Everyone in the Senate Democratic Caucus strongly supported the $550 billion in climate money. This includes the senses. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona.

But is the White House on board? There is speculation in Washington that top climate advisers Gina McCarthy and John Kerry have been asked to lobby less publicly for bold climate action. The president’s closest aides are reportedly concerned that a streamlined reconciliation bill — without tax credits for children and other Liberal political favorites — will be a political liability in November, even if it includes elements on the climate and prescription drugs.

Voters could blame Biden for not passing a comprehensive package. This logic seems fragile. More likely, and understandably, the White House simply doesn’t trust Manchin and Sinema to negotiate in good faith this summer. So why try again?

But this horrible and inconvenient truth won’t go away: the patient is dying. The world as we know it is disappearing.

More than 7.1 million acres of forest burned in the United States alone in 2021. Hundred-degree days were recorded in the Arctic Circle in 2020. And top scientists affiliated with the United Nations say, on political correctives, “Delay is death”.

So here’s the bottom line for Biden, Schumer and the rest of the Democrats: you have no right to quit. Delay, for whatever reason, is simply unacceptable.

Instead, now is the time to press the issue, connect all the tough dots, and take courageous action. Democrats could lose one or both houses of Congress in November. And it may be 10 years before another big climate vote is possible.

Clearly, Biden and Schumer want Manchin to put on paper what he wants in a budget reconciliation bill, including specific climate spending. If that doesn’t happen by the end of June, Schumer should present his own deal and negotiate from there. If Manchin really wasn’t ready to vote on climate spending, he probably would have given it a few months ago, like he did with the child tax credit.

Indeed, even if climate finance is the only thing Manchin can vote for — along with questionable investments in carbon sequestration and other pet projects of his — then accept the deal. Unlike other policy challenges that Congress faces, climate change runs a clock. You either pass something now or virtually lose any chance of saving the planet in the future.

And if Manchin, when pushed, doesn’t want a deal, if it was all just a mirage, then get him and the entire Senate to vote on a bill anyway. It is time to be accountable.

But we could also win. The $550 billion investment could happen, but only if the White House stays in the fight. Against all odds, sick patients often survive the worst disease diagnoses. Usually it’s because doctors and families never gave up. At the darkest time, when it would be the easiest, no one leaves.

This is what the planet needs right now. These are the points that Al Gore talks about in “An Inconvenient Truth”. And today, right now, is the day of judgment.

Mike Tidwell is executive director of the Chesapeake Climate Action Network and author of “Bayou Farewell: The Rich Life and Tragic Death of Louisiana’s Cajun Coast.”

© 2022, The Baltimore Sun

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