Steven McAllister and Greg Rose
Climate change is an irrefutable fact of our time. The monthly average temperature worldwide has been higher than the twentieth century average for 329 straight months. Global annual mean temperatures have broken records in eleven out of the last thirteen years. On August 28, 2012, the polar ice cap was smaller than it has ever been in recorded history.
Earlier this summer, 97% of the ice cover in Greenland was melting. The scientific community is essentially unanimous in its call for immediate and sustained action on the part of the world community to reduce the emission of greenhouse gases, gases that are driving the increasingly calamitous extremes in the Earth’s climate. The U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change already projects that much of the United States will no longer be arable for food crops by the end of this century if current trends continue.
And to hear the Republican Presidential candidate tell it, nothing is wrong that more oil and coal extraction will not fix.
The contrast between Romney-Ryan and Obama-Biden on recognition of the importance of global climate change could not be sharper. In his acceptance speech at the Republican national convention Mitt Romney flippantly joked about the Democrat’s commitment to address climate change: “President Obama promised to begin to slow the rise of the oceans and heal the planet. MY promise... is to help you and your family."\
President Obama, in his acceptance speech at the Democratic national convention, was forthright in identifying the key difference between himself and Romney: “…climate change is not a hoax. More droughts and floods and wildfires are not a joke. They’re a threat to our children’s future. And in this election, you can do something about it.”
The problem is that failure to recognize and take action on global climate dooms billions of working class families here and abroad to poverty, misery, and death as the accumulated environmental disasters which capitalism has engendered continue to raise global temperatures and destabilize global climate patterns with increasing severity. That is the path Mitt Romney has chosen to endorse: superprofits for energy companies, disaster for the rest of us. We need jobs – the jobs a Green New Deal would create -- and Romney offers nothing.
It is not accidental that Romney has abandoned any pretense of scientifically-based policy making since his presidential ambitions loomed. While governor of Massachusetts Romney helped to create a regional cap-and-trade program to start to deal with greenhouse gas emissions; now cap-and-trade is presented by Romney as a plot by Obama to destroy American jobs. As the New York Times recently reported, Romney has hewn toward Republican orthodoxy – climate change denial – since recognizing the need to position himself further to the right to win the nomination. Under the influence of the massively-funded energy industry campaign to deny climate change, Romney’s chosen running mate, Paul Ryan, has been a mouthpiece for those energy industry interests since entering Congress, openly declaring climate change a hoax in a 2009 op ed; Ryan argued that global climate change resulted from "the hyperpoliticization of science" and "the use of statistical tricks to distort... findings and intentionally mislead the public on the issue of climate change."
It is useful to compare the 2012 national platforms of the Republican and Democratic parties on climate change to see just how radically different they are on this issue. The Republican platform mentions climate change only once in a paragraph laden with sarcasm about President Obama’s elevation of the issue to a major national security concern:
On the other hand, the Democratic platform addresses the issue with an appropriate seriousness:
President Obama has been a leader on this issue. We have developed historic fuel efficiency standards that will limit greenhouse gas emissions from our vehicles for the first time in history, made unprecedented investments in clear energy, and proposed the first-ever carbon pollution limits for new fossil-fuel-fired power plants. As we move towards lower carbon emissions, we ill continue to support smart, energy efficient manufacturing. Democrats pledge to continue showing international leadership on climate change, working toward an agreement to set emission limits in unison with other emerging powers. Democrats will continue pursuing efforts to combat climate change at home as well, because reducing our emissions domestically -- through regulation and market solutions -- is necessary to continue being an international leader on this issue. We understand that global climate change may disproportionately affect the poor, and we are committed to environmental justice....
Our opponents have moved so far to the right as to doubt the science of climate change, advocate the selling of our federal lands, and threaten to roll back environmental protections that safeguard public health. They leaders deny the benefits of the Clean Air and Clean Water Acts -- benefits like job creation, health, and the prevention of tens of thousands of premature deaths each year….
The national security threat from climate change is real, urgent, and severe. The change wrought by a warming planet will lead to new conflicts over refugees and resources; new suffering from drought and famine; catastrophic natural disasters; and the degradation of vital ecosystems across the globe.... [W]e will continue to champion sustainable growth that includes the clean energy that creates green jobs and combats climate change. (pp. 59-68)
The Romney-Ryan energy plan makes the implications of this difference clear. In this the Republicans demands an end to environmental regulation of fossil fuels extraction, puts forward a plan which amounts to little more than “drill, baby, drill” everywhere, and fails to mention even once the importance of global climate change or the relationship between fossil fuels and climate change. In the Romney-Ryan world climate change is a mad scientist’s fantasy. But the Romney-Ryan energy plan is based on an oil-imperialist’s fantasy: the Republican plan explicitly bases its clam to achieve “energy independence” by expropriating Canada’s oil reserves and abrogating the Mexican constitution to seize its reserves. What they call “North American” energy independence is unremitting dependence on energy monopolies controlling the resources of our neighbors at bayonet point if need be. Even at that, the looming intersection of peak oil and climate change is ignored completely, and nature will not allow the bayonets of American imperialism to hold that crisis indefinitely at bay.
By contrast, while the Obama administration’s plans embodied in the 2011 Blueprint for a Secure Energy Future did not go nearly as far as progressive advocates and climate scientists would have preferred, and the interim report, issued a year later, does not make enough progress even on the modest agenda of 2011, it still represents hugely more progress – and more movement in the right direction – than any Romney administration could conceivably accomplish. This is particularly true in that for the Republican Party climate change is the crisis that dares not speak its name.
While the Obama administration is still emphasizing increasing U.S. petroleum and natural gas supplies rather than embracing a full Green New Deal to transition beyond fossil fuel dependence and create the hundreds of thousands of jobs such a New Deal would entail, it is embracing stricter regulation of fossil fuel extraction, funding development of next generation fuel technologies, and energy markets as well as promoting the 54.5 mpg standard for fuel economy by 2025.
Romney’s response is “My view is that we don’t know what’s causing climate change on this planet.”
We need jobs, jobs created by non-fossil-fuel technologies, jobs created by a national campaign to weatherize all buildings in this country to higher, more fuel-efficient standards. We are not going to get those jobs with a Romney administration.
With the situation presented by a reelected Obama administration, organizing science, organized labor, broad sectors of American working people, and elements of the ruling class who can see that climate change dooms humanity to take decisive action – the wide popular front we are precisely building in our electoral strategy – we will have set the stage for the next level of struggle: the struggle to create full employment and defeat the energy monopolists. No one claims that an Obama administration will not have to be goaded by mass action to take the necessary steps to enact the Green New Deal and other measures which meeting the challenge of climate change necessarily entails.
But a Romney administration, propelled by the pseudo-scientific know-nothingism of the ultraright, will present progressives with a stunning retrenchment and place working people entirely on the defensive at a time when we most need to be moving forward to confront the crisis of global climate change.
This is what is at stake in the 2012 election
This is why we fight.
Steven McAllister is chair of the Climate Change Working Group of the Communist Party USA. Greg Rose is a member of the Climate Change Working Group of the Communist Party USA.