Will Democrats Get It Right on Climate Before It's Too Late?
"Democrats are not just in a race with Donald Trump, they're in a race against time to save our communities from catastrophic climate change."
Democrats need to get serious about climate change—and time is running out for them to do so.
Environmentalists see the upcoming full Democratic Platform Committee meeting in Orlando as a final opportunity to ensure the party takes meaningful action on climate change over the next four years.
There is no time left for gradualism. That window has passed. This is a climate emergency—the moment to make a stand for the future. For each other. For our children.
—Russell Greene, DNC Platform Committee member
"The Democrats are not just in a race with Donald Trump," notes an email on Thursday from grassroots environmental group 350 Action, "they're in a race against time to save our communities from catastrophic climate change. If they allow big oil to frack our communities, or drill for more oil in the Gulf, or to sue governments to wreck the planet—they are not serious about climate science."
To that end, 350 Action is circulating a petition calling on the Democratic Party "to stand for climate justice."
As it stands in its final draft form, the platform falls short in several key ways, according to the group:
- It does not take a stand against fracking.
- It does not ask that new fossil fuel projects receive the same climate test that Keystone XL did.
- It does not take a stand against the Trans Pacific Partnership.
- It allows new and expanded oil drilling in the Gulf of Mexico, despite calling for a ban off other coasts.
New Republic journalist Emma Foehringer Merchant wrote this week:
Bill McKibben, a cofounder of the environmental group 350.org and the most high-profile environmental champion Sanders selected for the committee, proposed a roster of nine climate amendments to the platform draft, including a carbon tax, keeping fossil fuels in the ground, and a “climate test,” modeled after the Keystone XL pipeline decision, that would have federal decision makers weigh the climate impacts of policies. Six, including those greens most ardently hoped for, were rejected , most by a tight 7-6 vote. To environmentalists who had pushed for months to get a seat at the establishment table, it was clear Democrats were intent on doing business as usual. “What’s needed is more of a sense that [Democrats are] willing to spend political capital on climate change,” McKibben told me in an email. “Obama wasn’t ready to do that in his first term, and it took an enormous movement to help him get there. That movement needs someone it can work with, not someone it will have to work on.”
Regardless of how the final platform shapes up, that movement will be out in force the day before the Democratic National Convention begins, when thousands are expected to gather at the March for a Clean Energy Revolution in Philadelphia.
Even before that, "climate emergency demonstrators" will stage actions across the U.S. on Sunday, "demanding the abolition of carbon gradualism and an immediate WWII-scale mobilization that eliminates America’s net greenhouse gas emissions by 2025 and restores a stable, pre-industrial climate for humanity," according to organizers at the green group Climate Mobilization.
Russell Greene, a DNC platform committee member and leading climate activist for the Progressive Democrats of America and People Demanding Action, said he would communicate the protesters' demands at Orlando's platform meeting taking place Friday and Saturday.
"Language appears to be failing us," Greene said. "What is urgent? When is immediately? We have lost touch. We are living in the age of consequences. We can no longer pretend otherwise. With our every action and non-action we leave our imprint on generations. There is no time left for gradualism. That window has passed. This is a climate emergency—the moment to make a stand for the future. For each other. For our children. I will make every effort with my colleagues on the platform committee to act with this truth in heart and mind."