Back when Barack Obama was running for president he liked to say that he was inspired by what Dr. King called "the fierce urgency of now." He told a South Carolina crowd in 2007 that, "I am running because I do believe there's such a thing as being too late. And that hour is almost here."
Well, for many scientists and environmentalists that hour actually came and went almost ten years ago. The no going back turning point in global warming.
The United States has dragged its feet on a global climate change resolution for years, going through the motions with no real intention of doing anything at all. Now a new president is voicing concerns over China and India's race to heat up their economies but he has no moral authority and, frankly, as Obama himself might say there's no sense of urgency to persuade other countries to do as the US hasn't. Even worse, the slow moving healthcare legislation and an economic crisis is providing cover for representatives who are on the fence on climate change.
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A headline in Politico reads, "Climate bill may fall by the wayside." In an August 5th story they quoted House Agriculture Committee Chairman Collin Peterson, who's been working with farm-state senators on climate legislation. "The reality is [the health reform bill] is going to happen before cap and trade," he said. "Who knows if it will ever come out of the Senate?"
For many, like NASA scientist James Hansen who has issued urgent plea after plea for direct action, a cap and trade solution is barely adequate. But even that we are told is probably off the table until sometime in 2010. George Bush was fond of talking about what he called political capital even when he didn't really have it. The Democrats on the other hand seem unwilling to spend the political capital they have. On healthcare. Housing. Climate and the environment.
When it does run out--and it will--they'll be wishing they'd paid a little more attention to the fierce urgency of now.