Tom Perez, chair of the Democratic National Committee, doesn’t want there to be a debate focused on climate change. He says, if they were to do that, how would they say no to other single issue debates? First, you just say no, if that’s what you need to do. Since when does the DNC have a problem saying no? Second, you say “climate change is an existential threat to the Earth as a viable habitat for humanity, and we’re treating it as such. Because we believe in science, and that’s what the science says”. I don’t believe that’s the reason Perez doesn’t want a debate focused on climate change.
I have every reason to believe Tom Perez and other establishment Democrats are against a climate change debate because of their big dollar donors in the fossil fuel industry. Why do I believe that? Because they take their money.
The Democratic Party and many Democratic candidates get a lot of money from the fossil fuel industry. For the 2016 and 2018 election cycles, Democrats received over $14 million from the oil and natural gas industry, another $2.5 million from the natural gas pipeline industry, and $18.4 million from the electric utilities industry. These corporation and their human agents want a return on their “investment”, and they would not “donate” again unless they received a return on their previous “donations”.
An Existential Threat to the Fossil Fuel Industry
Climate change activism is an existential threat to the fossil fuel industry. Fossil fuel companies have hundreds of billions of dollars already on their books representing oil and other fossil fuels still in the ground. Even President Obama agrees, “we’re not going to be able to burn it all” he told the New York Times in 2014. On paper, in their stock valuations and other financial instruments, they’ve already assumed they can extract and burn all of it.
If we’re going to address climate change seriously, it’s going to have to stay in the ground. They’re not going to be allowed to extract and burn it for money. Either the market price will be too high because extraction costs have increased, and renewable prices have gone down, or there will be a law against it, with serious teeth. If they want those hundreds of billions, they have to fight climate change activism to prevent such a law from being passed, to maintain fossil fuel subsidies, and to block subsidies to renewable energy.
The fossil fuel industry is paying the Democratic Party and Democratic candidates a lot of money. They’re going to want a return on their investment. They’re going to be calling in a lot of favors. Perhaps the least of which is getting the DNC to say “no” to a presidential primary debate focused on climate change.
May be you think I’m crazy to look at our political situation like that.
I believe what I’ve just described is the key reason we haven’t addressed climate change seriously. Not in the 50+ years we’ve known about it. Not in the 40 years since we believed it was serious. Not in the 30 years since we knew it was serious. Not in the 20 years we knew it was getting worse and worse. Now science is telling us its an existential threat. If we don’t do something serious about it within 10 years, we’ll be on a much more devastating path into the future than we’re already headed for.
Our children and our grandchildren will have to live with the consequences of the decisions we make now. Many of them will die because of what we do, or fail to do. “Researchers believe that global warming is already responsible for some 150,000 deaths each year”, Scientific American reports. According to the World Health Organization, “climate change is expected to cause approximately 250,000 additional deaths per year between 2030 and 2050”.
We know the fossil fuel industry gives tons of money to both Republicans and Democrats. We know the fossil fuel industry spends tons of money on lobbying office holders from both political parties, and writing their legislation for them. We know that our political system has failed to address the most serious threat to our habitat in human history, with the possible exception of nuclear annihilation. A monumental failure of our political system. At the root of this monumental failure is a giant stack of political contributions to Republicans and Democrats alike, and another stack of lobbyist money and person-hours.
The Best Theory of the Facts
The Green New Deal is just a plan to make a plan. It proposes a committee with sufficient funding, subpoena power, and authority to draft legislation. The only thing the committee would ever do is take hire experts, take testimony, and draft a plan. The House and Senate would still have to vote on any plan it proposed. Nancy Pelosi refused to allow it. If you refuse to make a plan, you’re not planning to solve the problem.
Pelosi reads reports as well as any of us. She’s seen the science. She says she believes in science. The science says we have 10 years. It’s a massive project and we already don’t know if we can do it in time. Pelosi won’t commit to setting up a committee with appropriate powers and resources to draft a plan.
Either she doesn’t believe in science, or there’s some other force preventing her from acting. I think she believes in science. I’ve heard her speak on the importance of science education, for example. I think fossil fuel money prevents her from acting. She may have all kinds of justification – she’d hardly be the first person to justify what she’s already deep into. I don’t even blame her for that particularly. It’s a circumstance of history.
I’m not saying anyone else has to buy this argument.
I am saying this is a reasonable argument given the available facts. This argument fits the available evidence. This argument fits the available facts in evidence very well. I have been unable to find another theory that fits the facts as well or better. This is the best theory of the facts so far, by far. This is the best theory that explains our lack of serious action. This is the theory we have to operate under.
In comparison, when we had a hole in the ozone layer, we went after chlorofluorocarbons (R-12 refrigerant, propellant for aerosol cans, etc) and cut those emissions drastically in relatively short order. The industry tried to push back, tried to obfuscate the science, all the same tricks the fossil fuel industry has used. Our civilization doesn’t run on R-12. It does run on fossil fuels.
The fossil fuel industries is vastly, vastly more wealthy and powerful than the chlorofluorocarbon industry. Both industries are an existential threat to Earth as a human habitat. The one with fewer dollars behind it is nearly gone and shrinking, the one with massive money behind it is going strong and expanding. The difference is money, and the political power money buys.
If anyone has another theory, I’m happy to hear it. I’m open to it. I’d love for there to be some other explanation.
The Purpose of Democratic Politics is to Serve the People
I don’t think there is another explanation. I think this is an example of the establishment losing sight of what the system is for, the purpose for which it exists. Once they lose sight of their underlying purpose, they no longer serve it. Their purpose becomes holding power, at any cost.
The purpose of any democratic (small-d) political system is to serve the best interests of the people. When politicians argue and act against that purpose, they are no longer serving the people. They are serving some other constituency. In our system, where Citizens United and allows legalized political bribery, the most likely constituency are the big money donors. The 1%, and the 0.1%.
So long as politicians serve wealthism before people, there will be little progress on the people’s priorities. This is why we must get money out of politics. This is why it is critical that we nominate candidates who refuse to take fossil fuel money.
This is why it is critical that we have a presidential primary debate on climate change and the Green New Deal. The establishment politicians and rank and file members who argue against it are – knowingly or not – shilling for the fossil fuel industry.