When it comes to understanding the dire situation facing our planet, the Paris Climate Summit offered a sobering wake-up call, a solar-powered shot heard round the world. Science prevailed over politics, and the agreement made it clear that, if humanity is to have a fighting chance, global warming must be kept to under 1.5 degrees Celsius.
Given that, it is puzzling that Bernie Sanders’ climate-action plan, “People Before Polluters,” offers a political, not scientific response to the challenge. At a time when we need to speak truth to power, when we need to stop sugar-coating the depth of the climate crisis, it is also puzzling that many environmental leaders are blindly uncritical of the Sanders’ plan.
One group speaking truth to power is The Climate Mobilization (TCM). Authors Margaret Klein Salamon and Ezra Silk (co-founders of TCM) write, “Given Sanders’ promising rhetoric on climate change, and his courageous advocacy on many other issues, we are surprised that ‘People Before Polluters’ embraces many of the untenable assumptions of a failed establishment climate politics.”
I understand the need for compromise in politics. But when confronted with a crisis, as opposed to an issue, compromise must be shelved in lieu of immediate, decisive action. As Salamon and Silk point out, “‘People Before Polluters’ fails to translate Sanders’ emergency rhetoric into emergency-speed action. The plan aims to cut U.S. carbon emissions 40 percent from 1990 levels by 2030 and 80 percent by 2050.”
In Saturday’s Democratic debate, it will be interesting to see what Hillary Clinton and Martin O’Malley have to say on climate in light of the Paris agreement. Are either of them willing to stake out the high ground that Sanders conceded in the name of political expediency? I’ll be watching and tweeting. And if Planet Earth had a twitter account, I’m sure she’d be asking the same question that’s on my mind and on the minds of millions of other climate voters. As Salamon and Silk write in their critique of Sanders’ plan: “It’s up to brave politicians, alarmed citizens and the growing climate movement to make what is scientifically necessary politically feasible.”
Read the full TCM critique here: