The climate crisis poses a clear and present danger to humanity and the natural world. America is in danger! Last year, we saw catastrophic climate impacts in California, Houston, the Florida Keys, and Puerto Rico. Decades of delay have allowed global warming to become a global emergency. Climate is impacting all our continents. Time is now of the absolute essence, and we have a small window to revolutionize the global economy before our basic life-support systems collapse. The Earth is already too hot. Global greenhouse gas concentrations are already far too high. Humanity has no “carbon budget” left to burn. Meanwhile, our population and the physical scale of the economy have grown so large that all that we consume and waste in one year exceeds Earth’s regenerative capacity. We’ve even caused what has been called the sixth mass extinction of species.
Some experts warn that we have one to two decades left before the crisis abruptly pushes the biosphere into an overheated and depleted state hostile to human life.
In response to this truth, we don’t need small, gradual change — we need transformative change now!
We need look no further than World War II to know that we can succeed. After the attacks on Pearl Harbor, Americans woke from the trance of isolationism and, in a matter of months, transformed the economy for the huge war needed to defeat the spread of Fascism.
Conservative business titans joined labor leaders and government planners to refocus America’s industrial might against the Axis Powers. Factories quickly shifted from producing consumer goods to tanks, guns, and planes. Consumerism and unnecessary production were curtailed. Citizens enlisted in the armed services, grew victory gardens, and switched to jobs that supported the war effort. Scientists and universities pumped out research on behalf of the escalation, leading to huge breakthroughs. All hands were on deck as Americans worked toward a common purpose.
We can again transform our economy at wartime speed, this time to ensure a safe climate for all. We can eliminate greenhouse gas emissions and implement drawdown measures.
In order to protect America and ensure a chance for a better world, I will fight for a WWII-scale climate mobilization and a rapid economic and social transition of America’s agricultural and energy systems to zero emissions. Such action is the only sane and moral response available to us at this late stage in the fight against climate change, as the impacts are already causing immense human suffering, devastation of the natural world, and billions of dollars of economic losses.
The key elements of the climate mobilization victory plan include:
• Race to Zero Emissions: A 100% reduction of America’s greenhouse gas emissions.
The race to zero emissions involves so much more than energy! My victory plan calls for not only the rapid phase out of fossil fuels and huge ramp up of renewable energy, but also the transformation of the food system with more farms raising a wider diversity of crops for local and regional consumption. It also pushes for the widespread electrification of the transportation system, improvement in public transit, and an overhaul of the built environment to maximize energy efficiency.
• Drawdown: A sustained effort to remove excess greenhouse gases from the atmosphere.
It’s not enough to eliminate emissions, we’ve got to draw down the excess carbon and other greenhouse gases that are already in the atmosphere if we are to restore a safe climate. We must work to reverse climate change through biological methods such as carbon farming, agroforestry, and wetland restoration, as well as fund the research and deployment of carbon sequestration technology. Iowa is in a unique position to lead the charge in the challenge of drawing down excess carbon.
• Reverse Overshoot: An extensive endeavor to reverse ecological overshoot and stop the sixth mass extinction.
Earth’s ecosystems are not just something separate and apart from humanity — we rely on them for our very survival. We are, in fact, part of them. By taking more than Earth can give for many decades, we’ve accumulated a debt that has now come due. An effort to preserve adequate habit for wildlife while slowing global population growth is needed to prevent the continued disintegration of our life-support systems.
• All-Hands-on-Deck Job Guarantee: A job guarantee that protects workers and gives every American a chance to participate in the mobilization.
So much work must be done to accomplish the goals of the mobilization that any American who wants a job in the effort will be guaranteed one! A comprehensive job guarantee and program would employ up to 20 million people. These will be jobs with strong incomes, plus benefits.
• Top Foreign Policy Priority: A new foreign policy that prioritizes the elimination of global greenhouse gas emissions and the reversal of overshoot at wartime speed.
Since this is a global fight, the United States must make mobilization a top foreign policy priority. We must reposition America to support the world’s rapid transition to zero emissions and beyond. By doing so, we regain the leadership role other nations have historically looked up to. We also regain a key economic advantage that has been slipping away in recent years as elected officials repeatedly squander opportunities to lead.
[Thanks to the average citizens and specialized experts who have helped me prepare this white paper, especially Nicole Harris and Margaret Klein Salamon of The Climate Mobilization.]