The last couple of weeks of climate change news and legislation offers no better metaphor than from a 15-minute slice of time from this past Sunday's (April 25th) Climate Rally down on the National Mall. By most standards, the Rally could be said to have bathed itself in success; to bring together the likes of James Cameron, the Roots, Bob Weir, U.S. Air Force representatives, Tia Nelson (daughter of Earth Day founder Senator Gaylord Nelson), John Legend, and nothing short of a high-profile cast is nothing short of impressive. Yet, during the latter part of the afternoon on Sunday, the microphone-speaker complex that delivered the words and music from the main stage found itself in an awkward, frustrating hiccup of "stop-and-go," muting out every three minutes, blasting sounds for a few minutes thereafter, muting again, blasting again, and...well, you probably get the picture.
Call this an extended metaphor, but the "Next Steps for A Climate Bill" series at GWU last Tuesday (April 20th) tangibly highlighted a similar trend in climate legislation over the last couple of weeks. Politicians, industrialists, activists, and the general public find themselves not merely witnessing, but also participating in what could be a "stop-and-go" chain of events. A couple of weeks ago, within a matter of days (and arguably hours), President Obama announced that while a moratorium on offshore oil drilling off the Mid-Atlantic and Southeast U.S. coasts would be lifted, the administration also announced bolstered efficiency ratings for tires, safety, and gasoline consumption in future automobiles. Even over these last two days, there comes word that in the aftermath of over 200,000 people making a presence at the Climate Rally and Representative Ed Markey himself delivering his equivalent of a rallying cry towards pushing for climate legislation, Senator Lindsey Graham is backing out of his original Republican role on the Senate's climate legislation, citing Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's "compulsion" to tackle immigration reform over climate reform (amongst other reasons).
We are finding ourselves in a situation that as Lisa Jackson, EPA adminsitrator, noted last Tuesday night, "lots of people need security, are feeling stifled, and find themselves in a Gordian knot" in terms of augmenting mployment based on green jobs. In a stretch of editorial license, I'd go beyond the "Gordian knot" scenario and suggest that as in other sectors of American society and politics, we are finding ourselves in collective ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder) to resolving climate issues. With the evidence laid out from the IPCC, innumerable science panels, and beyond, as well as the pre-existing technological base in renewable energies, one would think such direction would permeate our political and social conscience. Yet, the second portion of last Tuesday's panel also illuminated the seeds of a new green consensus, something that (daresay) might overcome the collective ADD we face in resolving climate concerns. While industry representative Bill Connaughton, Mother Jones writer Kate Sheppard, Dr. Dan Lashof of the Natural Resources Defense Council, and House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming member Ana Unruh-Cohen did express disagreements on how much of a renewable energy economy would be cost-effective or what the best styles on future electric-fueled vehicle would be, telling moments emerged. In particular, when Connaughton asserted that there are "vested market interests now and in the future" to strive for green jobs, Sheppard, Lashof, and Unruh-Cohen added that now was THE time to conclusively pass and then implement climate change legislation. No dissent, imagine. Now, whether or not that manifests in cap-and-trade mechanisms, the United States becoming a leader in a future international climate treaty, or even Americans cutting their per capita carbon emissions by 80% by 2050, is a matter of soothsaying.
Yet, unless anyone else can pose a better way to alleviate collective ADD on climate concerns, we need to take such moments and weave them into a whole, holistic conscientiousness equal parts scientific and societal, psychological and practical, on climate change. After all, do you look forward to the prospect of driving an electric vehicle, cutting down on carbon emissions, only to have to stop minutes later, wait as the rest of the world passes you by, restart and drive for a few more minutes, wait again, restart again(?)...and well, you get the picture.