31 July 2021

The New York Times: “What if American Democracy fails the Climate Crisis?”

Gunn-Wright: I mean, there’s definitely momentum, but there’s still a lot of desire to do this work in ways that look and feel familiar and keep power relationships the same as they have been for a very long time. There is a reason that we are talking about moving climate policy through budget reconciliation — not straight-out legislation. It’s because certain people don’t want to get rid of the filibuster. With the American Rescue Plan, the Biden administration was comfortable using deficit spending because it was an acute crisis. That is not the case for the infrastructure package. They don’t actually consider climate to be that type of crisis. And there is still a real desire to have this transformation happen in a way that is painless, and painless for particular people, and to have the same type of people bear the pain that often bear the pain of the system — largely Black, Latino, poor communities.

Ezra Klein

Despite the ambitious headline, the article contents is lackluster, dancing around the issue as if this were a mere academic argument. To me the answer is very straightforward: American Democracy has absolutely failed to address the climate crisis. It has failed to pay attention to the warnings of scientists, who predicted man-made global warming decades ago. It has failed in the 2000 Presidential election, when a Florida court handed over the electoral votes to George W. Bush, and with them the presidency for the next eight years. It has failed during the Obama administration, by investing in domestic fossil fuel production. It is currently failing by stripping down President Biden’s already modest plan to combat climate change. And it will continue to fail because of its two-party system, which encourages divisiveness: whenever one party adopts a policy as part of their main agenda, the other is compelled to endorse the opposite position in order to score electoral points.

Cumulative greenhouse gas emissions by country
The USA is single-handedly responsible for far more of the greenhouse gas currently in the atmosphere than China. Nearly one quarter of global greenhouse gas emissions released since 1850 were released from the territorial USA.

And unfortunately, we’re not talking about a smaller country, who would not materially impact the trajectory of emissions, but the single largest emitter in history, responsible for a quarter of the cumulated greenhouse gases released into Earth’s atmosphere! Global action on climate change is effectively hostage to a dysfunctional political system where Republican states – and lobbyists – have too much power to block any sort of initiative they don’t approve of. If after a decade the damage from global warming proves too large to contain, American Democracy would bare a considerable portion of the blame.

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