16 november 2012

From: Arthur Mitzman, initiator of Concerned Citizens against Climate Change
Botticellistraat 34
1077 GC Amsterdam, NL
Url: http://www.stopwarming.eu
Date: November 16, 2012

To : Barack Obama, President of the United States
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, Washington, D.C., U.S.A.

Subject: Not blowing it

Dear President Obama,

Congratulations from the Netherlands on your hard-fought and decisive victory. Millions in Europe breathed a sigh of relief at the news that the United States would for the next four years be led by a man who, as the Mayor of New York said when he endorsed you, “has taken major steps to reduce our carbon consumption.” And friends of America around the world were delighted to see you carried to victory by the mobilization of African-American and Hispanic voters, young people and women.

Nonetheless, many in the envrironmental movement were alarmed at your silence, during the presidential debates and your media appearances, on the subject of global warming. You had spoken so well about it four years ago. But until the Frankenstorm and Mayor Bloomberg’s endorsement, the quietness of the grave. Your silence was no doubt motivated by a desire to pacify the oil and coal interests whose campaign contributions might have meant victory or defeat, not only for you, but for the Democratic members of Congress who have been elected with you. Understandable, but an abandonment of the fight against those interests you had promised us in 2008.

In fact, you seem to have given up that fight years ago, with the result that precious time has been lost in the struggle to educate the American people to the reality of climate change and to the urgent necessity to act quickly. Meanwhile the melting of Arctic sea ice and the Greenland ice cap, results of the ongoing warming of land, air and oceans, are signs of acute danger to the human species and to the natural world it depends on for survival. And the climate-related droughts, floods, fires and storms of the past year, not just in the U.S., but in Asia, Russia and Africa as well, are harbingers of worse to come, indications that we cannot wait, we must act quickly.

Your remarks in your November 14 press conference, whilc a welcome interruption of your long silence on the issue, were hardly reassuring. With all the emphasis on not endangering jobs, they could easily be interpreted – as the Los Angeles Times did – as a relegation of climate matters to “the back burner.”

Mr. President, dealing or not dealing with climate change will define your place in history. Use the mandate you have been given by the American people to show true leadership on this issue. Tell them, with the eloquence of which you are capable, the harsh truth that if we and other industrial powers do not soon relinquish our carbon-based cheap energy existence, we will within decades, by the warming and extreme weather we will have created, have made life unbearable for ourselves and millions of others. Tell them:

· That we must rapidly convert our energy supply to renewable energy and that you will take measures to phase out coal, oil and gas production in the United States completely within a decade.
· That in accordance with this imperative energy conversion, your administration will reject further exploitation of carbon-based energy, in particular, gas fracking, Arctic and other oil drilling, and the XL pipeline from Canada to Texas; and that it will stop its subsidization of carbon energy. To the contrary, that it will tax the use of carbon in industry and in domestic and imported consumer goods so as to fiscally encourage the swiftest possible introduction of solar and wind energy, together with the new high voltage direct current grids that support their transport over long distances.
· That it will use the regained carbon subsidies and the new tax revenues to ensure new jobs in the provision of renewable energy.
· That your administration, to facilitate the conversion to renewables, will subsidize the R&D and manufacture of automobiles to be run by renewable electric power, and that the internal combustion engine will be phased out completely by 2030.
· That you will attend the UN climate conferences of the coming year to make the developing world, and particularly the People’s Republic of China, an offer it cannot refuse: the carrot of Marshall Plan-level assistance for a comparably rapid conversion, combined with the stick of a high carbon tax on imported consumer goods.

No doubt, all this will require a rethink of many aspects of the American life-style and a sacrifice of some familiar comforts. But so did the massive effort to win the Second World War. The American people were then prepared to sacrifice much blood and treasure to prevent the Axis powers from dominating the world. Winning the battle against climate change is as important a struggle, this time not involving military violence but the non-violent rescue of a planetary habitat for ourselves and our children. No fight is more noble.

Speak to the people, Mr. President. They will understand, as they did after Pearl Harbor.

Arthur Mitzman (now in The Netherlands, but voting from Monroe County, New York)

Concerned Citizens against Climate Change was initiated in 2008 by Joep Leerssen, Professor of European Studies, Arthur Mitzman, Emeritus Professor of History, and Lucas Reijnders, Professor of Environmental Studies, all at the University of Amsterdam in The Netherlands. The appeal they launched – ”Global Warming Threatens the Future of the Earth. Act Now, Before It Is Too Late” - has been endorsed by 1150 signatories from 47 countries, including 220 American citizens, many university professors, and present and former members of the Parliaments of The Netherlands, the UK and the European Union. See for the text and the names of signatories: http://www.stopwarming.eu/?petition

>>> Back to list