Thu, Jul

On Climate Change, Centrism Means a Slow Death


CLIMATE - The Miami Herald recently reported on the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) latest forecast predicting a record-breaking hurricane season for the Atlantic Ocean. “Brace Yourself, Florida,” warned the paper, explaining that the “NOAA is predicting that 17 to 25 named storms could form this year,” which is “the highest ever forecast by the federal agency.”

The paper, to its credit, made clear links between such dire predictions and global warming, saying, “Climate change is making more powerful storms more likely, cranking up the dial on extreme rainfall and strong surge and making it more common that storms rapidly strengthen as they approach land.” Insurance companies are likely taking heed, and have rightly pointed out that it’s “no surprise that Florida has been hit by more hurricanes than any other state since… 1851.”

But there was no mention in the Herald story about Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signing a series of bills aimed at limiting solutions to global warming and even removing mentions of the phrase “climate change” from state laws. DeSantis proudly proclaimed that his intention was to, “keep windmills off our beaches, gas in our tanks, and China out of our state.”

The Florida Republican seems unconcerned about NOAA’s prediction nor of the record high temperatures impacting his state, such as Key West’s heat index of 115 degrees Fahrenheit. He did not acknowledge that Florida, given its peninsula coastline and location in the Atlantic, remains one of the most vulnerable states to climate change in the nation.

Florida-based meteorologist and climate change reporter Steve MacLaughlin made all the links between the coming storms, climate change, and the governor’s policy. He cited the NOAA report and warned NBC 6 News audiences that the “entire world is looking to Florida to lead in climate change, and our government is saying that climate change is no longer the priority it once was.”

There was a time, not too long ago when journalists and media outlets avoided any mention of climate change, even as scientists and climate activists urged them to say the words. Today, although media outlets have significantly improved coverage of the science, they tend not to explicitly draw a line between climate disasters and policy failures on the part of elected officials like DeSantis.

The Florida governor, who is waging a battle against climate justice as part of his culture wars, isn’t even the biggest threat to curbing climate change. He controls legislation in only one state. If Donald Trump captures the White House, the entire nation will fall even further behind in tackling the climate. Far-right shills for oil and gas companies have an ambitious battle plan in place to begin undoing the modest climate progress that the federal government has made. It’s called Project 2025 and is a brazen call “to deconstruct the Administrative State” on Day 1 of a Republican—read Trump—Presidency.

Like the hardliners who are openly articulating their doomsday plan, Trump has made no secret of where his allegiances lie, unabashedly demanding a billion dollars in campaign funding from oil and gas companies. At a now-infamous April 2024 Mar-a-Lago dinner, Trump directly solicited financial help from fossil fuel executives in exchange for more than $100 billion worth of tax breaks that President Joe Biden has proposed repealing.

The grift was so clearly a quid pro quo, so openly veering on extortion, that some Senators have now launched an inquiry into Trump’s statements. But they can’t keep up. A day before the Senate action, Trump made more such offers, saying to oil company executives at a fundraiser in Houston, Texas, that he would issue “immediate approvals for energy infrastructure” such as “pipelines, power plants” if he returned to the White House. Trump raised an easy $25 million at that event. If he regains power, he will engage in a new ethical infraction every other day, as he did the first time around.

To listen to Republicans, one might imagine that Democrats are Big Oil’s worst enemy, fighting to curb climate change on behalf of the good people of Florida and the rest of the nation. But much Democratic opposition exists in the form of incentives for green energy industries, for example, those built into the Inflation Reduction Act.

In terms of actually holding climate polluters accountable, other than Biden’s budgetary proposal to end tax breaks (which is, after all, only a proposal), and a pause on natural gas permits, Democratic challenges have come in the form of “homework assignments for companies, and requests for Justice Department investigations,” wrote Axios reporter Ben German.

Such tepid actions are not good enough, especially in the face of the overt Republican war on our climate, and by extension, our lives. The GOP may claim it wants to ban windmills on beaches, but its real agenda is handing our future over to oil and gas companies.

If the climate is to be a battleground for the GOP’s culture wars, and if Democrats are going to face the wrath of oil and gas companies for the most modest of limits on greenhouse gas emissions, why not go all in, and actually wage their own culture and policy war to save the climate?

Trying to capture voters who are at the center of the political spectrum has been a go-to Democratic strategy that has often ended in loss. Already centrist commentators are warning Biden to stop appealing to the left edge of his party ahead of November’s election.

But, growing numbers of Americans—and a majority of Democratic voters—are seeing past the media’s limited coverage and politicians’ doublespeak on the climate. They are deeply worried about climate change and are critical of Biden’s milquetoast approach to curbing it.

Labeling parts of the political spectrum is a helpful exercise. The left edge wants to move us forward, to progress, hence the adoption of the term “progressive.” The right flank wants to move society backward, and really ought to be dubbed “regressive.” Meanwhile, the center is happy with the current status quo and is best defined by the term “conservative.” Centrists want to conserve things just as they are.

On the issue of climate change, progressive policies mean a future for our children, stability for our homes and communities, and the preservation of human and other species. It literally means we have a good chance at life as a whole.

Regressive policies will lead to certain, accelerated death, broadly speaking, while conservative centrists appear to endorse a slow death. In other words, DeSantis, Trump, and their party are leading a death cult, while Biden and his party seem torn over the choice between life and death. To the rest of us, decisively choosing life is the only option.


(Sonali Kolhatkar is an award-winning multimedia journalist. She is the founder, host, and executive producer of “Rising Up With Sonali,” a weekly television and radio show that airs on Free Speech TV and Pacifica stations. Her most recent book is Rising Up: The Power of Narrative in Pursuing Racial Justice (City Lights Books, 2023). She is a writing fellow for the Economy for All project at the Independent Media Institute and the racial justice and civil liberties editor at Yes! Magazine. She serves as the co-director of the nonprofit solidarity organization the Afghan Women’s Mission and is a co-author of Bleeding Afghanistan. She also sits on the board of directors of Justice Action Center, an immigrant rights organization. This article was produced by Economy for All, a project of the Independent Media Institute.)

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