Biden’s speech, delivered in his hometown of Wilmington, Del., and obviously written for targeted effect, harnessed fears of the nation’s most coveted constituency — the swing voters of America’s suburbs. He may as well have been galloping astride all four horses of the Apocalypse, with flames and floods chasing the thundering hoofs.
“Wildfires are burning the suburbs in the West,” he said. “Floods are wiping out suburban neighborhoods in the Midwest. Hurricanes are imperiling suburban life along our coast. If we have four more years of Trump’s climate denial, how many suburbs will be burned in wildfires? How many suburban neighborhoods will have been flooded out? How many suburbs will have been blown away in superstorms?”
I won’t be surprised if Biden wears green tights and a cape for his next speech.
Costuming aside, Biden at least was addressing what President Trump basically refuses to.
So, which is more to blame for the fire and smoke blanketing the Western United States? Climate change, as the left insists, or poor forest management, as Trump and others insist?
How about both things at once, asks a rare voice amid the cacophony.
Tom Mullikin, who has appeared in this space before, is an environmentalist and lawyer, who has been working in the climate-change trenches for decades. He happens to live down the street from me and is a reliable source on all things climate. Once a protege of Al Gore, the original Cassandra of climate change, Mullikin has made his own documentary, “The Whole Truth,” in response to Gore’s “An Inconvenient Truth.”
I called Mullikin to get his thoughts about Earth’s current convulsions and what our response should be.
First, he said, the wildfires are the result of a confluence of rising temperatures and poor forest management. But many West Coasters don’t want to talk about the need for logging, culling and prescribed burning of forests; while others don’t want to hear about climate change.
Another problem, he said, is our inability to merge the macro (climate change is a global problem) with the micro (oh, damn, my house is on fire!). The first seems too much to handle; the second is local in the extreme. But a truly global policy without exceptions is essential if local eruptions are to be prevented.
As for Biden’s list of planet-altering proposals, Mullikin is skeptical, and he’s right to be. There is little evidence throughout his political career that Biden ever really prioritized the environment and combating climate change. Even as vice president, he reportedly wasn’t involved in the Obama administration’s signature accomplishment of helping make the Paris climate agreement a reality.
In other words, Biden’s concern about climate change is, well, somewhat new. Then again, the Trump administration has for the past four years worked against seemingly any and every environmental initiative, even ones supported by his own party.
The undeniable truth is that whatever we’re doing isn’t working.
Mullikin pins the world’s failure to heal the planet in part on the 2005 Kyoto Protocol, a global treaty the United States ultimately did not join, which called for developed nations to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. But the agreement exempted developing nations from regulatory requirements, including China, India and Brazil.
Today, China — though still considered “developing” — produces more hydrocarbon emissions per year than the total gross emissions of the United States, according to Mullikin.
Mullikin, a pro-business Republican who recently retired as commander of South Carolina’s National Guard and who is now wrapping up a PhD in theology, says there needs to be a global approach to include all nations without exception. No environmental problem is strictly local, as NASA satellites showing a toxic cloud from China headed for the California coast confirmed. A dream team to hammer out such an accord would consist of natural scientists, hydrogeologists, geologists and oceanographers, among others, to the exclusion of politicians.
With 7.8 billion people crowding the planet — clear-cutting forests for agriculture and development, infiltrating previously protected ecosystems and destroying Earth’s natural protective barriers — it would be naive to expect that things will get better on their own.
Earth, after all, is a living organism fighting for her life — and we humans are her pandemic.