mark hertsgaard

Independent Journalist & Author

mark


Future heat

Below is the text of an Oval Office address, delivered on Aug. 25,
2007, by President John McCain. The speech came five years after the
administration of George W. Bush advised Americans to adapt to, rather
than resist, global warming. In 2004, Bush lost the Republican
presidential nomination after popular anger about lost retirement
funds and Bush’s past business dealings left him vulnerable to
challenge from McCain.

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Good evening.

My fellow Americans, this is the third time this summer I’ve spoken to
you from the Oval Office. Our national emergency continues, and it’s
urgent that you know how we are responding and how you can help.

As you know, much of our beloved homeland has been literally on fire
this summer. Many of you have watched on television these past days as
firefighters have bravely fought the blazes engulfing Yellowstone
National Park. Unfortunately, I received word this afternoon from the
commander on the scene that, despite his best efforts, most of
Yellowstone will have burned to the ground within 48 hours.

This tragedy will bring to 12 million the number of acres lost to fire
nationwide this summer, and August has barely begun. Therefore,
tonight I am issuing an executive order, closing all national parks in
fire-prone areas until further notice. I apologize for disrupting any
vacation plans, but we simply must do all we can to deter additional
fires.

The fires stem from the brutal heat and drought that have made all of
us so miserable this summer. Here in Washington temperatures have
topped 90 degrees on 50 of the last 60 days. On 25 days, it has been
over 100. I am profoundly grieved to report that the number of
heat-related deaths across the nation has reached 3,147. Most victims
have been elderly city dwellers who lacked air conditioning. Mrs.
McCain and I extend our deep sympathies to the families, and I ask you
to hold them in your prayers.

The heat has brought a new affliction as well. The Center for Disease
Control has confirmed an outbreak of dengue fever in southern Florida
and is investigating two more potential cases in New Orleans.
Quarantines have been established, and vaccinations will soon be
available. Please, cooperate with authorities to limit the spread of
this deadly disease.

Our farmers have suffered as cruelly as anyone. Much of the Midwest is
a parched dust bowl. The year’s harvest is projected to be down 40
percent. To save farmers from bankruptcy, I urge Congress to expand
the emergency farm supports proposed in my last speech. To deter a
doubling or worse of global food prices, and the political unrest they
can bring, I authorize tonight the release of 80 percent of our
remaining grain reserves. I also appeal to other large producing
nations to help us stabilize the markets.

As you know, the drought has forced us to ration water in 38 of the 50
states. I know this has been difficult. I know not being able to bathe
or shower every day is unpleasant. Unfortunately, the drought
persists, so we have no choice but to tighten the rationing still
further. No one gets exempted except hospitals and other emergency
facilities. Starting next week, industrial, agricultural, and
residential users alike will experience an additional one-third
reduction in water supply. So, if you now bathe or shower every second
day, next week it will be every third.

I am sorry to impose this sacrifice. But our nation has entered a new
era: Each of us must get used to managing with much less water than
before.

Ironically, at the same time we’re rationing water, we are expecting
drenching rains on parts of the East and Gulf coasts as hurricane
season gets under way. Our meteorologists warn me that this year’s
storms may be even more ferocious than last year’s. So please
understand: Many coastal areas may be declared off limits in the
coming weeks. Please respect any traffic blockades. They are not meant
to ruin your vacation but to keep you and your family safe.

My fellow Americans, this summer has been difficult for all of us. But
I bring you a message of hope tonight — a vision for how we can move
beyond this crisis and reclaim the bountiful future that is America’s
promise.

As an old military man, I believe the first rule of combat is, Know
your enemy. After extensive consultations with my staff and top
specialists from around the world, I am now convinced that our real
enemy is not the heat, the drought, or the fires. They are mere
symptoms. Our real enemy is global warming. Humanity has pumped
enormous amounts of carbon dioxide and other greenhouses gases into
the atmosphere, and we are beginning to pay the price.

I know some of my Republican friends may find this analysis hard to
hear. For years, some in our party have insisted global warming is
nothing more than liberal claptrap intended to reduce America’s
standard of living. I wish it were that simple. But there is nothing
liberal or conservative about global warming. It is basic science, and
the events of this summer illustrate how it is already making a
mockery of our standard of living.

No one would wish for the kind of summer we are now enduring, but
perhaps it will wake us up to the truth about global warming. This
year has been the hardest, but the fact is that killer droughts, heat
waves, forest fires, and super-storms have afflicted us in six of the
last seven summers. That is exactly what scientists have said global
warming would look like.

It just arrived more quickly than expected. Five years ago, the snows
on Mount Kilimanjaro were projected to melt by 2017. Now, the target
date has been advanced to 2010. If global sea levels rise as fast as
Kilimanjaro’s snow melts, some of our most precious coastal areas —
Cape Cod, New Orleans, the Florida Keys and parts of the National Mall
here in Washington — could be under water within our lifetimes. And
of course the brutal droughts, storms and heat waves will only get
worse.

So what do we do?

Tonight I appeal to Congress and the nation to launch what I call a
Green Deal for America. Joining me in this appeal, I’m happy to say,
is my old friend, Senate Majority Leader John Kerry. Sen. Kerry and I
have fought many environmental battles together but none so critical
as this.

The Green Deal for America is a government-led, but market based,
program to shift our nation away from carbon-based fuels like oil and
coal and replace them with solar, wind, and hydrogen. To begin, the
government will entirely stop subsidizing the carbon-based fuels that
only make global warming worse. Instead, those billions will be
converted into subsidies for green energy, such as consumer tax
credits to help solarize your house.

To further help tip the markets in a green direction, the government
will redirect its own purchasing power. For example, Washington will
tell Detroit that from now on the 60,000 vehicles we buy every year
for official use must be hydrogen-fueled. We will ask state and local
governments to do the same. The economies of scale that flow from
those orders should enable the car manufacturers to bring down the
price of hydrogen vehicles to where average consumers can afford them.

The second part of the Green Deal for America attacks the trickiest
part of the global warming problem: its long lag time. The trouble is,
carbon dioxide remains in the atmosphere for approximately 100 years.
That means even if we switched to a noncarbon energy system overnight,
the planet would keep warming for decades. So, it’s not enough to stop
adding carbon to the atmosphere. We must also extract as much of
what’s already there as possible. The fastest, easiest way to do that
is to plant trees. By the miracle of photosynthesis, trees inhale
carbon dioxide like we inhale oxygen.

So, the Green Deal will aim to plant 300 million trees, one for each
American, within the next five years. The government will pay for the
trees and equipment. Volunteers, organized in Green Brigades, will do
the actual planting. I hope young people in particular will consider
signing up.

With a Green Deal for America, our nation can kick the carbon habit
within 10 years and perhaps escape the worst effects of global
warming. Be careful: In the coming weeks, you may hear scare talk
claiming that a Green Deal will hurt our economy. Don’t be fooled. The
truth is, investing in green energy sources produces more jobs and
higher profits, not less. This program is good for workers, it’s good
for business, and it’s essential to our future.

My fellow Americans, we face one of the greatest tests in the history
of our nation. But I have no doubt we can meet this challenge. I hope
you will join me, Sen. Kerry, and numerous business, community and
labor leaders in working to pass a Green Deal for America. It’s no
silver bullet, but it will be a great help as we fight to restore our
homeland and secure the future our children and grandchildren deserve.

Good night, God bless you, and God bless America.

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About Mark

Independent journalist Mark Hertsgaard is the author of seven books that have been translated into sixteen languages, including Bravehearts: Whistle Blowing in the Age of Snowden; HOT: Living Through the Next Fifty Years on Earth; and A Day in the Life: The Music and Artistry of the Beatles. He has reported from twenty-five countries about politics, culture and the environment for leading outlets, including The Guardian, Der Spiegel, Vanity Fair, The New Yorker, Time, Mother Jones, NPR, the BBC and The Nation, where is the environment correspondent. He lives in San Francisco.

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