President Obama's acknowledgement of the need to confront Climate Change in his inaugural address was a welcome shift for those who have watched his administration drag its heels on this issue for four years. I personally experienced the old policy on May 7th, 2010 when six of my Global Warming Series paintings were ordered out of our nation's first green Federal Building (90 7th Street San Francisco) on the day of my reception.( "Censored: Feds force closure of Global Warming Show in First Green Federal Building" ) Our local press barely acknowledged this act of censorship. This was unfortunate, because there was an important story here. I was almost certainly the victim of the Administration's back room decision in 2009 to "downplay climate change". The incident did inspired me to create a new Global Warming Painting (pictured below) which imagined the consequences of Climate Change to the Federal Building that had evicted my paintings. I exhibited it five blocks away in Caffe Museo at the SFMOMA in May and June of 2011.
But that was then. This is now, and Obama has had a change of heart. Or has he? His boasts about our increasing domestic production of gas and oil immediately after his strong statement on Climate Change struck a troubling note. This note turned sour when he chose, on the day of the nation's largest Climate Change Demonstration in Washington DC, to play golf "in Florida with a pair of Texans who are key oil, gas and pipeline players". He may not be in denial, but Obama will not significantly challenge the massive wealth and power of the Fossil Fuel Industry unless he is confronted with massive pressure from the American people.
Criminal Profligacy of the Fossil Fuel Industries
It is an irony of our age that the fossil fuel industries, whose technologies of extraction, transportation and refinement would not exist without the discoveries of modern science are unwilling to heed the urgent warnings of the world's leading scientists. Insulated by their vast wealth and power they've enlisted pseudo scientists and religious fanatics to run interference so they can party while the planet burns! And it will burn if they are not brought to task.
Carbon dioxide, once released, is a genie that cannot easily be returned to the bottle. The biosphere needs thousands of years to reabsorb it, which means that, at current concentrations, the planet will experience serious warming, monster storms, droughts, famine and rising seas. But if we fail to break our dependence on fossil fuels within a couple of decades, concentrations could reach a point where, over several centuries, the planet would become uninhabitable for higher life forms.
Towards a Solution
Public pressure to counter the fossil fuel lobby needs to be accompanied by an effective plan to transition off fossil fuels as quickly as possible. Bernie Sanders and Barbara Boxer have unveiled "a fee and dividend" climate bill that would initiate this process. They would impose a fee of $20 a ton on all carbon emissions at their source. Raising the fee yearly so that after a decade it would be over $34 a ton. This is probably insufficient to wean us off carbon based fuels in two decades. But it's a good start and because 3/5's of the money raised will be returned to every legal resident, it has the potential to be popular with the American public. The rest of the money would go to incentives for clean energy and research. We should all support this bill.
Activism can pay off:
The 80 mile-long park that constitutes Point Reyes National Seashore and the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, some of it visible in this painting, was largely the creation of a few dedicated activists. Their story is brilliantly told in the new film Rebels With A Cause.