Time, Not Cheap Political Theater, is of the Essence

Thankfully, the disastrous and benighted Montana legislative session is limping towards its ignominious conclusion, which cannot come soon enough for many, many Montanans. Meanwhile, in Congress Democrat “centrists” like Sen. Joe Manchin threaten to hold up the major measures President Biden is seeking to address the tidal wave of very serious threats to the nation and our people unless Republicans go along — a futile and rather naive approach as the dregs of Trumpism continue to plague a once-serious political party. And over it all, a new report by the nation’s top intelligence officials tells us the unvarnished truth about the future — and it says the national and global crises are piling up and our chance to survive, let alone prosper, means taking real actions now, not just talking about it. And time, as they say, is of the essence.

For those who think we will somehow deal with the increasingly disastrous effects of climate change, global pandemics, rampant inequality and international tensions by waving a flag for one nation or political party, the National Intelligence Council’s “Global Trends 2040” report will be a harsh awakening to reality. As the subtitle bluntly puts it: “A more contested future” looms large and unavoidable for mankind.

Indeed, after decades of warnings of the impending environmental and economic cataclysm wrought by human-caused atmospheric pollution with the by-products of our industrialized societies, that future has arrived. Just last week the Mauna Loa Observatory on Hawaii’s Big Island recorded carbon dioxide (CO2) levels of more than 420 parts per million, the highest levels ever in human history and twice the pre-industrial levels of this potent greenhouse gas.

But we didn’t need a number to realize the global warming predictions are coming true. The Atlantic Current is the slowest it’s been in 1,600 years. Sweeping warm water up from the Gulf all the way to Greenland, the effects of the current’s changes and resulting impacts are global in scope. Meanwhile, the ice caps are melting — and we surely don’t need a study to tell us Montana’s glaciers are disappearing at an alarming rate. Shorter, warmer winters; longer, hotter summers; drought and wildfires, and increasingly powerful and destructive storms are real manifestations of our troubles — not politically motivated hype, as some would have us believe.

Which brings us to the seminal questions: What are we going to do about it and who is going to do it? For the last four years, our nation not only didn’t move forward in addressing these environmental challenges, it exacerbated them through the “regulatory rollbacks” enacted by our delusional former president. Likewise, his tax giveaways to the already wealthy and fiscal policies have exacerbated the impending crisis of economic inequality. He’s gone, but the future will pay for his folly.

Now, however, comes a new president in Joe Biden and a new realization by the leaders of the Democratic majorities in Congress that we have frittered away far too many opportunities and dodged too many responsibilities while hiding behind the sorry excuse of “bipartisan solutions” to the nation’s and planet’s increasingly unavoidable problems.

If “centrist Democrat” Joe Manchin thinks the out-of-work coal miners in West Virginia are sitting around debating the merits of ending the filibuster or using reconciliation to pass Biden’s much-needed economic aid to feed their families, educate their children, get health care, reclaim their mine-ravaged lands, and receive the retraining they’ll need as industries leave coal behind, the only one he’s fooling is himself. Time, not cheap political theater, is of the essence now — and the simple truth is we are out of time.

George Ochenski is a columnist for the Daily Montanan, where this essay originally appeared.