Aiko Stevenson: U.S. Election 2012: Battle for the Soul of America

In approximately eight weeks, Americans will go to the polls to vote for their next president. The outcome will not only affect the American people, but everyone on the planet.

Last year, the International Energy Agency (IEA) warned that global warming will hit the point of no return in five years time.

That means we have less than four years to solve this imminent crisis which threatens all life on earth. And, as the U.S. is the world’s largest superpower, it’s role is critical.

In the words of former U.S. Vice President Al Gore: “The United States is the only nation that can rally a global effort to save our future. And the president is the only person who can rally the United States.” In other words, the fate of our planet largely depends on who wins this year’s election.

This summer, Americans got a bitter taste of what global warming looks like. Terrifying wildfires, biblical downpours and punishing heat waves all swept across the nation whilst the worst drought in half a century raised the specter of yet another food crisis.

And, although such changes may seem apocalyptic, they were brought about by a mere 0.8 degree Celsius temperature rise. By the end of this century however, unless we radically rein in our global carbon emissions, the IEA says that the world may warm by 6 degrees Celsius. The fate of our planet quite literally hangs in the balance.

That’s why Republican nominee Mitt Romney simply will not do. At the recent GOP convention in Florida he mocked the incumbent’s environmental concerns: “President Obama promised to begin to slow the rise of the oceans and to heal the planet.” He then paused to allow the audience to laugh at the absurdity.

In the words of climate scientist Michael Mann, someone who has “such a wanton disregard for the health of our environment” is not worthy of the White House. And what’s worse, Romney recognized man’s contribution to climate change just 12 months ago.

In fact, he supported clean energy during his tenure as Governor of Massachusetts, but he has since backtracked on that position in order to garner support both from the oil industry and the more conservative members of this party — many of whom regard climate change to be a hoax.

Romney now chides Obama’s support for renewable energy: “You can’t drive a car with a windmill on it.” He says that green energy is a waste of money in a struggling economy, and if he gets into the White House this November, he will roll back tax breaks enjoyed by this sector.

But, according to the Center for American Progress Action Fund, the wind industry has grown over 35 percent per annum over the last five years. It now provides thousands of decent jobs, and powers over 10 million homes in the U.S. That’s why profit seeking banks like Goldman Sachs and Citigroup are all plowing their money into the sector.

Romney may tout his business credentials, but he’s turning his back on this lucrative sector and putting thousands of jobs at risk. Why? It seems that the Republican nominee may be in bed with the fossil fuel industry. According to the Center for Responsive Politics which tracks political donations, the oil lobby has already given his campaign over $8 million compared to a mere $1 million to the Democrats.

And, even though the top five oil companies earned over $350 million a day in the first half of this year, Romney plans on maintaining their subsidies which top over $40 billion per annum, whilst offering them further tax breaks. Moreover, his energy plan endorses further drilling both on U.S. soil and along the Atlantic coastline.

If Romney wins this year’s presidential race, any flicker of hope for pulling the world back from the brink of irreversible global warming will have clearly been lost. His Republican platform mentions “climate change” but once.

Although many Americans feel let down by some of the promises that President Obama made when he rode into power four years ago, many of the changes that he put into place at the height of the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression are taking time to come into place. In the words of former U.S. President Bill Clinton: “No president — not me or any of my predecessors — could have repaired all the damage in just four years. But conditions are improving and if you’ll renew the president’s contract you will feel it.”

Moreover, recognizing that “climate change is one of the biggest threats of this generation,” Obama has made clean energy a priority. It has already doubled under his stewardship, and he plans on making at least 80 percent of the nation’s electricity come from renewable energy by 2035:

In the last year alone, we cut oil imports by one million barrels a day. And today, the United States of America is less dependent on foreign oil than at any time in nearly two decades. I will not let oil companies write this country’s energy plan, or endanger our coastlines.

According to recent polls, the two candidates are running neck in neck. That means that your vote this November is important. To quote Obama: “More droughts, floods and wildfires are a threat to our children’s future. And in this election, you can do something about it… When you pick up that ballot to vote — you will face the clearest choice of any time in a generation.”

It’s not just a battle for the soul of America. In the words of Al Gore: “What hangs in the balance is the future of civilization as we know it.” And, in eight weeks time, you can do something about it.

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