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Defusing emergency

A year ago today, Mitch McConnell and Kevin McCarthy were fleeing for their lives as a violent mob swarmed the halls of the US Capitol. With their personal safety at risk, the two most powerful Republicans on Capitol Hill at last stood up to Donald Trump. In a heated phone call, McCarthy, the House minority leader, fruitlessly implored the president to call off the mob. Senate majority leader McConnell later called the rioters “terrorists” and said Trump was ‘morally responsible’ for the violence.

But McConnell and McCarthy soon slunk back to enabling Trump’s assaults on democracy. They were quiet while Trump insisted the 2020 election was stolen and that anyone who disagreed must be purged from public office. They stayed mute as Trump supporters threatened violence against election officials and Republican-dominated state legislatures rewrote laws and procedures to prevent fair voting.

McConnell and McCarthy have shamelessly put party ahead of country and ambition ahead of duty, setting up alarming ramifications for the future. Scientists have said for years that humanity faces a climate emergency and only rapid, far-reaching action can preserve a livable planet. On the first anniversary of the 6 January attack, it’s clear the United States also faces a democracy emergency as well. Only rapid, far-reaching action can preserve a government that is of, by, and for the people.

The democracy emergency is closely linked to the climate crisis. Each is grounded in a big lie – that climate science is a hoax, that Trump won in 2020 – pushed by the same rightwing politicians and propaganda ‘news’ outlets and embraced with cult-like devotion by Trump’s followers. Left untreated, each threatens disaster. If Trump’s forces do change enough electoral rules and personnel to guarantee victory in 2022 and beyond, there is zero chance the US government will take the strong climate action needed to avert global catastrophe.

Defusing the global climate emergency therefore depends on protecting democracy. To be sure, the US is not the only country where anti-democratic trends hamper climate progress. Most of the worst laggards at November’s Cop26 climate summit were countries where authoritarianism is either entrenched or on the rise: China, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Brazil, India, the US. But the collapse of US democracy would carry especially damaging climate consequences. Slashing global emissions in half by 2030, as science says is imperative, would be impossible if the world’s biggest economy and leading historical carbon emitter refuses to help.

How to defuse the democracy emergency is too big a question to answer briefly. President Biden and the Democrats surely must do more; the Senate majority leader, Chuck Schumer, has promised a vote by 17 January on reforming the filibuster to pass fair voting laws.

Excerpted: ‘Defusing Democracy Emergency Needed to Address Climate Emergency’

Mark Hertsgaard, "Defusing emergency," The News. 2022-01-08.
Keywords: Environmental sciences , Climate crisis , Climate emergency , Global warming , Pollution , Weather , Ecosystem , Mitch McConnell , Kevin McCarthy , United States