Design a site like this with
Get started

A Manhattan Project To Avert Climate Collapse

Dear reader, we’re not going to make it. You know that, right? The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change says that to limit global overheating to around 1.5°C (2.7°F), beyond which the already dire consequences become catastrophic, “requires global greenhouse gas emissions to peak before 2025 at the latest, and be reduced by 43% by 2030.” Sure, all the nations on Earth, where at least three major wars are raging at this moment (Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the Ethiopian and Yemeni civil wars), alongside numerous “minor” wars that aren’t so minor if you’re trapped in them, are going to agree to cut in half their consumption of energy and plastics within eight years, almost certainly triggering a drastic worldwide economic depression. Right after they all gather ‘round and do that thing in the folk song “Last Night I Had the Strangest Dream,” agreeing to end war forever. Putin, ISIS, North Korea and all!

The IPCC has been conservative in the true sense of that horribly abused word, meaning cautious in its conclusions. So I think it’s clear that, in a technical sense, the world is screwed. What can be done about it? Even the sainted Germans have only been fiddling around with the giant shell game of “carbon credits.” National leaders are just not going to agree to crash their economies, and if they did, their constituents would boil them in Light Sweet Crude. It is human nature not to care about your house maybe possibly getting flooded or burned down in ten years, if it means you’d have to stop driving your car today. In addition to which, of course, there’s the profit motive of everyone from Vladimir Putin to the bloodthirsty Saudi Crown Prince, Mohammed bin Salman, down to the owner of your local gas station, all of whom lobby tirelessly against any move away from fossil fuels.

We’ve been warned against thinking technological breakthroughs can solve all our problems, but brothers and sisters and gender-fluids, we are in the final countdown here until the Antarctic ice sheets start to let go in a major way, and you’ll be able to buy beachfront property in the Hudson Valley with stunning views of the ruins of New York City. How many people have to roast to death this summer in the Pacific Northwest, drown in hurricanes from Texas to Florida to New Jersey, or die in wildfires from California to Colorado, before we get serious? What happens when the taps run dry in Phoenix and Los Angeles, and there’s no irrigation in the Imperial Valley or Kansas? And that’s ignoring the whole rest of the world, as we Americans are wont to do. There’s no way around it: We need a souped-up version of the Manhattan Project, America’s crash program to build an atomic bomb in World War II before Hitler beat us to it. President Biden needs to go on TV tonight and deliver a speech—one that may incidentally save his political bacon by finally changing the subject from the Farce/Fascist Republican “culture war” nonsense, because no one can win being on the defensive all the time. The speech could go something like this:

“Good evening, my fellow Americans. I’ve come before you tonight to announce an emergency program to save our country and the world from the cascading disasters of global overheating, before our globalized civilization collapses. Let’s not mince words, here: The consensus opinion of the sober-minded scientists at the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is that we have to halve our carbon emissions in the next eight years, or wave farewell to our coastal cities, from Boston and New York to Miami, Mobile, and Houston, and from San Diego up to Seattle. Tens of millions of Americans will be in jeopardy from lack of food and clean drinking water, while monster storms take an ever-increasing toll of human lives. The only way to stop this onrushing flood of catastrophes is with a mighty scientific and technological effort, to match and even exceed anything this country did to beat the Axis Powers in the Second World War.

“The good news is, this is America, the land that specializes in making the impossible come true. When President Kennedy promised to put a man on the moon in less than ten years, many must have thought he was crazy. But we did it, because this is America! And we can do this, too. The cost of that effort was $257 billion, in inflation-adjusted dollars. The cost of developing the technologies we need to stop using fossil fuels and petroleum-derived plastics will be that steep, or even higher. How will we find the money? We’ll get an enormous head start by reversing forty years of irresponsible tax giveaways to guys who are already so rich, they can’t think of anything to do with their windfall but play Rocket Man with vanity rides into space. At some point soon, though, it’s true: you, the average American, may be asked to make a temporary sacrifice in taxes for your country. But we have no alternative. None. Our national survival, and the future of Earth’s eight billion people, depend on this crash effort. We’ll be spending on everything from better solar panels and more efficient wind turbines to the breakthrough that’s eluded us for decades, turning the nuclear fusion power that makes the sun shine into virtually free energy to run our cars and our factories, and to light and heat our homes. We’ll be funding blue-sky technologies that we can hardly even imagine today. And we’ll be creating millions of jobs, starting in the long-suffering coal and ‘rustbelt’ country of West Virginia and Ohio, where Operation U-S-A Future will have its headquarters and its laboratories.

“I hope the Republicans will join us in this patriotic effort to save our country. But if they’d prefer to go on serving the interests of Vladimir Putin, the Saudis, and the Big Oil executives who pocket every extra dollar you pay at the pump, I think the American people will want to know why. My fellow Americans, they may try to slow us down, but they won’t be able to stop us.

“Tonight, my allies in Congress are putting the finishing touches on the appropriate legislation to seize the future for America, before we lose it to the filthy byproducts of the industrial technologies that we’ve all come to depend on. Call your senators and Congressional representatives today to demand they support Operation U-S-A Future, this urgent effort at national salvation. And if they won’t, vote them out in November and replace them with men and women who will. Good night, God bless America, and God bless our troops.”

Photo: Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico, where the Manhattan Project to develop the atomic bomb was based during World War II.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: