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The Brutal Meaning of Immediately

Collide-a-ScapeBy Keith KloorDecember 6, 2011 9:11 AM


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I want whatever David Roberts at Grist is smoking. In his latest why-don't-you-fools-get-it post, Roberts takes aim at his own "climate hawk coalition,"

a new approach that backgrounds climate change and refocuses the discussion on innovation, energy security, and economic competitiveness.

Now why would they do that? The old (business as usual) approach--Climate doom! Civilization is toast! Game over!--seemed to be working fine, right? Well, just you never mind, because the point is, as Roberts has previously intoned, you can't save the world if it's not going to be expressly done on behalf of climate change. Absent that, he now argues, the "new approach" that seeks to bypass the messy, divisive politics of global warming "cannot work":

At least it cannot work if we hope to avoid terrible consequences. Why not? It's simple: If there is to be any hope of avoiding civilization-threatening climate disruption, the U.S. and other nations must act immediately and aggressively on an unprecedented scale. That means moving to emergency footing. War footing. "Hitler is on the march and our survival is at stake" footing. That simply won't be possible unless a critical mass of people are on board. It's not the kind of thing you can sneak in incrementally.

Okay, that clarifies things. Just one teensy question, if I may: How immediately is immediately? Because if it's not next week, or even next year, some people might actually give up hope, or start to wonder if there's still time to avert climate catastrophe. Then what do you say to them?

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