To save the planet, create an NRA-style superlobby
Say what you will about the National Rifle Association's take-no-prisoners approach to gun control, it has been ruthlessly successful. Despite a spate of mass shootings, the gun lobby has blocked any major federal restrictions on firearms since the now-lapsed assault weapons ban in 1994.
Now it’s time for climate activists, businesses harmed by global warming, and everyone else who cares about the fate of the Earth and future generations to take a page from the NRA playbook.
A climate superlobby is exactly what’s needed to convince a stilldoubtful segment of the public, mobilize voters, strong-arm recalcitrant lawmakers — and, perhaps most important, raise the money necessary to make all of this happen.
True, it’s a heavy lift to hammer out cooperation among the nation’s Balkanized environmental groups and regulation-averse corporations. But what’s happening now isn’t working. And time is running out.
On Wednesday, scientists reported that worldwide carbon dioxide emissions will reach the highest level on record — an estimated 37.1 billion tons — this year. An assessment by 13 federal agencies released on Black Friday described a climate already altered with more powerful storms, disrupted fisheries and 9 inches of higher sea levels along the U.S. coastline. It predicted severe economic damage.
The grassroots elements used by the NRA to frustrate gun control could also be employed to fight global warming:
❚ Money. The NRA and its nonprofit lobbying arms raise and spend millions of dollars to lobby Congress and run issue-based campaign ads. Industries hurt by climate change — including insurance, health care, agriculture, recreation and real estate — have combined values in the trillions of dollars. They stand to lose tens of billions if even moderate climate change occurs. If these industries join forces with climate-concerned billionaires, they could generate more than enough to offset money from fossil fuel interests.
❚ Manpower. The NRA claims 5 million members who can sway elections despite a minority view: Two out of three Americans favor tougher gun control laws, but the anti-control voters are far more passionate. A climate superlobby could draw on tens of millions, especially fervent millennials.
❚ Mobilization. The NRA relies on devoted members not only to vote but also to draft letters, talk to friends, and donate money to the organization’s political action committee. A climate superlobby could pool membership contacts and start doing the same.
The reality is that when the NRA speaks, Washington listens. There’s no reason the save-the-planet movement can’t carry that kind of clout.
BRUCE PLANTE/TULSA WORLD/PLANTEINK/POLITICALCARTOONS.COM