To save the planet, cre­ate an NRA-style su­per­lobby

USA TODAY US Edition - - OPINION -

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

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