Wishing Won’t Make It So:   But thinking out loud might make a difference.

What are the chances that Joe Biden will take himself out of the 2024 presidential campaign, perhaps with a Labor Day speech?  Not good, based on what EP reads in the newspapers. Yet I have begun hoping that Biden just might. Here’s why.

It is not because Biden would fail to win re-election if he chooses to run. He promised to serve as a bridge and he has done that.  His takeover of Donald Trump’s Big Talk platform of 2016 seems nearly complete. “Bidemomics,” which boils down to strategic rivalry with China, is the right road for American industrial and trade for many years to come.

The problem is that a second term would almost certainly end in disaster, for both Biden and for the United States. The dismal war in Ukraine; the threat of another in Taiwan; the impending fiscal crises of America’s Social Security and medical insurance programs: these are not problems for a good-hearted 82-year-old man of diminishing mental capacity, much less his fractious team of advisers.

Most of all, there is the challenge of global warming.  It seems safe to say that there can no longer be doubt in any quarter that the problem is real. Perhaps this year’s strong demonstration effects were required to galvanize public opinion for action.  But what action to take?

With respect to climate change, EP has written many times that the best introduction available is Spencer Weart’s 200-page book, The Discovery of Global Warming (Harvard, 2008.) Weart maintains a much more extensive hypertext version of the book on site of the Center for the History of Physics, which he founded in 1974.  The digital edition was most recently updated in May 2023.

A distinguished historian of science, author of several books on other topics, including governance, Weart is a man of balanced and temperate views. Here is what he wrote in his book’s sobering “Conclusions: A Personal Statement:”

Policies put in place in recent decades to reduce emissions have made a real difference, bringing estimates of future temperatures down to a point where the risk of utterly catastrophic heating is now low. If we are lucky, and the planet responds at the lower limit of what seems possible, we might be able to halt the rise with less than another 1°C of warming, putting us a bit under 2°C above 19th-century temperatures. That would be a world with widespread devastation, but survivable as a civilization….

Yet the world’s scientists have explained that we need to get the emissions into a steep decline by the year 2030. Yes, that soon. What if we fail to turn this around? The greenhouse gases lingering in the atmosphere would lock in the warming. The policies we put in place in this decade will determine the state of the climate for the next 10,000 years….

If we do not make big changes in our economy and society, in how we live and how we govern ourselves, global warming will force far more radical changes upon us. In particular, we must restrain the influence of amoral corporations and extremely wealthy people, who have played a despicable role in blocking essential policies. To allow ever worse climate disruption would give those who already hold too much power opportunities to seize even more amid the chaos….

So, what to do about global warming? Negotiate an end to the war in Ukraine. Avoid war in Taiwan. Put the military-industrial complex on pause. Send Biden home to Wilmington, to nurture his family.

Throw open the race. Let other newspapers start writing stories like this one.  Trust in the election to produce a young leader. American democracy has done it before.  We don’t have four years to wait.

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