That's the phrase that's missing from the current climate change legislation in our Senate and worldwide in global climate talks.
What if we approached global warming the way we approached confronting the Nazis in World War II or the way NASA approached Apollo 13?
"Failure is not an option."
Why are the leaders of Industrial countries so slow to act on climate change?
The real question is about power. Not the power for running our world, but who owns the rights to energy, and to what lengths are people willing to go to hold on to that power and the profits they represent?
One way we are all responsible for climate change is our personal auto use. But how do we change that our transportation habits, if industries like GM or oil companies are conspiring to keep these electric cars out of the market? Instead of patting ourselves on the back for fuel efficiency for cars of 35.5 miles per gallon by 2016, how about a target for zero emissions for cars by 2016?
Instead of a "Cash for Clunkers" program, what if we had a "Cash for Conversion" program that would pay people incentive money to convert their gas engines to electric? Or couldn't the President tell GM to mass produce the Tesla Roadster's engine for every new GM vehicle?
Don't tell me the cost of a Tesla engine would not be much more affordable if every engine in every new GM car or truck was the Tesla engine? If Barack Obama can tell the CEO of GM to resign, couldn't he do this too?
The fact is that there is an abundance of clean energy sources, but as the Center for Public Integrity reports, Fossil fuel industries are lobbying against clean energy efforts worldwide and blocking meaningful climate legislation.
Here in the United States, the debates on climate legislation are filled with industry talking points: Both Republican and Democratic Senators are making statements limiting what the US will commit to, such as:
"If China and India won't commit to 'x' then the United States won't either"
Who has been polluting for 150 years with coal and 100 years with oil?
The United States leads the world in pollution, morally we must lead the world towards ending that pollution, not waiting for other countries.
And it starts with your own Senator and Representatives. In my own state, my two 'environmentally friendly' Democratic Senators say they are for clean energy, but at the same time are signing letters of support for natural gas and nuclear energy.
Why promote nuclear energy when it drinks up huge amounts of water? And why promote natural gas in Colorado when we already have people with flammable drinking water?
These fuel sources are being touted as 'cleaner than coal', but that does not make them clean or safe.
But the real problem is that while the public is given the 'bait and switch' routine on clean energy, we are missing the big picture.
The so called 'good' plans and models being presented in the US Senate and globally at the UN and at Copenhagen have 'target dates' for countries such as '450 ppm' carbon emissions by 2050 or 2070 by the Industrialized countries.
The truth is, having target dates like 2050 and 2070 for limiting carbon emissions is heartless and immoral. If the scientific community told you that the United States would no longer exist by 2030, would you be comforted by models for change based on targets for 2050?
That's what its like for the tens of thousands of islanders right now whose islands will be gone by 2030 and who will be the world's environmental refugees. For our political leaders, not leading with a plan for zero emissions as soon as possible is like admitting that we are okay with repeating the moral lapses of the slave trade, colonialism, and the genocide of Native Americans.
Our energy targets for the future dates should not have statements about how many parts per million are acceptable, we need to have target dates for when we will reach zero emissions.
"Not possible" the industry will reply - maybe not possible for the industry to remain profitable, but it is possible.
In talking with activists in the clean energy field and from the NREL, I learned that if Colorado - just one state, built the windmills and solar panels to capacity - Colorado alone would have 40 times the electricity it needs, enough to power the entire Midwest.
And if several Midwestern states committed to building the same number of windmills and solar arrays, there would enough surplus electricity to power our nation, run an entire electric car fleet - and give us the ability to decommission the coal and natural gas plants currently running.
Colorado currently uses 12 Gigawatts of Electricity... Colorado has 96 gigawatts of wind energy. In terms of Solar energy, Colorado has 200 gigawatts of energy. (me) enough to power the Midwest...? Yes more than enough.
But you will invariably hear people say "the wind doesn't always blow and the sun does not always shine" - yes, but the battery technology we have can store energy much better than before, all we need to do is divert subsidies from fossil fuel industries like the billions in Waxman-Markey for coal and invest those funds into mass improving the grid, transmission lines, and battery production.
If we could pave 41,000 miles of Highway in a two decades under Eisenhower's Federal Highway Act, couldn't we build hundreds of solar arrays and thousands of wave energy turbines as well as numerous wind farms under a Federal Clean Energy Act? Not only would this put tens of thousands of people back to work, but in two decades we could go from the world's largest polluter, to the first Industrial power to achieve zero emissions.
Why must this be the goal?
"If you can not save the Maldives today, you will not be able to save New York, London or Mumbai tomorrow"
Environmental refugees are last on the list of concerns of those in the industry who want to water down any significant legislation or binding international treaties. The industry does not want their plight to be of concern to you and me, because if we equate energy use/abuse with human rights, we might change our minds on how we power our country. For their sakes, and ours, we the people of the Industrialized countries must demand a change from our leaders on our energy sources.
Take a second to sign this petition to President Barack Obama and Secretary General Ban-Ki Moon on the behalf of the environmental refugees that are already going to lose their island nations.
Failure is the course we are charting for hundreds of millions of people.
We must radically change our energy sources and our targets to zero emissions.
Failure is not an option.