I direct myself to new and young eligible voters in the United States, though I speak today from Dubai—a city-state that is suffused right now with a toxic brew of empty rhetoric and particulate pollution.
Both those features stem from an embrace of fossil fuels, including their continuous and even increased production. That deadly embrace threatens persons with pre-existing respiratory disease, the elderly, children, least-developed nations, and future generations.
Something needs to give.
But beyond that ultimately suicidal project, which we must soon turnaround, there exists an even more immediately dire threat to our climate system—and thus to our planet.
Because the world cannot turn around this near-ultimate problem of climate change in the absence of United States engagement, if not leadership. And US political leaders have proven themselves, time and again, incapable of resisting the siren song of big oil money without an engaged and demanding public, in a system that respects fundamental democratic rights, and the rule of law.
And it is for that reason that I expressly address new and young eligible voters in the United States. Because, at least to judge from one recent poll, substantially more Americans in the 18-29 age group intend, right now, to sit out the 2024 election than did in 2020.
This would be, in my judgment, a major mistake. Perhaps catastrophic.
Much if not all that we hold dear about the American democratic experiment depends on respect—in principal and in fact—for the rule of law.
And it is for that reason that the lawless and authoritarian threat to our democracy—from Trump and his merry gang of anti-constitutional insurrectionists—needs to be resisted. Resisted, indeed, with every reasonable tool, under the law, that is now and will be at our disposal.
Your participation in both the upcoming primary and general elections, resides at or near the top of actions that you, your friends, and your family can reasonably take.
Now let me also say this:
I well understand the disillusion that many young people in the US may well feel at this moment. The Biden team has accomplished a great deal, and yet, in my mind, too, it could have done far more. Perhaps especially with respect to ensuring against violations of the fundamental norms of international law by our allies, including with respect to the conflict and crisis in Gaza. And also with respect to the need to reinstate the fundamental rights of women. And also, of course, in more fully facing up to and leading the charge against dangerous climate change.
But as to the overwhelming Trump & company lawlessness at home, I need to point out—and with considerable regret as an officer of the courts—that we really can take little solace in the current prosecutions of Trump and his BAGA henchmen on 91 (and counting) state and federal felonies.
Why not? Because the wheels of justice take time, and Trump’s attorneys, as incompetent as they seem, still sufficiently understand how to delay justice through endless motions and appeals, including extraordinary claims of total immunity, in their drive to wait it out until November, and thus deny justice.
The same is true about some very well-grounded efforts, again, pursuant to law, to keep Trump off the ballot, in light of Section 3 of the 14th Amendment, which bans insurrectionists against the Constitution from returning to high office.
The problem is that federal and state court judges and, I am afraid, United States Supreme Court Justices, may not have the courage of conviction that our framers and founders anticipated they would in fact retain.
And so it comes down to this: the ultimate guarantors of the American democratic experiment, and the rule of law, may be you, and me.
That we faithfully fulfill our own democratic responsibilities is rendered even more important by the climate crisis, because neither the Paris Agreement, nor the Framework Convention, are self-executing under US law. These agreements can be implemented and enforced, if at all, in our nation, only by rational and far-reaching action pursuant to US domestic law.
And so it is that our willingness to act without fear, or even in the face of fear, that is, with courage as well as with conviction, and determination, is needed to protect and restore our nation and the climate system, on which the safety and welfare of our brethren and nature, as we have come to know it, necessarily depends.
But, you may ask: What if you actually retain little expertise in the law, or even with respect to the American electoral system? Perhaps you slept through your high school civics class, or you skipped out on several of your first year government classes in college. If so, maybe you will consider waiting it out, looking on from the side, and garnering the requisite knowledge slowly, at your own pace.
My advice, with respect, is this: Do not. Do not wait it out. Instead, figure it out, right now, and in the weeks and months ahead. You have the means, you have the intelligence, and really, the cost of participation is quite low. If necessary, learn by doing.
Look, this is not rocket-science—even the delegate-selection process in the United States, that is, primaries and caucuses, these are not rocket science. Indeed, they are not even climate science.
What is at stake? Nearly everything. This is your time. Not 2026, not 2028. Instead, right now.