Dear Mr. President,
Congratulations on your re-election. Now, let me introduce you to the constituents you – and the Republican opposition – will have to answer to before you answer to anyone else.
Their names are Celia Rizzo, Laura Aptheker-Cassels and Rose Driscoll. I met them four years ago, when they were 7th graders at Holmes Junior High in Davis. They were on a field trip to the Chabot Space & Science Center in Oakland and having the time of their lives.
Celia loved the star show at the Ask Jeeves Planetarium. Laura loved the simulated space shuttle mission in the Challenger Learning Center. And Rose was fascinated by the space toilet from the Mir Space Station.
But their favorite exhibit by far was a teeny little display tucked away in the corner. It was about solar energy.
"All our friends are freaked out about global warming, but our parents' generation aren't," Rose explained. "By the time it becomes a real problem, they'll all be gone. We're the ones who are going to have to deal with it."
Well, her timetable was a bit optimistic. Global warning is already a real problem only four years later, as Hurricane Sandy demonstrated. But her basic complaint – that we grownups are still making like ostriches – is as valid as ever.
Mr. President, neither you nor Gov. Romney uttered a peep about it during the campaign. Not exactly profiles in courage.
But now that you've got the job for another four years, it's your duty to put the issue front and center in the national dialog.
Yes, I know your plate is already full. There's the so-called "fiscal cliff" coming up at the end of the year, plus immigration reform and finding replacements for Hillary Clinton at State, Tim Geithner at Treasury and David Petraeus at CIA.
But this is one can that can't be kicked down the road any longer. Every year, more and more fossil fuels – which increase the amount of carbon dioxide – are being pumped into the atmosphere. And every year, more and more trees - which reduce carbon dioxide – are being cut down. The arithmetic is inevitable.
And make no mistake: Only we can take the lead on this for the simple reason that we - along with the Europeans – have been the ones who have contributed most to the problem.
Now that formerly underdeveloped countries – like China, India and Brazil – are becoming industrial giants, it's only natural that they want to claim a piece of the pie, too.
It's going to be hard to convince them not to behave as badly as we did for the last 150 years. And the only way we can is to lead by example, which means being the first one to make the necessary sacrifices.
That's going to be a tough proposition to sell to the country, and it won't come about overnight. So you'd better get this conversation started ASAP.
I won't be here when the crunch comes, Mr. President, and probably neither will you. But Celia, Laura and Rose will.
They weren't eligible to vote this time because they're only 16. But they will be eligible in 2016. And if we grownups haven't cleaned up our act and embarked on serious action by then, they won't be in a very forgiving mood.