What Canada and U.S. climate activists need to work on


in Economics, Politics, The environment

For a few reasons, I am trying to reconsider what sort of political activity presents the best odds of helping to mitigate the seriousness of climate change.

I think people are right to target new fossil fuel infrastructure. There is a good chance of delaying or preventing many projects which would otherwise worsen humanity’s total historical carbon emissions. We just need to be careful to move on from tactics which have proven ineffective. I would put big marches and many common forms of direct action into this category.

There also needs to be a sustained effort against complacency within the environmental movement. We can’t fall into a pattern of doing things which are emotionally fulfilling to us, but which aren’t advancing a clear external purpose. “Raising awareness” doesn’t count.

We need to be working on cross-ideological alliances.

We need to keep developing alliances with other social justice movements, but make sure to try to do so strategically. Just because a clause is laudable doesn’t mean it’s prudent to engage in allyship automatically.

We need to be developing an alliance with what remains of the unionized labour movement: at a minimum to support the development of training programs for fossil fuel sector workers, and more ambitiously to support the emergence of an electable political ideology that calls for the transition away from capitalism intent on endless growth in consumption.

We need to keep pushing climate solutions justified in other ways. If people in some jurisdictions or social groups are more interested in renewable energy because of energy security reasons, it’s worth working with them on the deployment of climate-safe energy. Shutting down coal plants because of their appalling toxic pollution is just as desirable as shutting them down because of their damaging GHG emissions.

Other ideas?

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

alena November 15, 2016 at 10:53 am

How about education? Could we not introduce some environmental science courses at the high school level particularly now that the curriculum is changing? I believe that the Waldorf School is already doing this and they also promote the “no label,” “zero waste” policies. Christian schools are also including “Environmental Stewardship* courses at even the elementary school level.
Regulation and legislation would certainly be most effective.

. January 26, 2017 at 6:27 pm

And that is why the Koch brothers and the American Petroleum Institute and other arms of the fossil-fuel industry have played the political game so fiercely. They know all about the long run – hell, as good investigative reporting over the past 18 months has demonstrated, Exxon knew about climate change before almost anyone else. But the company also knows there are trillions to be made if it can postpone that action for a few more decades, even at the cost of wrecking the planet. Every year Exxon issues a new energy forecast, and every year it shows fossil fuels still providing most of the planet’s power by midcentury, never mind the skyrocketing temperature or the plummeting cost of solar. Now, Exxon’s accounting will be the nation’s – replacing the mathematics laid out in the Paris Agreement a year ago. Trump may not be able to kill it outright, but he can certainly make sure that we don’t keep our pledges, tempting the rest of the world to backslide.

Which means that the opposition will need to be savvy and dynamic, focused constantly on keeping the momentum of the energy transition growing, not slowing. Everything depends on pace – only if we can keep renewable power galloping ahead do we have a chance of catching up with climate change. So first things first: Mark April 29th on your calendar, because the climate movement will convene in D.C. to show that the election didn’t cancel physics. Politicians need to be reminded, even as they do the bidding of the industry, that the rest of us are watching. That march will mark 100 days of the Trump administration; his early surge can’t be avoided, but it can be slowed.

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