Bourgeois society stands at the crossroads, either transition to Socialism or regression into Barbarism.
- Rosa Luxemburg, "Junius Pamphlet" 1916

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Citizens Climate Lobby

Last night, I attended an interesting talk by Mark Reynolds, executive director of a group called the Citizens Climate Lobby. The Eugene/Springfield Solidarity Network, an alliance of labor unions and community groups, is trying to get a chapter of that group started here in the Eug.

The CCL is a lobbying group, with an interesting take on the process; rather than fund-raise to pay professional lobbyists to campaign for climate change action on the Hill, they train citizens to lobby members of congress from their own states and districts. The idea is that, by putting organized and coordinated pressure on politicians, directly from members of their constituencies, it is possible to go toe-to-toe with the sort of immense monetary resources fossil fuel lobbies can throw into the fight. I'm dubious about that, since I'm infinitely cynical about how congresspersons are bought and paid for, but the CCL has won some encouraging victories in state level battles.

Currently, they are advocating for H.R. 3242, the "Save Our Climate Act," introduced to the House by Pete Stark (D-CA) last October. The act would initiate a "carbon fee and dividend" mechanism, whereby producers or importers of fossil fuels pay a flat fee per ton of potential green house gasses that fuel would emit when burned (in terms of CO2 equivalents); 100% of the proceeds from this fee, initially proposed to be $15 per ton CO2 equivalent, would be passed on to US citizens as a dividend. This will supposedly offset the increase in energy costs for about 2/3 of US families, and will reduce the consumption of fossil fuels by making alternative sources more competitive. It's an interesting approach, less likely to be abused by the tertiary economy than "cap and trade" systems that SCREAM for speculation. It still does nothing to directly force the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, though, and the CCL bases their alternative power scenarios on a study by Marc Jacobson of Stanford University that they claim shows that alternative power sources can fully replace fossil fuels in the modern industrial economy. I think that is entirely too optimistic, but I'm not familiar with Jacobson's work. Expect an analysis of that study in another post soon!

Regardless of my reservations, the CCL is a rapidly growing, grass-roots climate initiative that refuses to give up on a governmental intervention on the climate change predicament. And most impressive to me is this quote from their website:

Most impressive is the work of the Citizens Climate Lobby, a relatively new, fastgrowing, nonpartisan, nonprofit group with 46 chapters across the United States and Canada. If you want to join the fight to save the planet, to save creation for your grandchildren, there is no more effective step you could take than becoming an active member of this group. - Dr. James Hansen
Dr. Hansen is arguably the foremost world expert on the science of climate change, and he has been fighting out fight for over 25 years. If his praise for the Citizens Climate Lobby is that luminescent, I'll be paying attention to them, and I recommend that you do so as well!


  1. Thanks for this... I think it's important that somebody figure out a way to get climate and ecology into the political process in a way that might effectively counter the fossil fuel industry. Seems like CCL might be onto a way to do that, without needing to match the fossil fuel lobby dollar for dollar.

    Still hard for me to imagine that anybody will generate the political will for a global peak in human GHGs by 2020 or earlier, which is what's going to be needed to have barely a snowball's chance of keeping the global temperature rise to 2 degrees C or less by 2100. I think the political support for a real, species-wide peak and reduction in GHG emissions, if it ever materializes, will come only after it's too late to prevent 4 degrees C in this century. Peak oil will complicate everything, by creating new political pressure for even greater reliance on natural gas and coal.

    I think GHG reductions will still be worth pursuing anyway, even if they're too late, for ethical reasons: maybe the reductions will keep at least some of the long-term tipping points from being crossed. But somebody's going to have to think about emergency adaptation in our lifetimes, and do it in a way that doesn't benefit only the rich. I think that will be the big ticket issue in climate and energy policy in the 2020s and 30s. That and maybe geo-engineering, unfortunately.

  2. Oh, also, on the inability of renewables to sustain a consumerist economy:

    Contains a link to a study, or at least an argument, that reaches the opposite conclusion as Jacobson.