Climate Change

Published on April 27th, 2010 | by Susan Kraemer


Greenpeace, 350.Org Endanger Climate Bill

April 27th, 2010 by  

Today 31 environmental groups including the Sierra Club, the NRDC and the League of Conservation Voters sent a strongly worded letter to the Senate to get the Kerry/Graham/Lieberman climate bill moving again.


The only holdout organizations were Greenpeace and Bill McKibben’s, not because they don’t want climate legislation. On the contrary. They want perfect policy and this bill is not a perfect bill. Both are holding out for something that will never happen.

Ponies will not descend from the heavens magically bearing Republican Senators who don’t filibuster every bill. The most powerful industry on the planet will not be magically robbed of its power to prevent policy enactment.

Although they don’t mean to, their intransigence only helps the opposition.

That’s because naive new environmentalists, unfamiliar with our political process are led astray by what they think is the tough courageous opposition of Greenpeace and Bill McKibben. They are encouraged into a false belief that tantrums over “polluter giveaways” lead to tougher policy. They think they are helping by holding their breath for a perfect bill. But it has the opposite effect.

An example of the effects of their opposition is what happened to cap and trade. Environmental criticism of the strongest cap and trade bill (the House’s Waxman-Markey; the Senate’s CEJAPA) helped kill it. The fossil industry itself capably managed the rest of that job.

The result is now we have a weaker cap and trade component in the current climate bill (cap and dividend) that covers fewer emitters, and starts slower for others, and costs the fossil energy industry less – so funding renewables will cost the taxpayer more.

If environmentalists join the opposition in opposing this one; then next time, we’ll get a still weaker one, or none at all. The fossil industry wants none: the pressure is on congress members to do none. So if environmentalists also turn up their noses at it, there’s no constituency for it. It gets discarded.

Contrary to what they believe, weak environmental legislation won’t be replaced with something that is stronger.

Bill Mckibben is clearly fondly remembering the ’70s when kids actually were able to turn the environmental movement into a powerful force that made The Clean Air Act happen by ousting the Dirty Dozen.

But all that was before the corporate takeover of our media, even Public Broadcasting. The movement that led to The Clean Air Act was only possible back then, when the the media was allowed to cover protests by people. Now only the astroturf groups funded by the corporate interests are permitted to get media coverage. So 150 Tea Partiers to kill the regulation of corporations will always get more coverage than 150 thousand people who want to increase regulation against corporate pollution.

And those pampered kids in the 70’s were unencumbered by six figure debts just to get through college. They could afford to have more courage. And it was before anything smacking of terrorism terrorized the electorate. Any kid fool enough to burn a car today could be in prison for years.

Times have changed. We are now one nation under a bribe-ocracy. That won’t change before the climate does. We have no time left to wait and start over and do another decade’s work over again.

Image: Il Grande Bluff

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About the Author

writes at CleanTechnica, CSP-Today and Renewable Energy World.  She has also been published at Wind Energy Update, Solar Plaza, Earthtechling PV-Insider , and GreenProphet, Ecoseed, NRDC OnEarth, MatterNetwork, Celsius, EnergyNow, and Scientific American. As a former serial entrepreneur in product design, Susan brings an innovator's perspective on inventing a carbon-constrained civilization: If necessity is the mother of invention, solving climate change is the mother of all necessities! As a lover of history and sci-fi, she enjoys chronicling the strange future we are creating in these interesting times.    Follow Susan on Twitter @dotcommodity.

  • @FunkBros I see it as a oil-industry Chernobyl that might change minds that are currently closed to good climate and clean energy legislation.

    We should ALL tell all the oil Senators to take off-shore drilling out of the climate bill – Senate switchboard: (202) 224 3121. If enough people speak up we can improve our government.

    It might just help tip the balance towards a better climate bill, without trinkets for the fossil industry. People can see how destructive it is, in a way that many are blind and can’t imagine how bad climate change will be.

    No “Oil-spill-alarmist” disinformation is being generated. The pictures are not being censored and distorted by the fossil industry the way the equally if not far worse scenarios (that science provides) of climate change are.

    Now we have a chance to take oil out of the climate bill.

    I absolutely agree with Bill that: “Dirty as the water is off the Mississippi Delta, that’s barely the tip of the damage from fossil fuel. If that oil had traveled down a pipeline to a refinery and then into the fuel tank of a car, it would have wrecked the planet just as powerfully.

    We now realize, as we didn’t on the first Earth Day, that the slick of carbon dioxide spreading invisibly across the atmosphere is driving change on a massive scale: by raising the planet’s temperature, it’s melting everything frozen, raising the level of the ocean, powering ever stronger storms. In the Gulf, and in every other ocean on the planet, that extra carbon is turning seawater acid.

    You can’t see it, but it’s wrecking marine life far more effectively and insidiously even than the spreading oil.”

  • FunkBros

    You write as if Greenpeace and Bill McK have all the power. If they, too, don’t drink the kool aid, all will be lost. And hey – how’s that offshore oil drilling working out for you, sister?

  • Todd,

    The evidence is quite clear that only with a D majority can we hope to get good environmental legislation.

    Here’s all 50 roll call votes in the Senate on environment and renewable energy since the BTU tax in 1993. (No doubt it continues back but this is documented)

    Virtually every vote shows virtually all the Ds Support and all Rs Oppose all the environment and renewable energy votes (and renewable supporting amendments in larger bills).

    Here’s a summary of (part of Obama’s) unprecedented record with links to each case

    Republican constituents need to let their Senators know if they want them to begin to vote for the environment and renewables.

  • Tod Brilliant

    Speaking of Dave, I’ve publicly challenged him to an arm-wrestling competition. He’s yet to accept…meaning I’m going to show up to his office in Seattle, video crew in tow, and force him to a showdown.

  • Tod Brilliant

    Now you’ve done it! You did NOT invoke the Democrats as a positive force for environmental legislation, did you? No way…I’m…scratching…my…eyes out in disbelief. Since when, Susan, have the Dems shown leadership here? You can point to incremental advances, or maybe something from the 1970s, but nothing under Obama. In fact, when considering who Obama has placed in charge of crucial – ugh – not having this argument again. Just tell me you were kidding with your “next time Dems get a majority” nonsense. You’re reminding me of Dave Roberts from Grist!!

  • Normally, I’d agree. Incremental, compromised solutions. Yuck. Of course I would vote for the opposite: powerful, uncompromising solutions that get it DONE!

    However powerful, uncompromising solutions are not what we’re offered as the alternative.

    Which would you choose between

    a.incremental, compromised solutions now, or

    b.even more incremental, and even more compromised solutions later

    (And that could be much later – these would only be offered the next time Democrats get a majority – which could take as long as a decade… or might be in 5 years, who knows?)

  • Andree/JP Green House

    What I’m saying is that I have no confidence that our government, our economy, our way of life, or our fossil fuel access is going to last much longer. I don’t think that incremental policy now can save us from collapse, and I think collapse itself may be our best solution. So a and b are not the choices I see here.

  • Andree/JP Green House

    Susan, I have to disagree with any incremental, compromised legislation. But then I am now convinced that we are beyond policy solutions, and that the only thing that can save us from climate change is peak oil. There is not enough respect for science in the populace to make the appropriate realizations in time to implement the necessary policy changes. I do hate being a doomer–so I call myself an “advocate of sustainable local communities” instead. It may have to get worse before it gets better. It is my greatest hope that I will end up being wrong.

  • Andree, I totally agree about Bill’s messaging about the dire straights we are in:

    I worked for Bill’s Step it Up Campaign in 2007 that made it clear to congress that we had to step it up to 80% below 1990 levels by 2050. 2007 was when the Democrats first got hold of the Senate, so that was when we had to lay out the highest goals. That’s when no compromise was worth making, and we got that message out, and pushed the Boxer bill that the Union of Concerned Scientists called the Gold Standard of climate bills (there were 9 that year).

    But now we are within months of losing the climate voter majority in the Senate. Now we must hold our ground and pass what we can now. It will NOT get easier over the next few years.

    This is the time to cling to the cliff before we are kicked off it again. If we don’t pass something we’ll have nothing to show for this brief chance we got.

  • @Todd: two questions:

    Without a (lower each year) “Cap” (= punishable with fines for exceeding) how would you ensure that an overarching national limit on greenhouse gases is actually adhered to?

    Without “trade” (auction fees paid to fund renewables with fees on polluters), how do you plan to fund the massive government investment in renewables? We agree we need a big investment to switch – initially.

    Look at how successfully our EPA-administered cap and trade has worked to reduce acid rain pollution. Caps ensure we achieve the target, trade creates the funds to do it with.

  • Justin

    This is one highly flawed position. And it’s just very sad to see that this is the best hope for America.

    31 groups have sold their soul to achieve the achievable (and I suppose keep contributions coming in) while Greenpeace and McKibben stick to their guns – hoping perhaps that Americans realize that even what’s adopted is a long-way from actually being effective.

    Most climate experts agree Cap and Trade will simply be a money-making scheme for Wall Street and I guess you folks haven’t found enough ways for Wall Street to rob you blind. But don’t mind me, I’m just a Canadian who wonders how a one-mind, two-party system can be called the greatest democracy on earth.

    This is a Bushism – you’re with us or agin us. It’s dumb, short-sighted and bloody typical of your ridiculous system. USA! USA! USA!

    [SK: There is no chance for Wall St to make money off it. The auctioned trading would be done (just as it is now for acid rain) between polluters only, and it only involves swapping permits, and would be administered by the EPA as acid rain pollutant trading is now. That got pollution down.]

  • Tod Brilliant

    “Contrary to what they believe, weak environmental legislation won’t be replaced with something that is stronger.”

    Perfectly put. This is EXACTLY why many of us oppose weak environmental legislation getting passed. Cap and Trade is/was/always will be a terrible, terrible excuse for environmental stewardship. Using it as an example of ‘the possible good’ is misleading.

    Sorry, Susan, but your defeatist attitude is why we have no strong progressive party in the U.S., fail to lead the world in tackling climate change, and precisely why McKibben, Greenpeace and others have to fight so much harder to achieve entirely achievable goals.

  • Andree – JP Green House

    McKibben has done his best to translate scientific reality for laypeople, and what the science clearly states is that climate change cannot be stopped by incremental, small measures. “You cannot negotiate with physics and chemistry” is what he often says. And he is right. The climate bill currently in play will not help the climate, and so we must oppose it. Think of this not as a moment in American politics, but as a unique moment in history, requiring unprecedented backbone and moral courage.

  • Susan: Again a very good article, especially imagining the ponies from heaven bringing down Republican Senators. The games being played on both sides are amazing and the public is getting played even more by each. Its amazing that the public does not trust the media and Washington even more strongly. This was shown with the Health Bill and its massive nature.

    Maybe both sides (IMHO) would be better in addressing small incremental items slowly building on incrementalism and showing what works. It could start with (I’m being selfish here)with a Renewable Energy National Standard.

    After that go after each issue in kind in a slow deliberate matter. The public is not in the mood for massive overall change that affects their bottom line (ie. more taxes, less jobs and higher costs) all hitting at once. Greenpeace and others are just not being realistic in what can be done and accepted in the short and long run by the public. Bribes on both sides in many forms can not be hidden any more, it all comes out and the word spreads.

    [SK: The problem with doing each element in turn would be that it would take 30 years to pass everything in the bills at this rate (because filibusters). The advantage of having everything wrapped into one energy bill is that its component parts can get through in a matter of hours once cloture to vote is allowed. ]

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