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The Resurgence of an Evolving Climate Movement, Part 2

Ken Wu is executive director of Majority for a Sustainable Society (MASS) and co-founder of the Ancient Forest Alliance

For Part 1 of this article, click here.

In the first part of this article, I described what specific challenges the climate movement faces when confronting its own limiting tendencies as well as industry funded public relations campaigns. In this second part I outline what I think are four essential ways the climate movement must evolve in order to overcome these obstacles.

FIRST, we must become a lot more political, in the sense that it’s fundamentally the laws, policies, and agreements that shape our greater society and economy. And it’s our society and economy which are the foundations of our personal lifestyles. What is available, affordable, practical, and possible in our lifestyles is largely a product of the society in which we live – what clean energy sources exist at what price relative to dirty energy, how available public transit is, how well or poorly our cities are designed for walking, cycling, and accessing our needs, how energy efficient our buildings are, and so on.  

No individual is an island unto himself; the way we live is fundamentally shaped by the economy and society in which our lifestyles are nested.  

The Resurgence of an Evolving Climate Movement, Part 1

Ken Wu is executive director of Majority for a Sustainable Society (MASS) and co-founder of the Ancient Forest Alliance. Read Part 2 of this series here.

After years of apathy and political inertia, North America’s climate sustainability movement has found itself in the midst of a timely resurgence, as is evident by the recent massive expansion of Bill Mckibben's movement against the Keystone XL pipeline.

With climate change regaining its footing as a central political issue, now is the time to pressure governments to enact the needed laws, policies, and agreements required to curtail runaway global warming. But unless the moment is seized right, climate action will be stymied again – and there is no time to wait for another opportunity.

During his State of the Union address on February 12, 2013, US President Barack Obama stated:

“For the sake of our children and our future, we must do more to combat climate change…We can choose to believe that Superstorm Sandy, and the most severe drought in decades, and the worst wildfires some states have ever seen were all just a freak coincidence. Or we can choose to believe in the overwhelming judgment of science – and act before it’s too late.”
Recent studies project that the Earth’s average temperature is on course to rise over four degrees this century, far beyond the two degree rise when “runaway” global warming kicks-in due to positive feedbacks that make it extremely difficult to halt.

Looking Back At The Wall Street Journal's Coal Op-Ads

Cross-posted from Media Matters with permission, view original here.

A Media Matters analysis reveals that The Wall Street Journal's editorials on acid rain mirrored misleading talking points featured in coal industry advertisements running elsewhere in the paper in the 1980s. The Journal also heavily promoted the claims of one particular industry consultant that was on the wrong side of science on acid rain, secondhand smoke and climate change. Years later, as industry groups orchestrate efforts to cast doubt on the science demonstrating health and climate impacts of fossil fuel use, the Journal continues to aid their efforts.

An American Electric Power ad that ran in The Wall Street Journal in 1979 downplays the environmental impacts of coal The Wall Street Journal Echoed Misleading Acid Rain Claims From Coal Industry Ads

In the winter of 1981, the Coalition for Environmental-Energy Balance, a front group for the coal industry, ran several advertisements in The Wall Street Journal defending the industry's emissions of sulfur dioxide, which were contributing to acid rain. The ads cast doubt on the threat of acid rain, warned about the cost of regulation, and claimed that calls for action to address sulfur dioxide emissions were politically motivated. The Wall Street Journal's editorial board used these same rhetorical tactics to forestall action on acid rain, as a previous Media Matters analysis found.

ALEC Launches Assault on Renewable Energy Industry

The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), as covered previously by DeSmogBlog, is the “Trojan Horse” behind mandating that climate change denial (“skepticism,” or “balance,” in its words) be taught in K-12 classrooms.

Well, ALEC is at it again, it appears. Facing an IRS complaint filed by Common Cause, one of the leading advocacy groups working to expose the corporate-funded bill mill, ALEC has also launched an assault on renewable energy legislation, according to a well-documented report written by Bloomberg News.

The two developments are worth unpacking.

Common Cause IRS Complaint

The Washington Post reported that on April 23, Common Cause “had filed an IRS complaint accusing ALEC of masquerading as a public charity…while doing widespread lobbying.” 

ALEC is trying to brush aside this complaint, but Common Cause presents a compelling case.

It tells the IRS in its tax returns that it does no lobbying, yet it exists to pass profit-driven legislation in statehouses all over the country that benefits its corporate members,” said Bob Edgar, president of Common Cause, in a statement. “ALEC is not entitled to abuse its charitable tax status to lobby for private corporate interests, and stick the bill to the American taxpayer.”

Common Cause wants the IRS to complete a no-holds-barred audit of ALEC’s work and to examine whether it violated IRS laws. 

National Coal Expert: “Mining is a Loser” in Practically Every Way

Originally posted at The Great Energy Challenge blog

Anytime coal’s cost to America is discussed, the coal industry reflexively talks about what an economic lifeline it is for the states in which it operates. Headwaters Economics, a Bozeman-based think tank focusing on natural resource issues, has a solid new study that’s getting national attention for undercutting those claims. For instance, the Headwaters study finds that “[f]ossil fuel production has not insulated energy-producing states from fiscal crisis,” that “[f]ossil fuel extraction has a limited influence at the state level on economic indicators such as GDP by state, personal income, and employment,” and that “[t]he volatility of fossil fuel markets poses obstacles to the stability and long-term security of economic growth in energy-producing regions.”

This is a problem for the coal industry, which spends heavily to construct a fantasy world in which it’s a “clean” industry to which we should feel grateful, a vital supplier of our power, and an economic lifeline to host communities.

But in the real world, coal’s case is even weaker than the Headwaters study shows. The work of Professor Michael Hendryx of West Virginia University goes even further. His work has looked at the costs of coal mining to the Appalachian communities that host it.

Can You Have a Purely Economic Sputnik?

Last night, the president gave a speech that never directly mentioned the most pressing science-based issue of our time—global warming, climate change. I don’t like being so right in my prediction: Even I thought he’d say it once or twice at least.

At the same time, however, he announced a new national love affair with science, innovation, and clean energy, using a playbook that seems right out of the National Academy of Sciences’ now famous 2005 Rising Above the Gathering Storm report. And he capped it all off with a line of almost mythic potential: “This is our generation’s Sputnik moment.”

Could it really be? And can this approach—save the climate, the country, the economy, and pretty much everything through technological innovation—deliver on its own?

Remembering Judy Bonds, Heroic Organizer Who Fought Mountaintop Removal With Everything She Had

Judy Bonds, the fearlessly outspoken activist and community organizer who devoted her life to saving her native Appalachian mountains from the ravages of mountaintop removal coal mining, passed away Monday.

The daughter of a coal miner, Julia Bonds was fiercely dedicated to the cause of ending dangerous coal practices and combatting the myth of ‘clean coal,’ which she could often be heard pointing out is a “dirty lie.”

She was an inspiration to me personally, and I’m fortunate to have met and talked with her often over the years.  She will be dearly missed. But her legacy lives on in the thousands of lives she touched, and her memory will serve as a continuing inspiration to everyone who wants to see America and the rest of the world end our addiction to dirty coal.

Jeff Biggers has a wonderful tribute to Judy on the Huffington Post, and JW Randolph has another tribute at Appalachian Voices.  WTRF in West Virginia reports that Coal River Mountain Watch, the group that Bonds led, is planning a memorial service but a date has not been set yet.

EPA Ignores Tennessee and Alabama Coal Ash Victims, Nearest Hearing Is 260 Miles From TVA Disaster Site

September is back to school month, but the next big test for the White House and EPA has already begun. How the Obama administration handles the proposed regulation of coal ash - the toxic waste left over from coal-burning power plants loaded with mercury, lead, and arsenic - will serve as a key indicator of the administration’s sincerity in responding to one of the worst energy and environmental crises threatening the health and water supplies of millions of Americans.

Two key states, Tennessee and Alabama, have been shut out of the discussion on how best to regulate coal ash, thanks to EPA’s bewildering decision not to hold public hearings in either state. Residents of Tennessee might have a few things to say about the impacts of coal ash, since the state suffered the worst coal ash disaster in U.S. history less than two years ago.

Toxic Coal Ash Threatens At Least 137 Sites In 34 States

A new study by three top environmental groups reveals another 39 coal ash threats in 21 states, bringing the total number of known coal ash threats to 137 in 34 states.  

The report by the Environmental Integrity Project, Earthjustice, and the Sierra Club details the newly identified slurry ponds and impoundments filled with toxic coal ash that threaten drinking water supplies and public health at sites around the country.  

Earlier this year the groups identified 31 coal ash disposal sites in 14 states, adding to the 67 sites already identified by the Environmental Protection Agency.  The latest report brings the total number to 137 sites where coal ash threatens public health and water supplies. 

The U.S. EPA is currently grappling with how to regulate the toxic coal ash threat, which is now checked only by individual state laws that have failed to adequately protect the public from this growing problem.

Washington Post Teams with Dirty Coal Front Group ACCCE on Launch

The Washington Post this week launched a new politics homepage,, with a helping hand from the dirty coal industry.

According to the press release announcing the launch,
“The American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity is the Washington Post’s exclusive launch sponsor of”

While itself is an exciting new tool for fans of political news, it is unfortunate that the Post had to partner with coal polluters to fund the launch.


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