This is a call to all climate campaign leaders: you guys need to talk together. Make a climate campaign alliance or just a simple internal network of some sort. Open up a communication channel between yourselves. Or at least figure out some way to establish better co-ordination for the sake of your common cause: ensuring climate safety for generations to come.
Blogpost by Mik Aidt
Here is why: The climate change battle is such an important battle – actually, considering the devastating impact of global warming caused by emissions from coal, oil, gas and petrol, it is the most urgent and crucial of all the environmental battles which are lining up and calling for attention on this planet. But it is only one battle.
In order to win this one battle, one division leader must know what another division is doing, and get better at creating full clarity and simplicity for the ‘soldiers’ on the ground who want to know what to do next.
As of now, it is not like that. Not even close. Since 2009, the world has been seeing campaign after campaign after campaign on climate change, and there is a fertile jungle of organisations and websites, growing and growing, dedicated to the important cause of combatting carbon emissions, and they all work on each their own goals, strategies and proposed solutions. Which on one hand is fantastic to witness. On the other hand, it is obvious, that if we want to actually win this battle, there is a need for better co-ordination of the many efforts.
The myriad of different campaigns, strategies and opinions make the climate change problem and the necessary transition from fossil fuels to renewables seem very complicated. But really, it isn’t. It boils down to understanding that the sky on this planet is no longer open for pollution. The dirt we have been throwing up in the atmosphere for more than a century doesn’t go away. The little carbon particles stay there, and they keep adding up. So now we have reached the limit for how much more coal, oil, gas and petrol we can burn. Former American Vice-President Al Gore put it this way: “We can’t keep using the atmosphere as if it was an open sewer.”
It is that simple. The issue can be explained in one single sentence. And the solution is just as simple: Stop using the atmosphere as if it was an open sewer.
Call for co-ordination
What the world badly needs is for good people and forward thinkers like Bill McKibben, Rob Hopkins, Al Gore, front-runner organisations like Sustainia, Ceres, Greenpeace, Carbon War Room, The Climate Institute, The Energy Collective, Beyond Zero Emissions, 10:10, large membership organisations and campaigns like Earth Day, the Global Campaign for Climate Action, the Stop Climate Chaos Coalition, Friends of the Earth, WWF, the Youth Climate Coalitions in the United Kingdom, Canada and Australia, as well as the thousands of other hard-working, constructive campaigners, writers, thinkers, sustainability experts, activists organisations and groups to come somewhat closer together to one another in one, co-ordinated, global, non-political, non-governmental alliance/coalition/network which can raise not just a stronger voice because of bigger numbers but more importantly, transmit a sense of clarity and transparency in terms of directions: who is doing what and heading where, and why.
Talk together! Create internal channels of communication, and then begin to provide us with, for instance, your ‘Top 10 Climate Safety Visions’, your ‘Top 10 Climate Actions We All Must Do’, ‘Top 10 Political Actions All Governments Would Benefit From Doing’, provide us with links to the best and most efficient tools and apps that we should all know about, and in this way begin to create clarity, while narrowing down the routes we can take.
Split the jobs between you, try and avoid overlapping. And once you have cleared this up, link up to each other on your websites.
All of you work on different targets, each have different methods, different levels of ambitions, different access to funding, media and people in power – but you all share the same vision: a civilisation which runs on renewable energy and which leaves those fossil fuels in the ground.
To do that, you do not need to start flying around, burning tonnes of carbon for yet another series of COP-like summits. You can do this at a much more practical level from your computers at home. Send some emails to one another, skype. Get started on mapping the bigger picture for how you supplement each other, who does what, and how you have a range of solutions you can offer to the world in one, simple package.
It will require of you that you give up only promoting only your own ideas and that organisation of yours which you have put so much energy and time into building up, and for a period instead focus on how that stronghold of yours can fit into the bigger picture — and all the others will have to do the same.
“We have the power to save the world,” says the ending line in this video which opened the UN conference in Copenhagen in 2009. But… even so, we – our leaders, that is – didn’t make use of it then.
Why can’t we join together?
As it is at the moment, everyone is working on their own in their own little corner. Take the new crowdfunding campaign that was started by Avaaz, an online campaigning network — a campaign which Avaaz calls their most important campaign ever. Avaaz comes with a serious proposal to how to create a voice that could influence politicians who meet for the UN climate summit in 2015. You’d think that everyone in the climate crisis field could agree on promoting this one campaign and over night would turn it into the biggest, most powerful campaign ever on this planet. But no. For some reason, that just doesn’t happen. Everyone is too busy with their own plans and projects to look up and understand what an opportunity this is.
I’ve also made note of that a global alliance of more than 270 non-profit organisations all over the world was already set up long ago: the Global Campaign for Climate Action. But what I am asking is: is this campaign succeeding in making everyone talk together? If not, then we need something new.
It seems as if any structure or body that starts up with an aim to create a global platform is bound to end up as just yet another organisation name in the myriad of organisation names, or a campaign name in the myriad of campaigns.
Maybe the many failed attempts to bring everyone closer together show us that what is needed is not a coalition or an alliance with an organised structure, but rather a network, actually very similar to what Avaaz is currently doing, but with a few more strings attached.
A plain Linkedin or Facebook group for climate campaign leaders could be a start. But much better and more powerful would be a new and exclusive top-level domain-name ending on .climate which you would only be able to register your website on when you sign a certain contract and/or manifest/declaration and commit yourself and your organisation to a higher, common climate safety cause — plus that this commitment then would give you access to a database with the mail adresses and phone numbers of all the other climate campaign leaders on .climate. How would that work?
Draft for a simple manifest
Seek simplicity. For so many different people with very different political views, cultures, languages and experiences to be able to work together, in the name of our planet’s and our grandchildren’s future, it is important that the alliance or coalition narrows its manifest down to aiming at one single and simple goal:
Those fossil fuels obviously must stay in the ground.
So what does that mean?
I can see it means two things.
First of all, setting up a short list of demands that all members of the coalition quickly can agree to. American author and climate activist Bill McKibben’s shortlist is a good start: divest!, he says. But it is missing a few more things in relation to how we succeed in creating an energy-transition from fossil fuels to renewables.
I’m not an expert in this field at all, but it appears to me a ‘manifest list’ should contain a couple, maximum three or four demands such as:
1) Stop the pollution of the atmosphere
All investment in and subsidies to fossil fuel projects must end immediately (that’s 350.org and Bill McKibben’s campaign, already in place and running with success, just needing other organisations to step in and assist as well).
2) Put renewables in place of fossil fuels
Kickstart the transition on all levels: Massive ‘Marchall-plan-like’ public subsidies and private investments must be directed to developing, producing and enhancing renewables as well as energy saving technologies and carbon-neutral means of transport.
Could all climate campaign leaders agree on something like this? Anything missing?
(The comment field is open and waiting for you below!)
Of course, something like making a manifest of this nature would be up to the climate campaign leaders to discuss and reach consensus on.
The issues around carbon tax
“In Australia, the climate movement has experienced confusion, division and demobilisation in response to the introduction of the carbon pricing scheme.
We need to find a few common demands that can unite the movement again, that will lead to tangible emissions reductions and that can be clearly understood by the public.
A few possibilities could be: end fossil fuel subsidies, stop the coal export expansion and increase the Renewable Energy Target.”
Susan Austin, in a speech given at the “Working for a safe climate future” conference in Australia on 22 June 2013.
The carbon tax tool is often mentioned by Al Gore and James Hansen, and they are right: It needs to be taken to a whole new level now, and there is no time to wait for some UN resolution to be agreed upon by 140 nations. Forget that. All the carbon-conscious governments need is to have more confidence in themselves, which a ‘carbon tax club’ could help with, combined with much stronger signals of support from their populations, and from the UN system, the World Bank, EU, and so on. Those signals of support from the populations the climate campaign network’s members could commit themselves to help cultivating.
Governments which have already put a serious price on carbon emissions (which doesn’t include the EU’s collapsed carbon trading scheme) must quickly form a ‘carbon tax club’ and find out what they can do together to consolidate the concept and put pressure on countries without proper carbon regulations.
A nations’ ‘carbon tax club’ should be urged to take some bold steps to cut all trading with those silly nations who won’t commit to it? Would using the good old-fashioned boycott method show the world that here’s a bunch of countries who are dead serious about this issue?
Creating a climate campaign network that actually works — because its leaders begin to co-operate and share rather than compete and all do the same things — could open up a new era where companies and industries of all kinds begin to see the need to commit to this same single goal, and to openly advertise this commitment. Because those who don’t will be identified in the increasingly more powerful ‘buycott’ app (or apps), and in new campaigns which make it clear to all of us who the rogue carbon polluters are and who are the committed carbon reducers that we should support when we go shopping.
The organisation Ceres has already started that process in the US. The B Team has taken it to a global level. Business leader climate campaign networks also need to talk togehter. Which the ‘network’ we are talking about could help with.
Most important is that the members of the new climate campaign ‘alliance/network’ must be able to create clarity on the overall demands very fast. They can’t start talking about including other important issues which humanity is also confronted with at the moment, such as fair trade, ending poverty, slashing the ‘growth’-paradigme, or saving the whales, because then the discussions will never finish.
Yes, we do need to deal with all those issues as well, but not all at once. The moment we begin to complicate the picture, we loose people. And we disagree. Then we are back to square one.
A friend of mine told me something the other day which I think is spot on:
“I try to unwind from this whole climate question, somehow, and just live my life. There is so much evil in this world, so many problems, and we humans don’t know how to agree on anything. When you think out of that tangent of climate change, what the consequences are… I can’t go around every day thinking about this. I need to focus on my children, my family, and my job.”
It does seem so complicated and big. Which makes it seem hopeless. Too big an issue to even begin to think about. We are powerless. So we close our ears and continue doing all those things that the fossil fuel industry thrives from.
Which brings me to the second point: understanding something about the roots of the problem with the seemingly unstoppable carbon emissions, and throwing a good portion of time, energy and resources in that direction:
When it comes to that debate about how to keep the large amounts of money-making coal, oil and gas in the ground is not so different from the debate about the problems with prostitution, human trafficing, drugs, etc, where it all boils down to that as long as there is a demand for it, banning it and prosecuting the pimps and drug dealers doesn’t help. The problems persist as long as there are people who are willing to pay for it.
So we need to look at reasons why it is that these coal and oil companies in particular are so powerful and rich. Isn’t it because we all are ready to pay for their services?
Bill McKibben is currently campaigning for fossil fuel resistance, and his lecture-tour across the USA, Australia and New Zealand seems very successful. But we can’t all just turn ourselves into radical ‘warriors’ or ‘resistance fighters’ who are combatting a rogue fossil fuel industry and corrupt politicians – we need to also look at ourselves and look all the way to the roots of what creates the demand for the oil: our dependency of energy, and our willingness to pay for it. Because whenever I point one finger at the oil industry, there are three fingers pointing at myself.
Close to ourselves
In other words, considering the failure of the political leaders combined with the climate-carelessness among the leaders of the fossil fuel industry, it is great to see now that a resistance movement is building up and that the fossil fuel madness is placed in the limelight. But at the same time, and to be able to build on this momentum in the years to come, we need an extra lamp to be turned on and point it at those kind of green energy-production and sustainability solutions that will enable us to shut down those coal mines, not by force or by law but simply because we don’t need them and don’t like them anymore. The real boss of the oil industry is, and will always be, the customer.
The many people of this world are lacking an international spokesperson who can debate these matters with the politicians, across borders. And Bill McKibben, you could well be that person. Please keep at it, and you will get there! But also be aware that reality in politics is that democratically elected politicians aren’t able to handle this energy transition problem, no matter how much we talk with them, as long as they don’t have public pressure for them to act. That is the essence of the democratic game. So in a sense, the most important battle of our time takes place not in any parliament hall, but very close to ourselves.
The carbon emissions battle will be lost in a few years time unless we begin to take concrete “energy-choice action” on an individual level. The politicians must see from sales figures and trades reports that their voters are acting on climate change. Each of us must begin to do what we are able to do to cut the carbon: replace fossil fuel power with green energy where ever possible, and reduce our personal use of oil, gas and petrol where ever we can.
Rob Hopkins, co-founder of the Transition Network, wrote in his blog:
“I recently had a moving conversation with someone in the US, who works for an organisation who fund groups acting on climate change, and who is very well connected politically in the US. She told me, with strong emotion in her voice, that it was her sense from talking to people she knows in the UN and other organisations, that there seems to be a consensus to give it another 18 months, 2 years at most, and then the funding and political effort will shift from mitigation and into adaptation and defence.
I’ll say that again. The funding and political effort will shift from mitigation and into adaptation and defence. Or to put it another way, that they will give up. The consensus will shift to the assumption being that it is now too late.”
“What haunts me every day, and no doubt will for the rest of my days, is what I will reply to my grandchildren when they ask me what I did during the time when climate change could have been brought under some sort of control, when the necessary changes could have been put in place to create a low-carbon, resilient and thriving culture that nurtured healthy human cultures. Was I as effective as I could have been? Did I do everything I could have?”, Rob Hopkins asks – and this is someone who has done so much more than most people on this planet to produce tools, write books, produce films and inspire others to find ways to tackle climate change issues.
I believe the Transition groups have some good answers to how to go about this. There are hundreds of things to get started with. I started making my own little list of tips, ideas and links that inspired me on this page.
Bottom line is: each of us need to spend more time on this annoying issue, and to figure out for ourselves how we are going to deal with the issues. We can’t just continue as usual and wait for Bill McKibben and the politicians to fix it for us. The campaign posters from 2009 tell their own sad story about that scenario.
Focus on innovators
Sustainia100 is an annual guide to 100 innovative solutions from around the world that presents tangible projects, initiatives, and technologies at the forefront of sustainable transformation. They provide an example of the kind of constructive innovation and shift of thinking we need, and it is this kind of spirit which I think must be brought into the debate as well.
Speaking to the congregation
I went to see Bill McKibben’s ‘Do the Maths’ presentation in Melbourne last week. It was a very warm and special experience to be in the same room with so many others who share the same concern for the future of this planet, and who laugh of the same absurdities, cheer for the same statements highlighting the ignorance and greed of the powerful Big Oil bosses. I would be talking to the guy sitting next to me as if we already knew each other, because all 800 people in that room had seen the same ‘light’. It really was as if we had all gathered as a congregation for a ceremony at a holy place and to listen to a sermon from our religious leader.
But then you leave that room, and you are back out in the dark streets of a city where thousands of people are enjoying their Friday night and really couldn’t give a damn about those issues of climate change, fossil fuels, and divestment, that Bill McKibben had filled our heads with.
Bill McKibben writes well, and he also wrote a good farewell note to Australia, after his intensive anti-coal campaign tour around the country and in the national media there. It was published yesterday by the country’s public service broadcaster, ABC. Here is an excerpt:
“There is an emerging fossil fuel resistance around the world. You can tell we are making progress by listening to the industry. Nikki Williams doesn’t sound cool and confident; she sounds increasingly harried. Earlier this week, Senator Bernardi said our call for divestment was “madness”. But madness lies in listening to the loud warnings of scientists and then doing the opposite. Building new coal mines, at this point in history, is as mad as listening to the doctor tell you your cholesterol is too high and then eating a stick of butter. The louder the industry and its hired guns shout, the clearer the weakness of their intellectual position.
The coal industry calls us radical. But radicals run coal companies. If you’re willing to fund your desire for replica Titanics by altering the chemical composition of the atmosphere, then you’re a radical on a scale that would make any 60s hippie blush.
In the environmental community we take it as our job to stand up to that radicalism. We’re going to do it firmly, and, even more after seeing what you all are starting here in Australia, I think we’re increasingly going to win.”
I put a comment under his article, writing thank you to Bill McKibben for coming to Australia, and for clarifying these matters, for cultivating hope and optimism in an absolutely desperate and locked, seemingly hopeless situation with the atmospheric carbon measurements rising continuously year after year. We have been listening, and you have inspired thousands of people here in Australia. One of them, Mike Marriott, wrote in his blog:
“It is almost impossible to capture my feeling about his talk last night, but Bill McKibben demonstrated something critically lacking within Australian politics. Moral leadership. McKibben does not aspire to lead, but to inspire others and bring out the best within us. (…) I believe I witnessed something incredible last night. The coming into being of a transnational social justice movement.”
In Europe, politicians there are currently planning to build 50 more coal-fired power plants – at a time when we all know damn well that we shouldn’t be putting any more of that dirty, black carbon in the atmosphere – for climate reasons, and for health reasons too. Coal power pollution loses Europe millions of working hours a year according to a report from Stuttgard University. All over the world we are witnessing the same kind of “madness” which you are talking about. Someone has counted that at the moment 1,200 new coal plants are being planned or built. It is so absurd that most people give up thinking about it, simply to keep their sanity.
In this respect, it’s great we have intelligent, well-formulated and somewhat optimistic people like you, Bill McKibben, who thinks clearly, and explains things clearly. It is admirable how you are able to speak about big topics such as the future of our civilisation, and pinpoint the absurdities of how and why our planet is under threat. What is important is that in this way you provide hope and a channel for concrete action in specific areas. This is what we need. We need to understand not only how deep and how big the problem is that we are up against — I think quite a lot of us are aware of that by now — but to know how we can address it and do something about it.
Your presentations around the US and Australia, along with all the work 350.org and gofossilfree.org does, provide us with some solid and simple arguments for why we need to wake up and understand that we must divest, and this is something anyone who’s got a pension or a bank account can do: move our pension savings over to a carbon-conscious superfund and move our bank accounts over to a more environmentally friendly bank.
Okay, good! Done that. Then what?
A movement of resistance and the focusing on what’s bad in itself won’t bring us to where we’d like to go: to a world that stops polluting the atmosphere. We also need a strong focus on what is good, useful, meaningful and efficient.
Which was why I wrote the above call to climate campaign leaders like Bill, Al, and CEOs of the myriad of climate focused organisations: You all have great abilities and skills to talk. Now, please, begin to talk together. And come up with “a fuller package” that provides tools for action on the individual level and enables us, the people, to enter the renewable path with full force.
Studies have shown that when just 10 percent of a population strongly believes in an idea, then a majority of the population will quickly follow. With all good forces united in a more co-ordinated effort, it certainly is within reach to get 10 percent of the population in many countries involved and engaged.
I’d recommend to ally yourselves with a few world-famous artists in the process as well — musicians, actors and authors — because they have dedicated audiences and they know something very unique about communicating to people’s hearts. They can reach a large group of people in one go and with lots of clout.
For more ideas on this topic, I invite you to read this blog-post about the consumers’ role, the artists’ potential and what we need to do.
Here is a deeper analysis of the obstacles we face concerning the climate crisis.
Is 100% renewables a ‘yes, but…’ or is it simply a ‘yes, let’s get started’?