Friday, August 26, 2016

Deconstructing the Democratic Party Platform...

Well, just the sections that address climate change and clean energy.

I'm doing this not just for my own amusement and edification, but also to find out what's been proposed/promised, so when it's time to hold the Clinton administration's feet to the fire, we know what they committed to in the platform.

Hair On Fire People annotations are in italics below the paragraph they comment on.

And so without further ado.... from the Democratic Party platform, 2016...

Combat Climate Change, Build a Clean Energy Economy, and Secure Environmental Justice

Climate change is an urgent threat and a defining challenge of our time. Fifteen of the 16 hottest years on record have occurred this century. While Donald Trump has called climate change a “hoax,” 2016 is on track to break global temperature records once more. Cities from Miami to Baltimore are already threatened by rising seas. California and the West have suffered years of brutal drought. Alaska has been scorched by wildfire. New York has been battered by superstorms, and Texas swamped by flash floods. The best science tells us that without ambitious, immediate action across our economy to cut carbon pollution and other greenhouse gases, all of these impacts will be far worse in the future. We cannot leave our children a planet that has been profoundly damaged.

This is a pretty good preamble. Just two notes:

We won’t just “leave our children a planet that has been profoundly damaged” – we must live in that damage ourselves. Talking about children allows wiggle room for procrastination.

The “planet” will be fine, whatever ultimately happens. What we should focus on is damage to the climate and the biosphere. The rocky ball that revolves around the sun will continue on apace – even without us, and even with wildly changed climatic conditions. But OUR survival in a radically altered climate and biosphere is not guaranteed, nor is the survival of our fellow travelers, the rest of the biomass of Planet Earth – nor is the survival of the food webs that keep us alive. We may be facing down extinction. And that should terrify us.

Democrats share a deep commitment to tackling the climate challenge; creating millions of good-paying middle class jobs; reducing greenhouse gas emissions more than 80 percent below 2005 levels by 2050; and meeting the pledge President Obama put forward in the landmark Paris Agreement, which aims to keep global temperature increases to “well below” two degrees Celsius and to pursue efforts to limit global temperature increases to 1.5 degrees Celsius. We believe America must be running entirely on clean energy by mid-century. We will take bold steps to slash carbon pollution and protect clean air at home, lead the fight against climate change around the world, ensure no Americans are left out or left behind as we accelerate the transition to a clean energy economy, and be responsible stewards of our natural resources and our public lands and waters. Democrats reject the notion that we have to choose between protecting our planet and creating good-paying jobs. We can and we will do both.

More scientifically literate types than I am can probably parse this paragraph better, but just at first blush it occurs to me that only a couple of years ago our “target” was reducing greenhouse gas emissions more than 80% below 1990 levels – not 2005 levels. Is this new research? Is this a different benchmark? How is this different?

Mentioning both that Paris Agreement’s aim of keeping global temperature increases to “well below two degrees Celsius” as well as noting “efforts to limit global temperature increases to 1.5 degrees Celsius” is heartening, because it keeps 1.5 degrees in the platform as a goal.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Pivot To Climate

So just what is #PivotToClimate?

Simply put, we (the members of the Hair On Fire People community) are asking that environmental and justice organizations such as the Audubon Society, Sierra Club, Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, World Wildlife Federation, Oxfam and Unicef - that is, the pantheon of progressive activist groups that made up the People's Climate March in September of 2014 - join together again and pledge to dedicate at least 50% of their time and treasure to climate change during the 2017 calendar year (coinciding with the first year of the Hillary Clinton administration).

We ask that these groups recoalesce around the idea of a #PivotToClimate so we can combine our separate, individual rays of light into a super-charged floodlight trained squarely on the most pressing crisis of our - or any - time.

We ask that with their time and money, these groups collaborate on redoubled, concentrated efforts to educate, organize, mobilize, advertise and lobby for climate action.

In 2014, Business Insider reported that: 

"Last year, the global economy needed to slash world carbon emissions by 6 percent in order to stay on target, but we only managed a dismal global average of 1.2 percent. That means starting this year, we’ll need to cut 6.2 percent of our emissions every year for the rest of the century if we want to meet our 2 C goal."

Also in 2014, Michael E. Mann, writing in Scientific American produced new calculations indicating that:

"if the world continues to burn fossil fuels at the current rate, global warming will rise to two degrees Celsius by 2036, crossing a threshold that will harm human civilization."
In short: we are rapidly running out of time.

So what that does time limit have to do with a #PivotToClimate?

Do you remember the People's Climate March in September of 2014? A throng of marchers more than 250K strong took to the streets in NYC and cities across the globe, roaring for climate action. We were that many strong because we were inclusive not just of climate change activist groups, but of a panoply of progressive activist organizations and individuals.

Everyone joined forces and took to the streets together: indigenous peoples groups, LGBTQIA groups, Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts, soccer teams and parents pushing strollers, nuns and priests, The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence (I think they were there), folks from Save the Wales, contingents from Greenpeace, and representatives from Oxfam, Avaaz, the World Wildlife Federation, the Teamsters, and

There were labor groups, anti-corporate groups, peace and justice groups,  environmental justice organizations and other communities, food and water justice groups, interfaith groups. There were folks dressed as polar bears. There were people on stilts. There were hippies and hipsters and Millennials and Boomers and Gen Xers and various assorted cranky olds and cheerful youngs (and vice versa).

It was amazing. And despite a shocking lack of coverage on the day, it made a difference.

And now, we have to do it again - but this time, for an entire year. I am convinced that if every environmental and social justice group worked together just on climate change for one full year, our voice would be so loud, and the pressure we could exert would be so mighty, that things would change, and fast.

This of it this way. We seem to be a little stuck. It's like when your car gets stuck in the mud, and you can't push it out yourself. You and a buddy can't push it out together. But when a van full of folks pulls up and there are 10 of you pushing - voila! The car comes unstuck.

In upcoming posts, I will lay out my - admittedly still somewhat half baked - plans for what a year of concerted, multi-organization climate action would look like. If you have suggestions, please add them in the comments! This is our work in progress. I appreciate your ideas.

And, as always, please stay tuned!

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

It pays to advertise...

Energy companies – fossil fuel conglomerates – oil and coal and gas companies – run ads.  The “I’m Maggie, and I’m an Energy Voter!” ads.  Exxon Mobil ads that talk a disingenuous blue streak about all the alternative energy options they have in the pipeline.  The “We Are Koch!” ads that make it sound like the Brothers Koch are a caring, sharing pair of hippies who march in the front lines in solidarity with climate change activists.

These folks have money.  They have reach.  And they have talented minions cranking out advertising for them that is DESIGNED to obfuscate and spread mis- and disinformation on climate change, their role in it, and how an “all of the above” approach is a sane, sensible solution to a problem that they’re loathe to even admit exists: anthropogenic climate change.

We in the climate activism community need an advertising campaign, too.  That’s part of my year-long #PivotToClimate proposal, in which I am calling on the majority of environmental and social justice groups to spend 50% of their time and treasure, at a minimum, on climate change in calendar 2017.

If we just had a pool of money – money already raised by the Sierra Club, Greenpease,, Oxfam, and the like – to use on advertising, we could move the dial of public opinion in a HURRY.
We need to advertise – that is, to use the lingua franca of these United States – to inform, energize, and mobilize the American people on climate change.

The messaging I propose should be designed to hit people like they’ve been gut shot, and let them know that years of inaction by foot-dragging, heavily-lobbied, and bought-off politicians has led us to our current perilous position, facing a future of hellish heat waves, devastating droughts, rampant “once in 1,000 years” storms, epic deluges, terrible public health challenges, inundated coastal cities, and hordes of frantic climate change refugees.

This isn’t the time for business as usual.  It’s not the time for long explanations.  It’s not the time for nuance and for coaxing people along with rational explanations for why carbon dioxide can, yes, be a very good thing (in moderation) for our friends the plants, but at higher concentrations in the atmosphere begins to trap more heat which can lead to more moisture in the atmosphere, much like the effect you might feel in a greenhouse, which is why we call it….. zzzzzz…..

The years of teaching and educating and imploring and exhorting Americans to get worried about polar bears and shrinking ice sheets at the far reaches of our globe just hasn’t mobilized enough of us.  Yes, it’s mobilized some.  I am not overlooking all the excellent education and communication that’s been done.  The dial is moving… but it’s moving far, far too slowly.  I feel momentum – but I fear we need even more engagement, even faster.

Our “leaders” in DC are very well aware that most of us simply aren’t fussed enough about climate change for them to pay it much heed, either.  They read the polls.  They see where public opinion sits.  So they know they can keep on taking the money and lying like rugs (looking right at you, Senator McConnell) and not get voted out of office.  They know full well that they can hem and haw, splutter and obfuscate, deny, declare they’re not scientists, throw snowballs, and suffer no consequences.  And so while the dial has been moving recently – and President Obama has been raising a bit of a ruckus all by himself – we’re not moving in the right direction fast enough.

It’s time to crank it up to 11.

We need an electorate that’s furious at government inaction on climate change and will vote for politicians who promise to take immediate action.  We need an electorate who won’t put up with their lies any longer and who demand that their representatives do their will on this most urgent and pressing of issues.  We also need a population that is fired up enough to take the personal actions required, like giving up or rationing meat, driving less, buying green and renewable and local products, and more.

We need all Americans to be fired up and marching in the same direction – which is roughshod over the folks like Paul Ryan and Lamar Smith and Mitch McConnell and the Koch Brothers and the Heritage Institute and the big fossil fuel corporations who want to stand in the way of us saving the precious Goldilocks climate of our one and only home.

So… here’s my question.  If you worked in an advertising agency, what messaging would YOU propose to set the American public’s hair on fire?  How do we communicate urgency and get people angry that they’ve been shamelessly lied to for so many years?  We need ZING! and POW! and ZOWIE! messages!  What would they look like?  What would we say?

Please add your excellent ideas in the comments.  And thanks!