Time to Turn Up the Heat on Climate Change

Well, we are reaching the end of the road. In Worldwatch’s State of the World 2009 report, climate scientist Bill Hare argues that fossil carbon dioxide emissions will need to come close to zero by 2050 – decades earlier than what most governments envision – and that deforestation needs to end well before 2030. The longer we delay serious action, the greater the danger of reaching destabilizing tipping points.

Segments of the environmental movement, especially grassroots-oriented groups, have been quite vocal in their criticism of current policies. But others have endorsed weak proposals, arguing that they can be improved upon later – without offering a strategy for doing so or a reason why the balance of forces should be expected to be more favorable later on. Their slogan of choice is "don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good." Catchy, but is it convincing?

The ultimate outcome of any process is the product of ideas and proposals put forward by different actors, as well as the relative power of these actors. Environmental groups that fail to turn up the pressure are effectively narrowing the scope of what is politically possible. It is like waving a white flag while the battle is still raging.

Some may honestly feel that there is no other way – that status quo forces in government and the corporate world are too powerful. But there’s also an inconvenient truth. Not rocking the boat often equals respectability in mainstream opinion for environmental organizations. Having access to the corridors of power, whether in Washington, Brussels, or other world capitals, gives the appearance of influence and importance – and surely helps in securing future funding.

While compromise and horse-trading may be essential in politics, the Earth’s climate is not swayed by it. In light of the disappointing trajectory of climate policymaking, environmentalists need to rediscover their roots. Rallying public opinion is critical to gain leverage in the titanic struggle over the Earth’s fate.

Environmental groups need to hold fast to the demands of climate science, continue to offer credible alternatives, and criticize and expose inadequate policies. There is nothing wrong with continuing quiet lobbying and consultations. But that alone will not suffice.

What is needed now is smart and persistent public messaging and mobilizing constituents so as to put legislators and corporate executives on notice: politics as usual will not save the planet. It is time to turn up the heat in the fight against global warming. The livelihoods, and lives, of hundreds of millions of people are at stake.

Michael Renner is a Senior Researcher at the Worldwatch Institute, an environmental research organization based in Washington, D.C.

Read full article here: http://www.worldwatch.org/node/6176?emc=el&m=268171&l=8&v=f6d4e8bd19

~ by Cory Morningstar on July 21, 2009.

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