Forged in Fire: California’s Lessons for a Green New Deal

FILE - In this Nov. 8, 2018 file photo, flames climb trees as the Camp Fire tears through Paradise, Calif. A federal hazard tree-removal program will remove destroyed trees from last year's deadly Camp Fire that remain on private property and could fall on public roads and facilities. But the Chico Enterprise-Record reports that the Federal Emergency Management Agency program will not take down trees that could fall on homes. Some arborists have estimated there are half a million to a million burned trees remaining from the fire that wiped out 14,000 homes and killed 85 last November. (AP Photo/Noah Berger, File)

Flames climb trees as the Camp Fire tears through Paradise, Calif., on Nov. 8, 2018. Photo: Noah Berger/AP

WE WERE JUST TAKING PICTURES. Of the ash, stray bricks, and weeds. Of twisted metal and charred patio furniture. Of the pine trees still standing on the edge of the lots, their towering trunks now charcoal black. Of the lonely white brick fireplace in the middle of it all, the only surviving structure, metal pokers hanging expectantly by the grate.

“Get the hell off my property!”

The words came bellowing from a burly man who had just pulled up to the pile of ash that once was his home in Paradise, California. As he shouted a litany of complaints, it became clear that his rage wasn’t only reserved for us trespassers — and there have been plenty who have gone to Paradise to gaze at the eerie emptiness where a thriving community once stood, before it was decimated by California’s deadliest fire one year ago.

The target was myriad forces that had conspired to twist the knife, again and again, on his already wrenching property loss — from the insurance company that wouldn’t pay up, to the county that wouldn’t let him clean up, to the state that wanted his (now contaminated) well to be sealed up. His rage was also directed at the absence of decent temporary housing for fire victims like him, not to mention the electric utility that had started the blaze and was still evading responsibility.

When the complaints petered out, I approached the man to introduce myself and apologize for our intrusion. But as I got closer, I felt his volatility: I have been in many disaster-struck communities and know how quickly the gale-force of emotion these events churn up can direct itself at the closest available target. We wished him luck and left.

The encounter was a reminder of the kind of stress that is in the air in the parts of California recently scorched by fire, as well as in the communities that have welcomed thousands of newly homeless neighbors to towns now bursting at the seams. The intersecting hardships experienced by so many in the region also explain why, days before the one-year anniversary of the deadly Camp Fire that burned down Paradise and killed 86 people, local politicians in neighboring Chico unveiled a plan calling for the small city to adopt its own Green New Deal.

Like its national inspiration, the Chico Green New Deal framework marries rapid decarbonization targets with calls for more affordable housing; a safe and sustainable food system; investments in “clean, 21st century” public transit; green jobs creation, including projects earmarked for the poorest residents; and much more.

Chico shows that there is no way to cope with climate breakdown without a simultaneous shift to a very different kind of economy.

“Your city council has heard the call of its community that has resounded locally and across the nation,” said Chico Vice Mayor Alex Brown when the plan was announced. “We are choosing to walk the walk of this movement and to take the leadership being demanded of us.” In an interview, Brown told me that the Camp Fire’s impact on both Paradise and Chico was a glimpse of the future unless action is taken to both radically lower emissions and build “communities that are more resilient to these shifts.” Brown is well aware that a small city like hers isn’t going to make much of a dent in global emissions. But, she said, “We can demonstrate what a Green New Deal looks like at the local level.

The Chico plan is one of many similar local initiatives that have sprung up in the year since the Sunrise Movement occupied the office of then-prospective House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, with young demonstrators demanding that the Democratic Party embrace a sweeping Green New Deal to meet the twin crises of climate disruption and deepening inequality. Since then, as the Green New Deal proposal has picked up momentum in the Democratic primaries, several states and big cities have unveiled their own frameworks, including Maine and Seattle, where city council recently passed a resolution that included the city’s most ambitious climate justice targets to date. It also pledged to create an oversight board to hold the city to its commitments, a body that will be made up of representatives from communities directly impacted by racial, economic, and environmental injustice, as well as climate experts and representatives from trade unions and green groups.

And yet the contribution now coming from humble Chico — a scrappy northern California college town with a population of approximately 100,000 — may be the most politically significant. Because the Chico Green New Deal is based directly on this region’s hard-won experience of living through the 2018 inferno; it was forged, quite literally, in fire.

Ever since the Green New Deal landed on the political map, liberals have attacked it for its supposedly impractical scope and ambition. Fighting poverty, racism, and homelessness are worthy goals, we have been told — but what do they have to do with lowering greenhouse gas emissions? Surely a carbon-centric approach — like a simple tax or cap-and-trade and some narrow regulations on polluters — would be more likely to succeed. And besides, connecting greenhouse-gas reductions with building a fairer society just confirms Republican beliefs that climate change is a vast left-wing plot: Better to focus exclusively on pollution and worry about the rest down the road. Conservative Chico city council members have gone on the offensive against the Green New Deal with precisely this kind of attack.

PARADISE, CALIFORNIA - OCTOBER 21: An aerial view of a neighborhood destroyed by the Camp Fire October 21, 2019 in Paradise, California. It has been one year since the the Camp Fire ripped through the town of Paradise, California charring over 150,000 acres, killed 85 people and destroyed over 18,000 homes and businesses. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

An aerial view of a destroyed neighborhood in Paradise, Calif., on Oct. 21, 2019, one year after the Camp Fire. Photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Yet Chico’s lived experience over the past year is a devastating rebuke to this line of criticism. As the community that housed the vast majority of people displaced by the Camp Fire, Chico shows that there is no way to cope with climate breakdown without a simultaneous shift to a very different kind of economy, one that is willing to make major nonmarket investments in housing, transit, health (including mental health), water, electricity, and more. MORE

Naomi Klein and Youth Environmental Leaders to Join Sanders and Ocasio-Cortez in Iowa for Climate Crisis Summit

“We’ve never seen something like this in U.S. history. In 2020, Green New Deal voters could determine who wins the Iowa caucuses, and from there the presidency.”


“The climate crisis is an international challenge and we are ready to take it on with a Green New Deal,” Sen. Bernie Sanders, a 2020 Democratic presidential candidate, tweeted Monday. (Photo: Bernie Sanders/Twitter)

Author and environmentalist Naomi Klein, U.S. Youth Climate Strike co-founder Isra Hirsi, and Sunrise Movement leader Zina Precht-Rodriguez are among those slated to join Sen. Bernie Sanders and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in Iowa on Saturday for a “Climate Crisis Summit” focused on the urgent need for a Green New Deal.

“The climate crisis is an international challenge and we are ready to take it on with a Green New Deal,” Sanders, a 2020 Democratic presidential candidate, said Monday in a tweet promoting the summit, which is set to take place at Drake University in Des Moines
.

The event, as Vox reported Monday, is part of the Sanders campaign’s push to win the Feb. 3 Iowa caucuses with an ambitious climate message and policy platform. In August, Sanders unveiled a sweeping Green New Deal proposal calling for a 10-year mobilization to transition the U.S. economy to 100 percent renewable energy while creating 20 million decent-paying union jobs in the process.

“Sen. Bernie Sanders wants to be the new climate candidate of the 2020 presidential race—and his campaign is betting it can win them Iowa,” Vox reported Monday.

The youth-led Sunrise Movement tweeted in response to Vox‘s story that the country has “never seen something like this.”

“In 2020, Green New Deal voters could determine who wins the Iowa caucuses, and from there the presidency,” the group said.

The Sanders campaign said in a statement that the summit on Saturday “is set to be one of the largest gatherings in Iowa to confront climate change.” The event will feature national climate leaders like Hirsi and Precht-Rodriguez as well as local Iowa activists.

“Sen. Sanders probably has the most intensive climate plan on the circuit right now,” Hirsi told Vox. “I think a lot of young people are hearing Sanders’ message and waking up.”

“The climate crisis is everything,” Hirsi added. “It’s healthcare, it’s racial justice, it’s criminal justice—everything. It’s our lives on the line; lives are already being lost because of it.”

The day after the Climate Crisis Summit, Sanders plans to go on a “Green Jobs Tour” across Iowa’s conservative fourth congressional district.

Bill Neidhardt, the Sanders campaign’s deputy state director in Iowa, predicted the Vermont senator’s bold climate message will have broad appeal among Iowa voters.

“Climate is typically seen as an issue for young voters but we reject the notion that climate only engages young voters,” Neidhardt told Vox. “We think a strong focus on climate, especially on the economic issues, can really turn the tide.” SOURCE

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Sanders, Ocasio-Cortez at ‘Climate Crisis’ summit

Activist Naomi Klein talks global climate justice imperative

naomi-klein-warsaw-nov-19-2008-fot-mariusz-kubik-05
Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

When Naomi Klein looks at the world today, she sees flames. There are three “fires” that the global community is facing, she told an audience at Richardson Auditorium on Tuesday, and they are increasingly converging.

Klein gave introductory remarks before speaking with Assistant Professor of African American Studies Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor about Klein’s new book, “On Fire: The (Burning) Case for a Green New Deal.” She is a Canadian journalist and activist widely known for her biting indictments of capitalism and globalization.

The first “fire” that Klein identified is the central concern of her book: climate change.

She cited the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s 2018 report, which laid out both a plan and a deadline for global leaders to stave off climate chaos. The plan, Klein said, was an “‘unprecedented transformation in virtually every aspect of society,’ in energy, in agriculture, in transportation, in building construction.” The deadline was twelve years, now down to eleven — what Klein described as a “very, very, very short window.”

“Any of us who focus even tangentially on what we’re hearing from climate scientists knows that what we do or don’t do in the next handful of years will determine the lives and fates of hundreds of millions of people,” Klein said.

The second “fire,” Klein said, is a political one.

She pointed to the ascendancy of populist leaders in the U.S., Brazil, the Philippines, India, Australia, and Russia. In each of these countries, Klein said, politicians are defining national in-groups against a “sharply defined out-group, inside the respective countries and outside, on the borders … the illegal, the illegitimate, the frightening other.”

And these two fires — the “political and the planetary” — are linked, Klein added.

“I think they are feeding each other,” she told the audience. “I don’t think it’s a coincidence that at the very moment when the reality of climate breakdown ceases to be some future, abstract threat off in the indeterminate distance and becomes a lived reality, that at this very moment we have the global phenomenon of the rise of these strongmen figures, riling up hatred, turning populations against each other, using this fear and sense of scarcity.”

Politicians like President Donald Trump and President of Brazil Jair Bolsonaro are facilitating rather than fighting climate change, Klein said, from relaxed environmental regulation in the United States to wildfires rippling across the Amazon. Meanwhile, climate events are having the most devastating impact in other countries, those without the infrastructure and resources to adequately deal with them.

Klein argued that this imbalance has “created the cruel irony that the very people who are forced to move first are the people who did the least to create this crisis.”

“They deserve not just asylum but an apology,” she added.

Rather than asylum and apologies, however, Klein claimed that powerful countries are responding to climate change with a model of economic development that profits off of climate refugees. She traced the origin of this model from the “Island Solution” in Australia to criminalization of migrants in the E.U. to the treatment of immigrants at the U.S. border.

The result, Klein asserted, is “climate barbarism,” a me-first response to climate change that entails cutting down on foreign aid and funneling money into the containment of climate refugees.

But there is an important alternative, she argued, to the policies of climate barbarism, and it lies in the “third fire”: the global climate justice movement.

This fire is being stoked by Greta Thunberg and the Sunrise Movement, and it is proliferating, Klein stated, gaining followers in an exponential and unprecedented fashion. In September, over seven million people took to the streets in worldwide climate strikes.

“There is incredible urgency in the fires that have been lit in this coming generation, and they’re trying to light fires in the generation that came before them,” Klein said.

Klein also emphasized that the global climate movement needs to be intersectional in order to match the demands of “intersecting crises” in political, economic, and social realms. In this sense, the radical scope of these crises presents an opportunity for a radical re-envisioning of society’s most basic yet problematic structures — a central argument in her book.

“It’s going to take an all-out war on pollution and poverty and racism and colonialism and despair, all at the same time,” Klein read from the introduction to her book.

In conversation with Klein, Assistant Professor Taylor asked what factors have contributed to the sudden, rapid visibility of the climate movement, particularly in the United States. Klein said that the lived experience of climate change — hotter, longer summers; wildfires in California — are helping to bring urgency to the movement, along with publicized scientific reports and collective action.

Klein and Taylor also discussed the role that climate policies are playing in the 2020 election. Klein critiqued Senator Elizabeth Warren’s recent interpretation of climate change as an issue of political corruption, emphasizing instead that it is inextricably linked to capitalism. She also said that Senator Bernie Sanders’ “Green New Deal” proposal is the most internationally focused.

But across the slate of Democratic candidates, the unprecedented attention given to climate policy indicates an “absolute sea change” in the way we are approaching the climate crisis, Klein emphasized.

“Just a few months ago we were talking about whether we can get Republicans on board for a revenue neutral carbon tax,” she said. “This really is a shift.” MORE

Welcome to the US, Greta. With your help we can save the planet and ourselves

Even in such a divided and troubled country, there is hope. Between us we can beat the climate destroyers

Dear Greta,

Thank you for travelling across the Atlantic to north America to help us do the most important work in the world. There are those of us who welcome you and those who do not because you have landed in two places, a place being born and a place dying, noisily, violently, with as much damage as possible.

It has always been two places, since the earliest Europeans arrived in places where Native people already lived, and pretended they were new and gave them the wrong names. You can tell the history of the United States – which are not very united now – as the history of Sojourner Truth, the heroine who helped liberate the enslaved, as that of the slaveowners and defenders of slavery, as a place of visionary environmental voices such as Rachel Carson and the corporate powers and profiteers she fought and exposed.

Right now the US is the country of Donald Trump and of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, of climate destroyers and climate protectors. Sometimes the Truths and the Carsons have won. I believe it is more than possible for Ocasio-Cortez and the Green New Deal to win, for the spirit of generosity and inclusion and the protection of nature to win – but that depends on what we do now. Which is why I’m so grateful that you have arrived to galvanize us with your clarity of vision and passionate commitment. 

Not long ago I talked to a powerful climate organizer who began her work when she was only a little older than you, and she told me that her hope right now is that people recognize that this is a moment of great possibility, of openings and momentum, and a growing alarm and commitment to what the changing climate requires of us. Something has changed, thanks to you and to the young people who have brought new urgency and vision to the climate movement. Many people have become concerned and awake for the first time, and the conversation we need to have is opening up. People are ready for change, or some of us are. This is what’s being born in the US and around the world: not only new energy systems, but new social systems with more room for the voices of those who are not white or male or straight or neurotypical.

The old energy system was about centralized control and the malevolent power of Gazprom and BP, Shell and Chevron, and the governments warped into serving them rather than humanity. The new system must not only be about localized energy, but democratized decision-making, about the rights of nature and the rights of the vulnerable and the future, over profit.

Some of this is already here: not only the larger groups you’re surely heard of – the Sunrise Movement350.org, the Sierra ClubRainforest Action Network – but countless local and tribal groups that have arisen to stop this pipeline or that coal port or these fracking projects, to protect this forest or this mountain or these waters. They are not visible the way the United Nations or the US Congress or European Union is, but their work matters, and perhaps we will build a lot of this transition out from below – but we need the big policy agendas set from above as well.

Everywhere I see remarkable things happening. No matter how much you see of this big country, this huge continent, there is more than you can see. I hope you have a chance to see some of the beauty of the American landscapes, from rainforests to deserts; there is also beauty in the passionate commitment around the country. Coalminers in Kentucky have been blocking a coal train track for a month, because their bankrupt company stiffed them on wages, and coalminers elsewhere recently spoke to this newspaper about their clarity that coal is over and that the Green New Deal and its jobs are welcome. The gigantic coal-burning, sky-polluting Navajo Generating Station in Arizona will shut down later this year, and, Scientific American reported, “Its average annual emissions over that period are roughly equivalent to what 3.3 million passenger cars would pump into the atmosphere in a single year. The Navajo Generating Station isn’t alone. It’s among a new wave of super-polluters headed for the scrap heap,” including giant plants in Kentucky and Pennsylvania.” Last year, US coal plants with annual emissions of 83 million tonnes of carbon were shut down.

Several states – California, New York, Hawaii, New Mexico – have made commitments to 100% renewable electricity in the near future, and while the federal government tries to push us backward, many states lean forward. This summer Texas began to get more energy from wind than from coal. Iowa in the midwest now gets 37% of its electricity from wind, not because of idealism alone, but pragmatism: wind is cheaper. Science magazine reported last month, “Solar plus batteries is now cheaper than fossil power,” and a Connecticut newspaper recently announced that Chubb, the largest commercial insurer in the USA, will stop insuring coal plants and coal mining.

Worldwide, we are in the midst of an energy revolution that dwarfs the industrial revolution: human beings will for the first time not use fire, will not release carbon into the sky, to get most of our energy. We will inevitably transition away from fossil fuels as a primary energy source, and the question is only when. If we do it swiftly, we minimize damage to the climate; if we wait, we maximize it. The damage is here, and it’s not only destroying nature, it’s killing us. When the California town of Paradise burned down last November, at least 86 people burned to death or choked on smoke; millions suffered from the smoke that spread across the region. Heat deaths are up in the south-west, where 235 people died in Arizona alone from this cause during 2017.

But we also know that there are so many uncounted deaths from poisonous fossil fuels. We know that many of the refugees on the USA’s southern border are climate refugees, driven out of their homes in Central America by the failure of agriculture from unpredictable and violent weather, heat, and drought. We know that Alaska was this month for the first time ice-free all along its coast, and the hot dry weather inland led to horrific wildfires. “Starting on the fourth of July and lasting multiple days, temperatures across Alaska were 20 to 30 degrees above average in some locations,” reported National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

To be a climate activist anywhere on Earth now is to stand at a crossroads: heaven on one side and hell on the other. Heaven because the transition we need to make and are making – just not big enough or fast enough – is not only an power-generation revolution, but a decentralization of political power, a shift away from the big energy companies who used governments to make wars and make profits for them, a shift away from the poisonousness of fossil fuel. Hell because the destruction of what it took nature millions of years to create – the exquisite balance of ecosystems, of bird migration in harmony with seasons, of symbioses between species, of the great Himalayan and Andean glaciers whose waters feed so many people, of rainforests and temperate forests – is hideous as well as terrifying. The Amazon is burning because of one rightwing leader and a system that rewards agricultural products but not forest protection, even though we need rainforests more than we need the soybeans and beef raised on the land stolen from the rainforest and its indigenous inhabitants.

I’ve mentioned a bit of what is going on in my troubled, complicated country, the US, but of course these are global conflicts and global situations, and the solutions are advancing almost everywhere, because they are good solutions to terrible problems.

You have come to help us choose the former over the latter, and more of us thank you than you will ever be able to see or hear. More than that, we’re with you, trying to realize the goals that the climate demands of us, to make a sustainable world for those who are young now, those yet to come, and for the beauty of the world that is still with us. SOURCE

Youth Activists Tell Washington “We’re Coming for You” on Climate Change


Sabirah Mahmud speaks at the Philadelphia Youth Climate Strike in March 2019.YOUTH CLIMATE STRIKE

This crisis will take away our ability to live unless we do something,” Sabirah Mahmud, a 16-year-old youth climate organizer, told me earlier this month.

I had invited Mahmud — the Pennsylvania director for Youth Climate Strike, a national youth-led organization committed to climate justice for marginalized communities in the U.S. and globally — to share her thoughts on the climate crisis. As we sat together on a shaded patio in West Philadelphia in the muggy September weather, Mahmud turned to me with a look of determination on her face and explained why youth leadership is essential for the climate justice movement.

“We have a right to a future, and now that future is in jeopardy,” she told me. “We have all of these big dreams and we are always being asked: ‘What do you want to do in the future?’ I can’t have a response to that question because of this crisis. I don’t even know if we will have a future or what kind of future that will be.”

Alongside Mahmud are hundreds of other youth climate organizers in Pennsylvania who are striking from school as part of Fridays for Future, taking to the streets in acts of dissent against the fossil fuel industry, developing protest art, educating the public, and demanding decision-making power in domestic and international deliberations about the fate of the planet.

Reil Abashera, a 16-year-old high school student and resident of Philadelphia, decided to join the struggle when she learned of the scientific reality of the climate crisis and understood the urgency of this moment.

“We don’t have 10 years to turn things around,” Abashera told me. “We have 18 months.”

The fact that these conversations are taking place in Philadelphia is not insignificant. The “City of Brotherly Love and Sisterly Affection” has a long history of environmental racism that goes hand in hand with its history of state violence against Black people, disinvestment in public education, the criminalization of poverty and the segregation of communities of color. According to the Public Interest Law Center, low-income neighborhoods and communities of color in the city have long been disproportionately impacted by air pollution from oil and gas operations. This air pollution has resulted in increased rates of childhood asthma, cancer, depression and schizophrenia for many Philadelphians. As recently as July 2019, Philadelphia’s City Council approved the construction of a $60 million LNG plant in South Philadelphia — a section of the city already heavily impacted by environmental toxins. Mahmud and her peers, along with youth organizers from the Sunrise Movement, were actively involved in the fight against the LNG plant. They took part in street demonstrations, elevated dissenting voices from South Philadelphia, and attended public consultations organized by the city government. MORE

The new face of climate activism is young, angry — and effective

A growing sea of crusaders known as the Sunrise Movement has helped put climate change on the national agenda. Most aren’t even 30.


Sunrise Movement activists rally in support of a Green New Deal outside of Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer’s office on April 30, 2019. Drew Angerer/Getty Imag

Unlike some recent college graduates, Sunrise Movement activist Paul Campion doesn’t have a five-year plan. Climate change doesn’t let him plan that far into the future.

“I can’t think more than 16 months out. The other day I was talking with my partner about the magnitude of what we face, and it’s a weight that’s always there,” Campion told me as he sat on the couch in the apartment he shares with four other young Sunrise Movement activists in Northwest Washington, DC.

Their apartment looks like a stereotypical DC group house, but it feels more transient, like its inhabitants could be ready to pick up and move at a moment’s notice. There is no-frills furniture and basic cooking supplies; small “Green New Deal” posters and a huge “Our Time to Rise” banner adorn sparse white walls.

Paul Campion, 22, a Sunrise Movement fellow, in his bedroom in the organization’s “movement home,” located in a small apartment building in Washington, DC. Maura Friedman for Vox
Gabbi Pierce, 22, cooks at the DC movement house.
 Maura Friedman for Vox
Joanna Zhu, 26, another roommate, works on a living room couch. Maura Friedman for Vox

The three-bedroom apartment in Washington’s Columbia Heights neighborhood is one of a handful of so-called movement houses around the country where Sunrise Movement activists live and work together. Their mission is twofold: trying to force politicians to act on one of the most dire issues facing humankind and building an army of young people to send the message.

After they spend their days working at the Sunrise office in downtown DC or meeting with lawmakers on Capitol Hill, they come home to share vegetarian meals at their table each night. A small sign in their kitchen says “everyday I’m brusselin’,” and the apartment wifi password alludes to their shared love of eggplant. They try to minimize their trash impact by composting, which they can take to the local farmer’s market for free.

This small group is part of a much larger national organization whose members are disproportionately in their teens or 20s. (The Sunrise Movement doesn’t have formal membership.) But its core leaders — a small group of activists in their mid-20s — estimate that 15,000 young people have showed up to in-person actions across the country and that 80,000 have participated in less direct actions such as emailing and calling their representatives. As of this month, the group has 290 small, autonomous chapters of activists (called “hubs”) across the country. In November 2018, there were just 11.

The 15,000 people who have turned out in person have spent the past year occupying the offices and hallways of the US Capitol, state houses, and Democratic National Committee meetings across the country, yelling at the top of their lungs.

Their methods are straight out of the playbook of the civil rights movement of the 1960s: Frequently, they sing protest songs. They stand quietly as police officers zip-tie their hands behind their backs and lead them into vans for civil disobedience. Their eyes pleading, they carry signs, including ones that say, “The Youth are Coming for You.” MORE

 

 

Naomi Klein: The Green New Deal: A Fight for Our Lives

Sunrise Movement protesters inside the office of Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Capitol, Washington, D.C., December 10, 2018.

One month before the young Sunrise Movement activists first occupied the office of then-soon-to-be House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in November 2018, the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) published a report that had a greater impact than any publication in the thirty-one-year history of the organization. The report examined the implications of keeping the increase in planetary warming below 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7°F). Given the worsening disasters we are already seeing with about 1°C of warming, it found that keeping temperatures below the 1.5°C threshold is humanity’s best chance of avoiding truly catastrophic unraveling.

Doing that would be extremely difficult. According to the UN World Meteorological Organization, we are on a path to warming the world by 3–5°C by the end of the century. To keep the warming below 1.5°C would require, the IPCC authors found, cutting global emissions approximately in half in a mere twelve years and getting to net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. Not just in one country but in every major economy. And because carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has already dramatically surpassed safe levels, it would also require drawing a great deal of that down, whether through unproven and expensive carbon-capture technologies or the old-fashioned ways: by planting billions of trees and other carbon-sequestering vegetation.

Pulling off this high-speed pollution phaseout, the report establishes, is not possible with singular technocratic approaches like carbon taxes, though those tools must play a part. Rather, it requires deliberately and immediately changing how our societies produce energy, how we grow our food, how we move around, and how our buildings are constructed. What is needed, the report’s summary states in its first sentence, is “rapid, far-reaching, and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society.”

It was against this backdrop that 2019’s cascade of large and militant climate mobilizations unfolded. Again and again at the strikes and protests, we heard the words “We have only twelve years.” Thanks to the IPCC’s unequivocal clarity, as well as direct and repeated experience with unprecedented weather, our conceptualization of this crisis is shifting. Many more people are beginning to grasp that the fight is not for some abstraction called “the Earth.” We are fighting for our lives. And we don’t have twelve years anymore; now we have only eleven. Soon, it will be just ten.

As powerful a motivator as the IPCC report is, perhaps even more important are the calls from many different quarters in the United States and around the world for governments to respond to the climate crisis with a sweeping Green New Deal. The idea is a simple one: in the process of transforming the infrastructure of our societies at the speed and scale that scientists have called for, humanity has a once-in-a-century chance to fix an economic model that is failing the majority of people on multiple fronts. In tackling the climate crisis, we can create hundreds of millions of good jobs around the world, invest in the most systematically excluded communities and nations, guarantee health care and child care, and much more: a Green New Deal could instill a sense of collective, higher purpose—a set of concrete goals that we are all working toward together. MORE

 

‘A Year Ago I Wouldn’t Have Believed It’: Not Enough, But 2020 Climate Town Hall Hailed as Big Progress

“Gotta say that just seeing the words ‘Climate Crisis’ in red on screen is a victory for our movements.”


CNN’s marathon town hall Wednesday night, featuring ten of the top 2020 Democratic presidential candidates, “put the climate crisis closer to the center of a presidential election than ever before.” (Photo: CNN)

Despite steady concerns that much of the news media—especially the corporate media in the United States—continues to downplay the far-reaching threat of the international emergency of rising air and ocean temperatures, climate campaigners and experts praised a town hall-style forum with 2020 Democrats candidates hosted by CNN Wednesday night as a hopeful sign of progress.

“10, 5, even 2 years ago – these were fringe ideas for mainstream Dems.  This is what shifting the Overton window looks like. So much love for the movement tonight.” —Collin Rees, Oil Change International

“Gotta say that just seeing the words ‘Climate Crisis’ in red on screen is a victory for our movements,” tweeted Canadian author and activist Naomi Klein as the evening of television kicked off and she praised the movement who pushed so hard for giving the issue the singular focus it deserves. “Finally the starting premise is correct and none of it would be happening without the work of millions.”

Throughout the more than 6-hour forum—with each of ten candidates given 40 minutes to answer questions about the Green New Deal, fracking, the costs of transition, holding fossil fuel companies to account, how to offer justice to displaced workers and communities, and other key issues—the event had the desired result for many, regardless of the range of answers given, of putting the climate emergency front and center.

“Lots could be critiqued tonight,” said Justin Worland, a journalist for TIME magazine, “[but] it still feels remarkable to see 7 hours of largely substantive talk on CNN where science is taken as a given and candidates face good questions about solutions.  A year ago I wouldn’t have believed it; makes me wonder where we’ll be in a year.”

At the conclusion, highlighting multiple mentions of the direct connection between the climate emergency and Hurricane Dorian, Klein agreed:

Collin Rees, a campaigner with Oil Change International, expressed a similar sentiment:

Despite the progresse signaled by CNN’s forum—and a pair of similar events to be held by MSNBC later this month—many campaigners still agree that what is really needed is a comprehensive debate between candidates on one stage.

Despite the Democratic National Committee voting down a resolution last month that would have approved exactly that, groups like the Sunrise Movement are calling for the top Democratic candidates to buck the party’s decision and hold a climate debate anyway. MORE

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Biden’s ‘rambling incoherent’ CNN town hall made worse by blood-filled eye

As Systems Collapse, People Rise: Seven Faces of an Emerging Global Movement


clockwise, from top left: Extinction Rebellion, Greta Thunberg, Fridays for Future, Sunrise movement

There is a new global movement awakening across the planet. The Fridays For Future (FFF) movement inspired by Swedish teenager Greta Thunberg has brought millions of high school students to the streets this year. The grassroots Extinction Rebellion (XR) founded in the UK last year aims to mobilize non-violent climate action worldwide. And in the United States, Sunrise, a youth-led movement that advocates political action on climate change, teamed up with U.S. Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (aka AOC) and effectively changed the conversation by proposing the Green New Deal. With the partial exception of Sunrise, most of these movements and their events have largely been ignored by the U.S. media. More important, hardly any of the reporting explicitly acknowledges these movements as expressions of a larger shift in consciousness globally, in particular among young people.

The emerging wave of youth movements in 2019 differs from the 1968 student movement in a variety of ways. One, the key figures are young women, not young men. Two, they are arguing for a change in consciousness, not just for a change in ideology. Three, they are intentionally collaborating with earlier generations, not just fighting against them. And four, they are using technology in intentional and new ways. In this column, I describe seven “faces” or aspects of this shift in global awareness and the youth-led movement that is taking shape now.

1. The Decline of the Far Right

The recent election of the EU parliament, which is the only directly elected supranational body in the world, was remarkable in a number of ways. In comparison with the 2014 election, voter turnout was up by a significant margin (following a steady drop over the previous two decades), and the widely anticipated success of the far-right parties in Europe was a no-show. All the far-right parties could muster was a 5% increase, from 20% to 25% of the votes. To be sure, 25% is still a lot. But it’s much less than projected in almost every country, including Hungary (where Viktor Orban failed to reach his declared objective of a two-thirds majority), and France (where Marine Le Pen won, but did not exceed a percentage in the low 20s). In Germany the AfD didn’t even manage to surpass 10%, remaining in the single digits in western Germany, though up significantly in the former East Germany — a region that has seen almost 60 years of totalitarian regimes since 1933.

2. The Rise of the Greens in Europe

However, the main story of the EU election revolves around something different: the rise of the Green Party. In Germany, the Greens took almost 21% overall. Among young voters in Germany, the Greens — the only party that clearly positions itself pro climate action, pro immigration, pro social justice, pro EU— are now by far the most popular party. Even among voters under age 60, the Green Party ranks first (but with a smaller margin than among the under-30 voters). Even though the Greens remain weak in Eastern and Southern Europe, they gained strength across the board in Western and Northern Europe (e.g., in France to 13.5%) and in Europe overall. MORE

OPINION: TO SUCCEED, THE GREEN NEW DEAL MUST TAP THE POWER OF COLLECTIVE ACTION

The Green New Deal offers valuable insights on how to drive transformational change. Does it have what it takes to pull it off?

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If you’re paying attention to climate change or politics, you’ve almost certainly heard of the Green New Deal. It’s ambitious. It’s inspiring. It takes on two of the biggest crises of our time — climate change and economic inequality — and proposes a way forward that just might be up to the task of dealing with both. And it calls for transformational change: changing the structure of how a system works.

But can it deliver? Based on my research on how to drive transformational change, I think it can. But in order to do so, it needs to continue to gain traction on two key elements that make such change possible.

People can feel big change is needed, but the path forward is not clear. The Green New Deal offers a potential path forward.

The first key ingredient in transformation is fertile ground — a widespread understanding that things are becoming untenable and something has to change. The timing is ripe in the case of the climate crisis. Massive, global scientific reports on the dangers we face have recently been published (examples here and here), youth climate activism around the world is on the rise, and climate change is becoming an increasingly salient issue for U.S. voters. It’s also ripe with respect to wealth inequality, which is at historic highs in the United States.

The success of the Green New Deal will depend on continued and increasing frustration about climate and inequality. In short, people can feel big change is needed, but the path forward is not clear.

The Green New Deal offers a potential path forward. Importantly, it starts by asking what is necessary, rather than what seems possible. By definition, transformation means a fundamental change in the system, so asking what is possible in the current system is not a likely path to transformation.

The second key ingredient is the presence of a “collective” — a large, intentionally organized group — at the center. Transformative change takes more than an individual, or even a group of individuals. It doesn’t simply capture the imagination of many people; it offers ways for people to contribute. In a collective, individuals are involved as more than members or employees. They make identity with the collective a core part of who they are and what they do. A collective develops a shared identity around a shared purpose, and can take the grassroots energy bubbling up around an issue and focus it in ways that turns it into powerful transformational work.

The collective at the roots of the Green New Deal is the Sunrise Movement — an American element of a thriving global youth climate movement. The Sunrise Movement grabbed onto the Green New Deal idea and took bold action — most memorably occupying the office of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi during the orientation of new members of Congress. Since then, Sunrise has been organizing around the Green New Deal all over the country, recently wrapping up the Road to the Green New Deal Tour that included more than 200 town hall meetings.

Importantly, the energy and action behind the Green New Deal has grown beyond the Sunrise Movement. The Green New Deal exists at the federal level not as an overly prescriptive policy proposal, but rather as a resolution that balances broad, shared purposes (addressing climate change and economic inequality) with some, but not all, specifics (e.g., fast decarbonization through rapid expansion of renewable energy, building upgrades and energy efficiency combined with millions of good-wage jobs).

At the same time, local- and state-level green new deal proposals also have been introduced around the country. These changes are examples of how the Green New Deal is already changing mainstream conversation and practice. The changes are early evidence of the Green New Deal’s transformative power. MORE