Signs of Life :: Climate Spurs Direct Action


Climate Direct Action Wins Support

As warnings about the potentially disastrous effects of climate change become even more severe, direct action tactics and civil disobedience have received acknowledgment and legitimacy from some unusual sources. On September 10, a British court ruled that it was warranted for six Greenpeace activists to deface property in order to prevent the much greater damage that will result from global warming.

Police arrested the activists after they began painting a chimney at the Kingsnorth coal power plant in Kent with a message urging Prime Minister Gordon Brown to phase out the aging plant, and not replace it with a new one.

NASA climate scientist James Hansen testified on behalf of the activists. “The court was told that some of the property in immediate need of protection [from climate change] included parts of Kent at risk from rising sea levels,” Hansen said.

Nobel laureate and former Vice President Al Gore has also recently voiced support for more radical means to oppose climate change. Gore told the Clinton Global Initiative in September that “we have reached the stage where it is time for civil disobedience to prevent the construction of new coal plants that do not have carbon capture and sequestration.”

A small but growing movement has also begun organizing “climate camps,” which teach direct action and organizing tactics in the U.S., U.K., Australia, Germany, New Zealand, and Canada. The weeklong events culminate in a direct action targeting a source of carbon emissions. The U.K. climate camp in August, attended by 1,500 people, also made an attempt to shut down the Kingsnorth power station.

—Noah Grant



A U.K. Climate Camp participant wears a Gordon Brown mask and gestures to show that the Prime Minister is ignoring climate change. The Camp protested Kingsnorth coal power station, which appears on the horizon. Photo courtesy World Development Forum.
Photo courtesy World Development Forum.


A U.K. Climate Camp participant wears a Gordon Brown mask and gestures to show that the Prime Minister is ignoring climate change. The Camp protested Kingsnorth coal power station, which appears on the horizon.

Climate Camps: More stories and photos from the 2008 UK Climate Camp.




IPCC Warns Carbon Emissions Worsen

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Scientists from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change say world carbon emissions are worse than previously thought, greater than the worst-case scenario the group predicted in 2007.

World carbon dioxide output rose 3 percent from 2006 to 2007. Although several developed countries reduced their emissions, U.S. carbon output rose, while China was responsible for more than half of the worldwide increase.

If current trends continue through 2100, “you’d have to be luckier than hell for [the outcome] just to be bad, as opposed to catastrophic,” says Stanford University climate scientist Stephen Schneider.



States Hold First Carbon Auction

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Policymakers and environmental groups across the country are keenly watching the progress of the nation’s first mandatory carbon cap-and-trade program, the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), which held its first carbon auction in September. Ten Northeastern and Mid-Atlantic states are participating in RGGI, considered a possible test case for federal legislation to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

The auction is step one in a market-based strategy that will ratchet down carbon emissions by 10 percent over 10 years. All power plants in participating states must buy permits to emit carbon. Those who reduce their emissions will be able to save by purchasing fewer permits. Gradually, states will lower the total amount of allowable emissions sold in each auction.

The initiative also allows other groups to purchase permits: The Adirondack Council, an environmental organization, bought 1,000 credits for about $3,000. The $38.5 million raised in this auction will be spent on investments in renewable energy and energy efficiency and assistance to consumers struggling to afford electricity costs.

Meanwhile, seven Western states, along with British Columbia, Manitoba, Ontario, and Quebec, have drafted the nation’s farthest-reaching cap-and-trade plan to date. If approved by the state and provincial governments, the plan would reduce carbon from all major sources—including electricity, industry, transportation, and fuel use—by 15 percent by 2020.

California, arguably the nation’s leading state on climate change, has already granted its Air Resources Board the authority to begin instituting the program, and has also recently passed a landmark bill that will fight climate change by providing financial incentives to local governments to reduce urban sprawl, cut back car travel and encourage public transit use.

To avert disastrous climate change, states across the U.S. will need deeper reductions than provided by such initiatives, but many environmentalists and policymakers believe these programs are important first steps

— Madeline Ostrander



The Green Long March

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This summer, more than 5,000 youth and students participated in relay teams on China’s Green Long March—a 2,008-kilometer trek through 26 provinces. The event’s name is intended to stir up patriotism and evokes the 1934 Long March by the Red Army, which led up to the Chinese Revolution.

The youth march highlighted issues like carbon footprints, conservation, and green business. The march received some corporate sponsorship and was organized with the permission of the Chinese government.

Green Long March: Video of Chinese youth on the march.


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:: Climate Direct Action Wins Support
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IPCC says World Carbon Emissions Worsen
:: States Hold First Carbon Auction
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China's Green Long March


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