Last week, 350 founder and journalist Bill McKibben wrote an article in The Guardian pushing a new strategy for fighting climate change without the involvement of the federal government. He outlines a three point plan: (1) persuade towns, cities, counties, and states to pledge to make the transition to 100% renewable energy, (2) block new fossil fuel infrastructure through protest, and (3) cut off the money that fuels this industry through divestment and lawsuits.
Those actions keep the industry off balance, affecting its future plans and weakening its balance sheet even as solar and wind get cheaper all the time. If you want a shorthand version: Sun, Sit (in) and Sell/Sue.
San Francisco has already filed lawsuits against fossil fuel companies and voted to move to a “carbon-restrained” investment strategy for public pensions, but there is still a vast amount of room for improvement. We should continue to pressure the local government to move to 100% renewables and step up their effort to divest while also pushing everyone we know to make the same personal choices.
Earlier this year C. J. Polychronio interviewed economist Robert Pollin on Truthout about two studies he recently produced with the Political Economy Research Institute (PERI). The studies were commissioned by the states of Washington and New York in order to help advance their green economy programs. The goal of both studies was to show that investing in clean energy will help economies end their dependency on fossil fuel energy and drive down CO2 emissions to zero. “Green New Deal” programs that center on investment in clean energy can supplant fossil fuel dependency with as little as 1.5% of the state’s resources invested. When questioned as to whether or not these programs can be supported without the involvement of the federal government, Pollin replies:
“What we do show in the study is that driving down CO2 emissions to zero in New York State by 2050 is entirely feasible, both technically and economically. As with Washington State, we show that the clean energy investment project that will be the foundation of a zero-emission New York State by 2050 will be a net source of job creation, creating roughly 150,000 jobs per year through 2030, then about 100,000 jobs per year until 2050. We show that this clean energy investment project will not deter New York State from enjoying a healthy overall rate of economic growth, even as the economy transitions over the next 30 years into one with zero emissions. Moreover, we develop specific proposals for supporting both the workers and communities that are currently dependent on the fossil fuel industry, to minimize the negative impact on these workers and communities from the year-by-year contraction, leading to the total shutdown of the fossil fuel industry in New York State.”
With a Whitehouse administration that openly rejects climate change and an EPA director that recently suggested it might be good for us, it is clearer than ever that we cannot waste anytime waiting for help from the federal government. Ideas like McKibben’s and Pollin’s seem like great ways to step up the fight without them.