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Goldenberg reports: "A Harvard academic has put the blame squarely for America's failure to act on climate change on environmental groups. She also argues that there is little prospect Barack Obama will put climate change on the top of his agenda in his second term."

Are environmental groups responsible for Obama's lack of action on climate change? (photo: policymic)
Are environmental groups responsible for Obama's lack of action on climate change? (photo: policymic)

Harvard Researcher Blames Environmentalists for Climate Inaction

By Suzanne Goldenberg, Guardian UK

16 January 13


Academic paper largely clears President Obama of blame over failure to pass climate legislation through Congress.

Harvard academic has put the blame squarely for America's failure to act on climate change on environmental groups. She also argues that there is little prospect Barack Obama will put climate change on the top of his agenda in his second term.

In a research paper, due to be presented at a Harvard forum next month, scholar Theda Skocpol in effect accuses the DC-based environmental groups of political malpractice, saying they were blind to extreme Republican opposition to their efforts.

Environmental groups overlooked growing opposition to environmental protections among conservatives voters and, underestimated the rising force of the Tea Party, believing - wrongly, as it turned out - they could still somehow win over Republican members of Congress through "insider grand bargaining".

That fatal misreading of the political realities - namely, the extreme polarisation of Congress and the Tea Party's growing influence among elected officials - doomed the effort to get a climate law through Congress. It will also make it more difficult to achieve climate action in the future, she added.

Skocpol, meanwhile, lets Obama off the hook for the political inaction on climate change, overturning the conventional wisdom among environmental leaders that political cowardice by the White House ultimately doomed climate legislation.

Her paper is likely to cause a stir among environmental groups hoping to see action on climate change during Obama's second term. Skocpol, in her analysis, does not offer much cause for optimism.

"Whatever environmentalists may hope, the Obama White House and congressional Democrats are unlikely to make global warming a top issue in 2013 or 2014," she writes.

The extreme weather events of the 2012, from superstorm Sandy to an historic drought, are unlikely to shift their priorities, she said.

"The stark truth is that severe weather events alone will not cause global warming to pop to the top of the national agenda," Skocpol went on. "Fresh strategies will be needed, based on new understandings of political obstacles and opportunities. "

Skocpol, a political scientist, compares the failed push for a climate law unfavourably to the ultimately successful effort to pass healthcare reform.

She interviewed key players in the push for climate legislation in 2009 and 2010, as well as activists from the Tea Party groups who helped sink those efforts.

The biggest mistake of the environmental groups, Skocpol said, was their failure to appreciate the extreme polarisation of Congress since the mid-90s, or fully appreciate that Republicans in Congress were softening in their support for environmental issues from 2007 - even before the emergence of the Tea Party.

That political blindness was far more damaging to the effort to pass a climate law than the economic downturn, the language used to frame the climate change debate, or even the lack of full-throated leadership from Obama, she argues. A deal that may have been possible in the 90s was going to be a non-starter amid the political conditions in 2008, she said.

Nevertheless, the US Climate Action Partnership, which Skocpol describes as a coalition of "CEOs and Big Enviro honchos", continued to believe it could wrangle exactly such a deal out of Congress.

That strategy overlooked how the political reality outside clubby Washington had turned against their cause. Skocpol attributes much of that shift to the well-funded effort by conservative thinktanks to undermine climate science. The 90s and onwards saw a sharp increase in the publication of reports and books questioning climate change, which eventually got picked up by mainstream media outlets.

The USCAP never understood the shift in conservative popular opinion, she writes. They also failed to build the broad grassroots organisations needed to push for change.

"The USCAP campaign was designed and conducted in an insider-grand-bargaining political style that, unbeknownst to its sponsors, was unlikely to succeed given fast-changing realities in US partisan politics and governing institutions," Skocpol writes. And she warns the failed attempt "did much to provoke and mobilise fierce enemies and enhance their populist capacities and political clout for future battles".

A number of prominent Republicans who had support climate legislation had already turned away by 2007 - not least John McCain, who was Obama's opponent in 2008. McCain's choice of Sarah Palin as his vice-president, who is famous for her "drill, baby, drill" comments, should have alerted environmental groups to changing politics around the environment, Skocpol writes.

The writing was on the wall even more starkly after 2010, when a number of Republicans who had previously compromised on environmental issues were defeated by more conservative primary challengers, and by the stunning wins for Tea Party-supported candidates in the congressional elections.

Skocpol's recommendations for environmental groups are stark. "Climate change warriors will have to look beyond elite manoeuvres and find ways to address the values and interests of tens and millions of US citizens," she writes.

"Reformers will have to build organizational networks across the country, and they will need to orchestrate sustained political efforts that stretch far beyond friendly congressional offices, comfy board rooms, and posh retreats."

She concludes: "The only way to counter such right wing elite and popular forces is to build a broad popular movement to tackle climate change."

Climate activist Bill McKibben said Skocpol's analysis mirrored his experiences in building the grassroots organisation

"Basically, we need a movement, and we need something a movement can get behind," he said in an email. "Something people as compared to corporations might care about."

McKibben wrote a more detailed response on the environmental news site, Grist. your social media marketing partner


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-31 # Brian Flaherty 2013-01-16 10:01
"Scholarly" Skocpol's argument sounds similar to that of the guy who murdered his parents and asked the court for clemency on the grounds of his being an orphan!!!

However, let's do give her credit for calling out Obama for his lack of leadership on the issue. . .That "lack" being completely in line with his being the ONLY President to have a fast food chain named after him: "Wimpy's!!"
+45 # Onterryo 2013-01-16 10:47
"Academic paper largely clears President Obama of blame over failure to pass climate legislation through Congress".

Exactly how do you interpret the paper as calling out Obama for his lack of leadership on the issue?

Clearly, in Washington, a president must understand what battles are worth fighting because every battle lost makes it that much harder to win the next one. Skocpol is effectively telling environmental groups that they must build a greater consensus for change at the grassroots level because there is too much money and organization behind the status quo (and more regressive legislation being pushed). For examples, look at what the Right has "accomplished" in making taxes a dirty word and what the NRA has done with gun control over the past 30+ years. You and I may understand the various shades of grey but the average American sees things in black and white and hears/sees only sound bites. Either we educate the average American on the former or we learn to produce effective sound bites (that can be supported by facts...not fears).
-8 # RLF 2013-01-16 21:35
life in America sucks and people don't care if the whole thing burns down and eradicates 80% of the human long as there is SOME change...better bad than none!
+33 # Texas Aggie 2013-01-16 13:48

The biggest mistake of the environmental groups, Skocpol said, was their failure to appreciate the extreme polarisation of Congress since the mid-90s, or fully appreciate that Republicans in Congress were softening in their support for environmental issues from 2007

So the fact that the right wing was going to do whatever it took to sabotage any effort by the environmentalis ts to deal with climate change is somehow the fault of the environmentalis ts. I used to be married to a woman who used that kind of logic, that when she wrote a bunch of hot checks because she had forgotten to record several hundred dollars in checks written previously, it was somehow my fault. It's the same logic.
-13 # 666 2013-01-16 17:30
like greenwald's articles, this is just another psuedo-progress ive attack on the true left by the defenders of our great betrayer...
+7 # Pickwicky 2013-01-18 13:42
Volcanoexpert: Let us not give her credit for failing to call out the real culprits: the Republicans. Sure, Obama could have made Climate Change a priority; sure, environmental groups should have been more aware and prepared--but most surely, Republicans would have shot it all down.
+92 # guyachs 2013-01-16 10:03
And if they had recognized the conservative extremism, what would have been the result? THE SAME! She is neglecting the fact that that conservative movement dominates the airwaves because they own the media. Yes perhaps a broad grassroots movement could be effective but you are trying to build it in an environment that is hostile to it. I admire McKibben and I'm sure he is finding it very difficult. Don't you know that a vote to stop climate change is a vote for unemployment, a vote for oil dependence on the mid-east? As long as they can continue to make the argument that it means more unemployment, that grassroots campaign is going to be very difficult to sell.
We do need leaders who can articulate the truth but they are all too afraid to do it, list they be tarred and feathered as unpatriotic.
+4 # Beth Carter 2013-01-16 13:45
USCAP sounds to me a lot like ALEC, but with environmental concerns. This was most definitely going to be shot down. ALEC members will not stand a copy cat.
+6 # Texas Aggie 2013-01-16 13:49
Very well argued.
+33 # Robineagle 2013-01-16 10:16
There is one problem with this. The Democratic party could have done it themselves without the Republicans in 2008 or 9 if they had wanted. They didn't and the Administration didn't push them to do it. This was a huge political mistake as it would have been one more instance where the GOP was trying to block real action that was supported and taken by the Democratic Party.

With this type of action the Democrats could have kept the House and continued to pass and adopt progressive legislation.

Rob Wheeler
+29 # Onterryo 2013-01-16 11:00
It might have passed through the House but not the Senate. The Democrats did not have a filibuster proof number of votes except for a brief period of four months.
+3 # LML 2013-01-16 23:21
No matter how long or how short the period was, the fact remains that Obama and the Dems failed to take advantage of this window of opportunity.
Instead Obama pursued the totallu useless endeavor of seeking "bipartisanship ", which if he were half as smart as he thinks he is or had any inkling of history, he would have realized was an exercise in futility.
Instead he should have used that brief window to push through the issues he campaigned on....
Of course, it is also very possible that he might have had no commitment to those issues at all, and they were just the blah-blah-blah he thought he needed to say to get the liberal/progres sive/environmen talist support he needed to get himself elected....
+26 # drew 2013-01-16 11:13
How do you figure Dems could have done this in 2008 (when W was still Prez) or in 2009 (when Obama was handed an economic meltdown and 2 major wars completely adrift that took immediate priority)? The era of brazen obstruction and abuse of the filibuster began in 2006 (when Dems took back over the majority in Congress) and has persisted (and worsened) ever since. And contrary to right wing lies ... Dems did NOT have a super majority from 2008-2010 (save for 50 days).
+15 # AndreM5 2013-01-16 14:56
It was more like 20 days in "majority" since Franken's election was tied up.
+13 # wantrealdemocracy 2013-01-16 13:23
The "stark truth' that this scientist overlooks is the "softening' of Congressional concerns on the environment. This lessening of support in Congress for environmental legislation is caused by the financial 'contributions' of the coalition of "CEOs and Big Enviro Honchos".

The author says the only way to counter this lack of attention in Congress on environmental concerns is a broad popular movement to tackle climate change. Sorry, that won't work.

The only thing we can do is to vote out of office the corporate creeps in "our" government today---and that means Democrats and Republicans equally. There is no lesser evil. "Our" government has been purchased by the 1% and filled with creatures who serve the needs of that 1%.
+8 # Texas Aggie 2013-01-16 13:52
What you say is almost true, but a small problem is that when the Democrats had a majority in the House, there were still enough repubs in the Senate to filibuster anything. You'll notice what a difficult time they had with health reform that they had to pass the Senate disguised as a financial reform. There really isn't too much they could have done with confronting climate change.
+13 # tm7devils 2013-01-16 14:06
Oh, yeh! And just how do you think it would have gotten through the senate? The GOP filibustered everything that would have given the Dems or Obama ammunition for reelection - 385 times in four years.
The blame lies squarly on the shoulders of big business, Wall Street and their lobbyists - and their toadies in congress(be they D or R) because environmental protection policies cut into their bottom line. It's all about money and environmentalis ts have no control over that. Skocpol should rethink her theory and this time include all aspects of the problem.
-8 # RLF 2013-01-16 21:37
It wasn't a mistake...Dems got exactly what they are getting paid to want to get!
+42 # Rascalndear 2013-01-16 11:04
Shame on RSN for incorrectly rephrasing the original headline!!! The Guardian headline said "climate change INACTION", not "climate change." Skocpol simply states the truth, that the environmental movement failed to take the proper political pulse and has been unable to push its agenda effectively as a result.
+5 # AndreM5 2013-01-16 14:57
I had the same problem with the title. Made no sense to me.
+9 # LML 2013-01-16 23:27 is all the environmentalis ts' fault....Not!!!

Always enough blame out there....women get pregnant because they "don't shut it down" when they are raped, the unemployed have no jobs because they want it that way, big monied interests buy their victories because the environmentalis ts misread the future....sure!
+2 # Manacha 2013-01-16 11:04
It is so sad a researcher blames the "victim" and not the aggressors!! Obama will never take any measures to protect the environment or anything that is slightly politically risky. He is not a true leader, just a "compromiser" when we need visionaries. The article, Obama, etc. do not speak well of Harvard as a helpful institution for the country's ills. It is a place only for elites, doing their bidding, all about money and power.
+24 # drew 2013-01-16 11:05
We definitely need the change to come from the bottom up. The Politicians will act when WE force them to! Contact your favorite media outlets and demand more and accurate coverage of climate science and the threats we face, and attend the climate rally at the White House on President's Day (2/17/13).
+26 # sapereaudeprime 2013-01-16 11:06
The real problem is the media. All of America's predominant media except Public Broadcasting are in the hands of for-profit corporations that have zero moral structure at the board level. If they could get more viewers by sacrificing infants on a stone altar, and it wouldn't land them in jail, they'd do it. We need a total takeover of TV and radio broadcasting, followed by a complete breakup of the virtual monopolies that control them. We have sold our birthright for a bowl of Mcpottage for sure.
+16 # Texas Aggie 2013-01-16 13:55
May I suggest that NPR is also beholden to the for-profit corporations ever since W instituted a purge of its board?
+7 # candida 2013-01-16 15:27
Yes, you may!! And I have not given money to them since. I give it to DemocracyNow.or g, KPFK and KPFA (which I stream) instead.
+11 # candida 2013-01-16 15:30
Have you listened to NPR over the past decade?!?! Listen to all the corporate-spons ored commercials, including the weapons manufacturers (GE), agribusiness (ADM) and fossil fuels (BP)!! Go to DemocracyNow.or g, KPFA, KPFK instead to listen and esp to donate your monies. All can be streamed.
+32 # reiverpacific 2013-01-16 11:11
I took the trouble to read as much of this this paper as was available before commenting and here is a telling paragraph (Source, The Daily Beast).
"If they were still thinking after year one that making concessions to stated Republican priorities would get them cooperation, then they weren’t living on the same planet the rest of us were living on.”
Whatever the Tea Party’s agenda, Skocpol says there’s no denying the impact it has had on our politics. “At the popular level, where there are genuine activists who have really gone out there and protested and organized into hundreds of groups ..."
As for Obama’s performance, Skocpol toes a fine line. She was careful to note that “a lot of the criticism of him is unrealistic,” given the implacable nature of his opposition. “Obama has not done badly, and I hope you don’t get the feeling in the book that I think this has been a failed presidency.”
That said, Skocpol insisted that Obama could have done a much more effective, forceful job of communicating his agenda at a time when Americans were desperately looking to the White House for some sense of purpose or guidance amidst roiling economic troubles.
That's a pretty good precîs of Obama's shortcomings, especially the bit about "reaching out" to the unreachable.
I was ready to jump down this academic's throat but if you do some diggin' she's quite close to the bullseye.
+7 # Smokey 2013-01-16 11:58
[quote name="reiverpac ific"]
"I was ready to jump down this academic's throat but if you do some diggin' she's quite close to the bullseye."

Good point... Skocpol is the messenger who brings much of the bad news.

SIMPLY STATED: The Great Recession started in 2008. Up until that point, the big environmental groups were doing a nice job - not great, but they were effective - in communicating with the public. "Vanity Fair" was publishing cover stories about the environment.

Crash! Everything fell apart as soon as the economy went down. The public's interest in climate change - as measured by public opinion polls - started to DECREASE. News reporting on climate change went down. During the 2012 Presidential contest, climate change was seldom mentioned by Obama or Romney.

Despite the fact that millions of people were suffering through major heat waves, droughts, crop failures, and extreme weather events, it was damned difficult to get political leaders to talk about climate change, after the Great Recession started in 2008. Incredible! Future generations will be
amazed when they read this story.

As Skocpol notes, the big conservation groups were responsible for part of the problem Unemployment figures, and food prices, were going up.... But the conservationist s were talking about new consumer taxes - to reduce energy use -
while ignoring economic injustice.

Amazing! Skocpol knows the score.
+4 # MHAS 2013-01-16 14:34
To me the problem with environmental and climate change advocacy has been its operation within the standard "interest group" or issue-driven model that has been the norm in American politics. How do you separate climate change and environmental degradation battles from a larger confrontation with corporate power on Wall Street and in DC? Occupy Wall Street included climate change as among its interconnected grievances. Environmental Justice recognizes that climate change and environmental degradation will most severely impact those with the least first. The failure of environmental nonprofits is they have followed the lead of people like Al Gore, whose Inconvenient Truth conveniently ignores the role of capitalism and corporatism in creating and ignoring these crises as well as the class aspect to who suffers the most at both the national and international level.

If OWS brought about an awakening of the interconnectedn ess of grievances, let's not fall back to sleep on that. A mass movement in opposition to climate change needs this broader, deeper understanding. Jobs vs addressing climate change is a completely false dichotomy and needs to be exposed as such. Only within the current deeply dysfunctional framework can it be viewed as an opposition of "interests."
+4 # MHAS 2013-01-17 10:13
Just to add the obvious--we are talking about our one and only habitat and that of ALL life actually known to us. Having the battle to protect it left to a small collection of nonprofits dependent on $25 yearly membership dues is a very strong indicator of just how insane our situation is. That they find themselves up against the most powerful elements of the global economy---drive n by profit at the expense of all life, and ultimately their own--is an indication of the deep irrationality and psychopathology of our economic mode of organization.
+5 # feloneouscat 2013-01-16 17:49
Slow down there...

Conservationist s were ALSO talking about how TransCanada wanted to ship tar sand oil to our coasts (which, btw, is highly corrosive). They were talking about how one of the routes would have polluted an aquifer. And this would have done nothing to cut the cost of gasoline.

Meanwhile, right-wing extremists were doing their damnedest to make sure that any law that had to do with conservation, regulation, or the environment was axed. Consumer taxes were just a small, tiny, part.

Hell, wind farms make companies money, provide employment - yet there was a coalition of Republicans that wanted to see them all dismantled!

Skocpal has a lot which is rather bothersome, for example "Romney had signaled openness to cap and trade approaches to reducing greenhouse gas emissions" which is being awfully disingenuous - there was no way Romney was even THINKING about cap and trade.

"I do not support radical feel-good policies like a unilateral U.S. cap-and-trade mandate. Such policies would have little effect on climate but could cripple economic growth with devastating results for people across the planet.” – Mitt Romney No Apology, p. 227

She digs deep in some areas and doesn't even bother researching to validate others. THAT is bothersome to me.
+8 # banichi 2013-01-16 12:20
Thank you for the clarification. I also have read the articles, including McKibben's, as much as possible, and I conclude that Skocpol has spoken some really inconvenient truths (to coin a phrase) about the failure of the environmental activists to continue to mobilize people rather than building their own organizations and just ask for donations to their agendas.

If there is one thing that the last 12 years has shown me, it is that even when the deck is stacked against us, enough hard work on the grassroots level will get it done. The status quo adherents (of which Obama is one by default) will drag their feet and oppose real change if it takes having to take risks with their own positions. Those of us who have seen the environmental writing on the wall also must take responsibility for not understanding how the system worked (or didn't) and begin all over again to take back power to the people.

It is, I think, a bit late - the signs of tipping points already passed (such as the permafrost melting, the methane 'blooms' in the arctic, and the melting of the ice packs) are clear. Getting change in policy and law to happen may change the impacts but will not reverse the process. No scientific breakthroughs are going to do that, so we (and our children) will be living in a different world, all too soon.
+8 # George Baggett 2013-01-16 11:37
Ms Skocpol is stating the obvious - like the saying, "If you eat escargot you are likely a Republican." Yes, Ms Skocpol, the enemy is intellectually corrupt, and believes in Social Darwinism. To not recognize is one thing, but to recognize and be forced to argue point in a manner that makes one look foolish is another. However, she may be right that events will not likely turn the tide. I mistakenly thought the BP spill would be a major turning point. Some are suggesting Sandy will have an impact.
I fall back to a report long ago noting that a large oil company was spending 50 million to fight global warming science, while also spending 500 million to raise their oil platforms out of the water due to anticipated rise in the level of the ocean. Lastly, with so many environmental issues and limited resources, how do environmental groups decide which battles to fight. Winning a few is good, focus on one issue and not winning has its penalties.
+2 # Smokey 2013-01-16 12:43
[quote name=".
"I fall back to a report long ago noting that a large oil company was spending 50 million to fight global warming science, while also spending 500 million to raise their oil platforms out of the water due to anticipated rise in the level of the ocean. Lastly, with so many environmental issues and limited resources, how do environmental groups decide which battles to fight."

Ah, yes... Various groups are sending out mixed messages in the climate change debates. Very strange.

Big oil companies deny the climate change problem. And, then, they prepare to defend their oil platforms against a rise in the ocean level.

Big conservation groups declare, "Climate change is our top concern!" And, then, it's noted that there are lots of environmental issues, and resources are limited, so, maybe some other issue should receive priority attention.

Some "liberals" declare their support for economic justice and for the 99%. And, then, they support increased consumer energy taxes, in order to reduce fossil fuel use. Raising consumer taxes may be useful, but isn't there a need, also, to help the people who are suffering in today's energy
economy? (How do we help the elderly and the unemployed heat their apartments?)

New leadership is needed in the climate change programs.
+5 # 4yourinformation 2013-01-16 11:46
The capitulation has been a travesty and the Dems never really took this stuff that seriously. They beat the shit out of the Green Party in the public square and made being "green" a shunned activity for a very long time until the money sucking corporations gave the Green light to the Dems that environmentalis m was okee dokey. As long as profits could be made selling magic techno fixes of the future of all kinds, Dems could finally start talking "green." But, it's too late for the climate and now Katrina and Sandy's BIG brothers and sisters are going to be visiting soon.
+7 # quiethand 2013-01-16 11:52
Not sure exactly what a "political scientist" is, besides an oxymoron, and while this is written from so deeply inside the DC culture it's hard to relate to from the grassroots - I find myself, like McKibben, drawing similar conclusions.

Blaming Obama is a fruitless effort. He is a truly savvy politician, unwilling to take stands the voters won't support. I don't blame him - fair weather supporters need to get this message and learn from the GOP how to build a movement. I don't focus on these large eco groups as the culprit, but instead the grassroots, where shrillness is equated to passion, and hyperbole to reasoned argument. We need to grow up.

We will never win back a basic regard for science in this way, and without that, this as well as a hundred other issues are doomed. We too easily play into the hands of those trying to paint us as bead wearing patchouli smelling freaks, rather than the prescient, concerned, impassioned humans we are. Even more so, the push for climate action, like most eco issues, is essentially a conservative one... and our job once more, is to capture the middle and gain traction, to redefine conservatism as a commitment to future generations, and the ONLY responsible way forward for compassionate, informed adults.
+3 # Smokey 2013-01-16 12:52
[quote name="quiethand "
"Even more so, the push for climate action, like most eco issues, is essentially a conservative one... and our job once more, is to capture the middle and gain traction, to redefine conservatism as a commitment to future generations, and the ONLY responsible way forward for compassionate, informed adults."

Perhaps I misunderstand this comment. A bit of clarification will be helpful.

Still, I suspect that you have some good insights.... Yes, the big conservation groups - the major organizations that often dominate environmental protection conversations - are "essentially conservative." They may be interested in protecting their resort areas. They seldom express much interest in economic justice or in problems like racism.

In Europe, the situation is a bit different. Organizations like the Green Party have had some success in bringing progressive concerns together.
In Canada, the Idle Not movement has a lot of promise.
-8 # Vern Radul 2013-01-16 12:03
Environmentalis ts haven't been driving to as many street protests to demand action on climate change as they could have?
-8 # Vern Radul 2013-01-16 12:09
Too late now....
+8 # SusanT136 2013-01-16 12:55
Agreed the environmental movement should have been much more aggressive about making this a huge, people driven MOVEMENT - especially while the oil companies and others profiting from the fossil fuel industry went all out to make their claims to the public that the "science" was still undecided on climate change.

However, it's a little ridiculous to say the blame rests with the environmental movement, when fossil fuel industry and right wing think tanks are spending millions to keep public awareness low and concern about climate change minimal. At least some of the blame goes to Citizens United for upping the ante in terms of corporate money in elections.

Not sure but I think the title of this post may be inaccurately attributing Skocpol as concluding the the environmental movement is to blame for climate change, where I think she is simply saying they are to blame for climate change inaction.
+6 # Helen 2013-01-16 13:36
All these blame games are counter productive. The National Climate Assessment just released a 1,000-page draft report, the work of the more than 300 government scientists and outside experts, clearly setting forth the human causes of climate change and the links between climate change and extreme weather.

How can our elected leaders ignore this report? Only if we neglect the power of our grassroots! We are already on the climate cliff. A tax on carbon would break the momentum of increasing emissions, further spur the development of alternative technologies, and create jobs in the solar and wind energy sectors. So let's begin by taxing carbon now. Let's all, every person who reads this article, call or write our legislators and educate our friends. There's a petition calling for this at /tax-carbon-now
+1 # charlemaign 2013-01-16 15:54
have you heard of a study that shows that will break the momentum of increasing emissions? or will other nations just pick up that slack?

so far i've heard of fertile farmland be converted to tree farms for carbon credits while forests are being slashed and burned to make way for more farmland.

a lot of money to be made in carbon credits though.
+7 # Billy Bob 2013-01-16 13:43
If this was consistently and systematically framed as "THE COMING AMERICAN FOOD SHORTAGE", we'd see action.

I've said it before. This problem won't be addressed until it causes a national food shortage right here in America. Until then, forget it.
+9 # wrknight 2013-01-16 13:43
To blame the environmentalis ts who have used all available resources to protect the environment for failure to understand the overwhelming opposition is patently stupid. It is like blaming the victim tied to the railroad tracks for failing to understand the locomotive barrelling down on him. Anyone that dumb doesn't deserve to be read or listened to.

I sometimes wonder about Harvard academics.
0 # LML 2013-01-16 23:37
This comment is absolutely on the money!!!
0 # lisamoskow 2013-01-16 14:53
To blame environmentalis ts is really pathetic. Even though people who call themselves "environmentalis ts" do things that I disagree with--and are too extreme rather than working for modest gains over a long I am agreeing somewhat.
However the situation is urgent and requires immediate redress.
+2 # Activista 2013-01-16 15:16
Harvard Researcher Blames Environmentalis ts for Climate Change?
Skocpol, a POLITICAL scientist .....
can one see the parody here ...
+6 # candida 2013-01-16 15:24
The title to this article is misleading according to what follows. Skocpol is not saying environmentalis ts are to blame for climate change but for a political strategy that is failing. While this contributes to climate change inadvertently, it is quite a different thing than to be the cause of climate change. According to the content of the article, Skocpol is calling out leading environmental organizations for a strategy that relies on elitist tactics because they are not working, and she is appealing to them to become more democratic and grassroots is their approach. This seems to be lost in much of the commentary posted here. That we are losing the legislative battle on the environment and climate change is pretty strong evidence that she is correct, in addition to the others political trends mentioned in the article.
, a political analyst with a long and distinguished record, incidentally, with a progressive view
+1 # lorenbliss 2013-01-16 15:26
Based on the above, Ms. Skocpol argues the environmental movement needs to set aside its arrogant elitism and learn to work with the public.

For this long-overdue criticism she should be resoundingly applauded.

With but one exception, every environmental activist I have known has been hostile -- often to the point of contempt and hatefulness -- to genuine Working Class people.

The result leaves Working Class people feeling environmentalis m is merely another excuse for being shafted by the bosses: paychecks downsized, jobs outsourced, families denied basic necessities.

A glaring example of how this occurs (and why corporate fascists have such fanatic Working Class support) was the spotted-owl fight in Washington state during the 1980s. When loggers complained owl protection would cost them jobs, the environmentalis ts -- mostly trust-fund kids eternally exempt from financial worry -- sneeringly replied "you'll just have learn to live with less."

That this was the same Marie Antoinette message workers throughout the U.S. were hearing from their ever-wealthier bosses not only discredited the environmental movement but cleared the way for anti-environmen tal demagogues like Sarah Palin. Probably no other issue so effectively immunizes the Working Class against consciousness raising.

By contrast, had Ms. Skocpol's approach been followed, the U.S. might now have a genuinely progressive Working Class.
+2 # MHAS 2013-01-17 10:42
The environmental justice movement concerns itself with the class and racial aspects of environmental degradation and restoration. This includes the dislocating effects of environmental reforms on working class occupations such as coal mining and logging. I come from a coal mining family. That industry is not environmentally /climatological ly sustainable and the miners know it more than anyone; but they need jobs and their communities are organized around the coal industry, much as the loggers communities are around logging. That's why many of us advocate that the first move to a Green Economy be the retraining folks who currently have CO2/methane generating occupations. Their unions fight against the preservation of their very habitats due to the fear they will end up jobless and dislocated. As I wrote above, the environmental movement allowed itself to get stuck in the "issues" model of advocacy organized around nonprofits. Surrounded by exponential expansion of transnational corporate power, it was a strategy that was bound to fail.
+2 # Blackjacque 2013-01-16 15:33
Let's hear it for the academics! Proof that political reformism is b.s.

Trying to make deals with the devil never works out well for anyone other than the devil
-2 # charlemaign 2013-01-16 15:38
What, blame environmentalis ts?
back in 1990 it was stated quite clearly that we needed to reduce carbon emissions by 95% right then. where were you back then?? then you celebrate al gore who's solutions i knew right off the bat wouldn't work, they should be done, would delay the warming a bit maybe, but in no way were credible solutions. the movement passed "corn" ethanol and are now onto carbon credits -- neither will do anything to hinder global warming. methane is now coming up and pushed us past the tipping point.

having come up with a viable solution and being bashed by not only the right wing but by mindless environmentalis ts claiming to know that geo-engineering would make things worse when they haven't even studied my project or even read the failed ippc reports(not including methane release or change in earth's albedo due to ice change).
then there's the 100's of thousands of projects out there claiming to be a "solution" competing for a limited amount of funds leaving someone with a real possibility out to dry. These people suck! When you ask them for help they only care about their own organization and consider themselves a good person, hah! blood of the starving is on their hands!
0 # jimeshelman 2013-01-16 15:45
Let us all agree with the wife-beater: "She made me do it".

Ms. Skocpol, PHD at Harvard, seems to be a good example of Ivory Tower detachment from reality.

The fact that environmental scientists were not accommodating the right-wingers (also detached from reality) does not mean the scientists are contributors to our political insanity.

Even adroit, well-meaning politicians have been having a great deal of trouble dealing with the right-wingers.

Just amazing...

Regarding the climate cliff, I think we've already gone over. Some of us are aware that we've lost it, and others refuse to notice.

And the coming battle for both water and food? Well, maybe the private sector will figure how to make a bundle from the few of us wanting to survive. Capitalism will respond!
+5 # feloneouscat 2013-01-16 17:23
First, before you go by the Guardian's report, reaad the paper. It's about 130 pages so be warned.

Second, and I KNOW I will be down-voted for this, but her entire thesis is NOT blaming Environmentalis ts - it is about how the system that environmentalis ts had been used to had suddenly been pulled out from under their feet (with the ultra-right wackos).

Third, "blame" is overly harsh - there is no "blame" only that the system was now rigged for failure.

Now, if she DOES say, as The Guardian is implying, that "environmentalis ts were to blame for not being politically savvy", then how are they to respond? Tea Partiers are know less for their brilliant prose than for their singular, almost mule-like, single-mindedne ss: to kill off as many government programs as possible. This is not a group one "reasons" with (a group that thinks being educated is a bad thing). "Reason", "logic" - those are the code words for the elite.

So, being politically savvy what were the environmentalis ts to do? It's one thing to try to convince people who believe in good government; whole 'nother thing when those people don't even BELIEVE in government!

That has been the chilling effect of the Tea Party. A frighteningly small number of people affecting a large portion of our government.

Please read the paper. It's not all black and white and I think the Guardian doesn't give her credit for pointing out what we all know: the Right Wing doesn't want to govern.
+3 # frank 2013-01-16 17:28
MUCH coordination is needed for the hundreds of advocacy groups (worldwide, US, state and local) that either directly or indirectly fight climate change. Each has its own hierarchy, learning curve, messages, efforts, segment, etc.

Notice the clout of the NRA which has 4.3 million members. No one environmental group has much more than 1 million members, but collectively, we have far more than the NRA.

It would be beneficial to have a central body (similar to the United Nations or EC?) to coordinate research, messaging advertising, lobby work, etc.

The leaders of the top 10 or 15 environmental groups could be the initial executive council and take turns at leadership. Most of these groups have representation in DC.
+2 # 6thextinction 2013-01-16 23:29
those 10+ enviro groups have been a large part of the problem--see my comment below.

all our victories in serious inequity battles--women' s rights, worker's rights, civil rights, feminist rights, etc.-- have been achieved by grassroots movements. start or join one now!
+2 # Lowflyin Lolana 2013-01-16 18:16
This is really interesting. My first thought upon seeing the headline in my in-box was "What a freaking bonehead."

However-----a 2010 article in The Nation suggests environmental groups have been co-opted by corporate interests. However well-intentione d their grass roots membership may be, this is entirely possible. Recently I read that Greenpeace wrote the Department of Energy to protest the building of nuclear plants in the Phillipines. Nowhere in the press release was it mentioned that US taxpayers are funding two new nuclear plants in Georgia. Now I realize Greenpeace may not be US-based---but it still gave me pause, because surely there is GP membership here in the states.
+1 # SOF 2013-01-16 18:25
How's this for an idea. Start charging A LOT for home insurance, including a sizable Tax to go into FEMA fund for rescuing and helping victims of 'extreme weather.' We the people pay the insurance for people living in certain areas -like the shores, considered good for security somehow, and let's not forget we pay the insurance on Nuclear power facilities -cuz no one else will. Fukushima? San Onofre, the slew of plants that were flooded last year and those still closed down for repairs -even tho customers still pay for them.
-2 # dondub 2013-01-16 18:41
Banichi and others:

Au contraire! There is a scientific breakthrough that can change the conversation and you can find it at (and their associated links) If we all joined the effort to build a proven (by our National Laboratories) fusion energy facility to replace oil, gas and coal as proposed by Fusion Power Corporation. Clean, inexpensive and sustainable energy, a river's worth of potable water and an oil field's output of carbon neutral liquid fuels using carbon from the atmosphere to transition us into the hydrogen economy. RF driven Heavy Ion Fusion (HIF) is the answer deliverable within 10 years. Get on board!
+1 # James38 2013-01-17 09:41
Fusion power may eventually produce practical energy, but the problem has been that the technology has promised delivery in ten years for about thirty years, and it is still coming in ten years.

There is another energy source that is ready to build now, that will give us global scale base-load energy for the indefinite future. That is the LIFTR (Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactor), which is the only INHERENTLY SAFE nuclear reactor design. Since it uses liquid fuel at atmospheric pressure, no massive containment structure is needed. The contaminants that accumulate in the fission process, which render solid fuel rods unusable after only about 2% of the available energy is extracted, are removed while the reactor is running. Very tiny amounts of waste are produced, and the existing stockpiles of nuclear "waste" can be used as fuel for the LIFTR reactors, thus eliminating the storage problems we now have.

There is no possibility of a reactor meltdown, and no possibility of large scale radiation leakage. Weapons grade materials are not produced, since all fissile elements are consumed as the reactor produces power. Also, the reactor converts natural Thorium to fissile elements, and Thorium is very abundant. Thus the reactor produces more fuel than it uses.

Read "Super Fuel - Thorium the Green Energy Source for the Future" by Richard Martin.

This is the best practical solution for replacing fossil fuels.
+1 # Cappucino 2013-01-16 19:06
I have a lot of mixed feelings about this article. I guess I do see her point in some ways, but she had to know that her work was going to be reported more or less entirely as global warming being environmental groups' fault, and that it would be done in a way that would lead most people (who don't bother to read beyond headlines) to believe that it's literally because of something that these groups actually DID. So she could have been more responsible, but so could all media outlets. Anyway... sorry that there's no real ranting and raving in this post!
+2 # Polar Bear 2013-01-16 20:26
How are environmental groups supposed to inform the public when we have no Free Press??The Corpoate media sells cars/trucks with propaganda repeated over and over in billions of ways 24/7..
+1 # Kootenay Coyote 2013-01-16 21:01
Nevertheless, there is no excuse for those who know, have power & won’t act: the first & great fault was, is & remains theirs.
+4 # Rick Levy 2013-01-16 21:28
Whether or not Skopcol's accusations against environmental groups are true, a rule of thumb that should be embedded in every progressive's mind is that you can't do business with the rethuglicans or expect them to negotiate in good faith, if at all. So don't even try.

Liberals' penchant to believe that sweet reason will always prevail even with crazed right wing fanatics who now dominate the GOP is not just naive, it's absurd.
+1 # 6thextinction 2013-01-16 23:16
I encourage every enviro to read Mark Dowie's "Losing Ground" to learn how the 10 big environmental groups blew it in the last 3 decades in Washington DC, and acted like victims of Stockholm Syndrome. Grassroots efforts were abandoned and even thwarted.

Every grassroots enviro activist knows how hard it is to get local GW efforts going. Find one and join up; time is running out quickly, with little action in sight. Go to DC on 2/17, too, or even better, find someone near DC who will go as your proxy.
+2 # James38 2013-01-17 10:21
Whatever has happened up to this point, the basic fact is that we are faced with a massive climate disaster. Until we stop adding CO2 to the atmosphere, the disaster will continue to get worse and will worsen more rapidly.

Here are three important points:

1. There is no escape, so inaction is suicidal.

2. The LIFTR (Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactor) will provide safe power for the indefinite future on a global scale, and can use present stockpiles of nuclear waste as fuel, solving the storage problem. Read "Super Fuel, Thorium the Green Energy Source for the Future" by Richard Martin.

3. We need to become totally honest with ourselves and with the rest of the world. Every living being is threatened by the Climate Disaster. This means that all persons, corporations, and governments who are deliberately promoting lies to obscure the facts of climate change are guilty of treason. They are deliberately threatening the survival of all governments, of society and humanity, and of all other life on the entire planet.

This is the most totally deadly and serious problem the world has ever faced, and our survival as a species, and the survival of life as we know it depends on us quitting games as usual and cooperating globally to solve the problem.

We do this, or we die. The choice is ours to make. Continued burning of fossil fuels is playing Russian Roulette with a fully loaded gun.
+1 # Smokey 2013-01-17 20:35
Naomi Klein offers two observations on the big environmental issues.

FIRST: The big issues - like food, energy, and drinking water concerns - involve human rights disputes.

SECOND: "The environmental issues are too important to be left to the environmentalists."

Do you want the big conservation corporations - the Audubon Society and the rest - and the big capitalist corporations to make environmental policy? Sometimes, it's difficult to tell one side from the other.

What's needed is an environmental justice movement that develops from the experiences and the concerns of low-income and moderate-income people. Human rights concerns should be high on the agenda. Native peoples should have some power to govern their natural resources.
0 # Smokey 2013-01-17 21:11
Where do you stand in the climate change strategy discussion?

Think about the photographs that often appear with "progressive" reporting about climate change. And think about the images in your own imagination.

Maybe you think, "Save the polar bears!
I'm worried about their future." Well, that's nice. Share your concerns with the family that has suffered through foreclosure and that's still worried about unemployment. Tell them about your plans to raise consumer taxes in order to reduce energy use... After that presentation, get ready for the Tea Party. Don't be surprised.

However: When people talk global warming, maybe you think about last summer's heat waves, droughts, crop failures, and extreme weather events. You may have a photo of Hurricane Sandy in mind. So you talk about climate change as a problem in the here and now. Human rights get some early mention in the conversation.

CONCLUSION: You've got a choice, as you try to move families into action. What kind of strategy will do the most good?

Some conservationist s shout, "Stop wasting energy! Think about the polar bears and the glaciers in Switzerland."

Human rights advocates ask, "What's needed in order to help human beings during a difficult moment in history?
How do we move beyond poverty and other forms of oppression?"

How do we help the 99%?
+1 # craferr 2013-01-18 12:26
It seems that the gist of Ms. Skocpol's arguments is correct. Whether she was pointing out a fact in the hope of future improvement and success, which is appropriate, or pointedly taking a negative stand on the environmental movement is not at all clear from Ms. Goldenberg's article, and represents a failure of this article. The reader would have to read the Skocpol article to determine that. The question is whether Ms. Goldenberg is shooting the messenger, who is presenting a correct but somewhat negative message, or whether Ms. Skocpol was presenting the message to malign the environmental movement. It seems that unfortunately most readers did not raise this objection to the Goldenberg article.
+1 # Edwina 2013-01-22 10:54
A majority of citizens do care about the environment, as many polls have shown. To blame environmentalis ts for not being able to correct a system that does not represent them displaces the blame from the perpetrators to the victims. We no longer have a participatory democracy. With the extreme influence of corporations, Wall Street, and the mainstream media, Washington has become out of touch with the will of the people. The Tea Party has a much louder voice than the actual number of people it represents, and changes to fillibuster rules mean that issues are not even debated in Congress. This is not the fault of environmentalis ts.

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