The following post was written by Lois Parshley and Ben Wessel, students at Middlebury College.
According to The Center for Public Integrity, more than 770 companies and interest groups hired an estimated 2,340 lobbyists to influence federal climate policy in 2008. That means every morning, 2,340 briefcase-holding and business card-carrying bodies walk through the halls of Congress and federal agencies with the sole aim of either passing, rejecting, or strengthening the policies that will help spark a clean energy revolution and combat the climate crisis.
From Chevron to Chevrolet, from the American Jewish Committee to American Airlines, everybody is funding somebody to argue their case. This Washington insider game is what’s determining the climate policies that come out of Washington.
Why should these inside-the-beltway folks have all the clout? Isn’t our future at stake too? How can the everyday citizen get on the same playing field as these lobbyists?
These questions encouraged us — two college students who are part of the youth climate movement — to write a guide to climate policy that would help every American understand the policy details and political context around the climate debate in Congress. The result is “The Citizen’s Guide to Climate Policy,” a short booklet that will prepare you to become a lobbyist for change (Free PDF download).
The only way we’re going to get the strong climate policy we need is if impassioned citizens engage their elected officials and are so well-versed on the implications of specific policies that we can battle on the same ground as industry lobbyists. “The Citizen’s Guide to Climate Policy” sets out to help engaged citizens join the climate policy debate without having to wade through the wonky policy talk of Washington.
As advocates and activists across the country examine the Waxman-Markey climate bill passed by the House of Representatives last month, the guide fleshes out the crucial policy elements that were sticking points for swing votes: allowance allocation, carbon offsets, emissions reductions targets and more. By explaining the major elements of this monumental bill and putting forth reasons to support or reject them, we hope we can help expand the climate movement’s power in our nation’s capital.
Most importantly, we hope the guide inspires you to action. We know that by familiarizing ourselves with the legislation in Washington and by having earnest discussions with our elected officials, we can help secure the safe climate future we need.
As Bill McKibben says in his forward to the guide, “This booklet is a scorecard. But not for passively sitting by and watching the game. It’s an invitation to get in the game, to become passionately involved while there’s still some hope of affecting the outcome.”
Contact Parshley and Wessel at use benkwessel AT gmail DOT com and lparshley AT gmail DOT com
Get Grist in your inbox