These seem like truly dismal times for those seeking aggressive political action on the climate change crisis. As historic droughts sweep the U.S. and Arctic sea ice melt hits record extremes, governments across the globe still seem frozen in their tracks. The U.S. election features one political party in denial that there is a crisis and another seemingly unable to win support for even minor action. Internationally we have borne witness to a decade of global summits that deliver little more than disappointment.
Yet there is good news. Around the world, citizens are organizing and winning urgent local battles against oil barons, the coal industry, and other powerful interests hell-bent on blocking meaningful environmental and climate action. Their struggles and their victories offer critical lessons for others waging similar fights elsewhere.
To capture the wisdom and lessons of these efforts, the Democracy Center recently looked up close at seven important climate-related citizen action campaigns. We went behind the scenes to learn how California groups beat the billionaire Koch brothers at the ballot box, and how activists in India, Kosovo, Washington state, and Oregon are taking on coal, among others.
While some of the ingredients in these victories are the universal elements of effective advocacy strategy -- skilled media efforts, strong community organizing, etc. -- there are others that speak to the unique ways in which the issue of climate change interacts with democracy and politics. Our campaign profiles identified a half dozen of these lessons, but here are three that stand out.