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Ken Ward's Posts


Have we lost more ground than we gained?

If we put narrative above policy, how might the energy bill have played out?

Passing an energy bill at any cost made us look weak, reduced climate change urgency, handed a significant victory to President Bush, and accomplished little of significance. If we had chosen an alternative path -- to take a stand with the fledgling U.S. renewables industry and challenge the obscenely rich oil and coal behemoths -- we would have lost, to be sure, but would have built political power, introduced a novel story, and strengthened ties with an important ally. In acquiescing to a stripped-down energy bill, U.S. environmentalists lost an opportunity to reshape our climate story, strengthen our relationship with …


The Harkin Steak Fry candidate chart

Candidates reveal their priorities

The difficulty with assessing candidates by how they address climate change is that policy statements and tailored speeches give little insight into the relative importance each candidate places on global warming as compared to other issues. It is particularly difficult to distinguish between Democratic candidates, who employ an almost identical language of urgency when addressing environmentalists. Tom Harkin, senior Senator from Iowa, hosts an annual barbecue. The September 16 event drew six major Democratic candidates -- Joe Biden, Hillary Clinton, Chris Dodd, John Edwards, Barack Obama, and Bill Richardson -- who spoke between 8-15 minutes each to an attentive crowd …


First grants from $100 million Duke Foundation Climate Initiative announced

The winners? ED, NRDC, The Pew Center for Climate Change, and other familiar faces

The first round of grants (PDF) from the $100 million climate fund established last year by the Doris Duke Foundation were announced last week. Funding priorities and grant recipients were identified in an exhaustive 18-month process of extensive literature reviews and interviews with more than 75 distinguished scientists, economists, environmental leaders, investors, energy industry representatives, and public policy experts. The result? A total of $3.6 million will be distributed to five environmental organizations -- ED and NRDC ($500K), Pew Center on Global Climate Change ($395K), World Resources Institute ($750K), and Resources for the Future ($750K) -- and two universities -- …

Read more: Climate & Energy


Where does our power originate?

Convincing evidence for the central role of protest and a troubling cost-benefit analysis

The most important and relevant research for U.S. environmentalists is being conducted by Jon Agnone, a sociologist at the University of Washington. Agnone studies sources of environmentalist power -- the first social scientist to undertake a systematic analysis. His comprehensive findings are summarized in "Amplifying Public Opinion: The Policy Impact of the U.S. Environmental Movement" (PDF), appearing in the June 2007 issue of Social Forces. Agnone compared the relative impact of public opinion, institutional advocacy, and protest on passage of federal environmental legislation between 1960-1998, using a sophisticated analytical model and data drawn from The New York Times. Three key …

Read more: Uncategorized


Wider, but still paper thin

Reality checking the polls

Public opinion polls show a significant increase in the number of Americans who support strong climate action. Deeper digging shows this support is superficial, too thin to drive the rapid sociopolitical change now required. For the first time, however, a small, but measurable number of Americans -- probably no more than 3% -- identify climate change as the greatest threat. U.S. environmentalists' carefully buffered climate narrative, calculated to not frighten the majority, does not engage these "three percenters." A significant shift in U.S. public opinion on climate has been measured in recent polls. 27% of those polled in a CNN/Opinion …


A biblical view of climate change and the death of Jerry Falwell

Quoting some scripture

It seems appropriate that we consider the death of Jerry Falwell in the spirit by which he lived -- on a "higher level ... the Biblical perspective" -- and take a peek into what the Bible has to say about climate change as well. Reverend Falwell retained an unshakable faith in Biblical inerrancy, while demonstrating a remarkably supple ability to revise his own interpretation of presumably self-evident, literal truths. Falwell applied the theology of Biblical one-liners to buttress a view of the world and Christianity wholly uncontemplated and incomprehensible to Biblical authors and redactors -- whether or not one believes …

Read more: Climate & Energy, Living


Why do we respond to bozos?

Churchill, not Chamberlain

Why are we letting pro-fossil fuel bozos hijack the only forum that environmentalists and climate-change activists have for wrestling with the daunting task of transforming America? I posted a few practical suggestions in response to David's question, "Should we be rebutting the skeptics?" I'm going to restate one proposal -- to adopt a Craigslist-type policy allowing Grist readers to flag inappropriate posts. Gristmill is a forum for conversation and debate between climate activists. Those who are skeptical of our world-saving aims are free to express their views on any of the many sites devoted to challenging climate science; this is …


What to do now?: Conclusions and recommendations

A little something to take home with you

It is within the capacity of U.S. environmentalists to refocus our energies on a tougher, more realistic climate agenda. We have the necessary resources, skills (in alumni as well as current staff and leadership), political power, and principles of action. The things we lack -- a national structure, institutional support services, strategic planning, a dedicated environmentalist core -- could be put in place if it were a priority. Cost, it must be emphasized, is not the problem. U.S. environmentalists are spending between $100 and $150 million on climate, according to an unpublished foundation report, more than enough to launch the …


Immediate worries, roadblocks, and model campaigns: Plan of action

What to do now

How climate change is handled in few key areas within the year -- particularly congressional action in 2008 and 2009 and the 2008 presidential election -- will likely set the terms of the U.S. political debate, which for all practical purposes, within the constraints of Hansen's standard and timeframe for action, will determine the outcome. Therefore, a Bright Lines plan of action must accomplish three things: polarize debate in Congress and the presidential election; strengthen the narrative now being advanced by climate scientists; and, build a climate action core and financial base. Six campaigns and programs are outlined for the …


Power, program, and practical considerations: Objectives

How to build a real climate movement

Campaigns and programs crafted to advance the Bright Lines strategy must also fit real world constraints and political realities on the ground, and take account of external roadblocks to effective action. The following objectives address these issues. 1. Tangible risk. Climate change is like world hunger: it's an issue of concern when media attention is high, just as coverage of periodic famines raises concern about world hunger. Most Americans do not see climate change as an immediate or personal risk, yet, like world hunger, they view it as a problem so immense that it is impractical to think that it …