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Articles by Carl Pope

Carl Pope spent the last 18 years of his career at the Sierra Club as CEO and chairman. He's now the principal advisor at Inside Straight Strategies, looking for the underlying economics that link sustainability and economic development.

Featured Article

Greenpeace recently issued a call for coordinated action to halt development of the 14 most threatening fossil fuel projects on the planet. These coal, oil, and gas projects, by increasing greenhouse gas emissions 6.3 gigatons a year by 2020, would push the world’s climate to a “point of no return.”


The report suggests to me that we climate advocates need to reexamine our strategies and how we’re spending limited resources. Specifically, we need to focus as much on oil and gas as we have been on coal. And, believe it or not, the path to a low-carbon future lies through cheap, and indeed ever cheaper, oil.

It’s not just coal, stupid

Coal has long been the big villain for climate advocates, and the focus of most campaigning. But only four of Greenpeace’s 14 biggest threats involve coal, while 10 involve oil and gas. Indeed, by 2020, annual carbon emissions from new “no return” oil and gas projects are expected to exceed those from coal: 3.3 gigatons of carbon from the “cleaner” fossil fuels vs. 3 gigatons from coal. And by 2035, the gap will grow: 6.2 gigatons of oil and gas c... Read more

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  • How environmental and women’s groups can work together

    Green groups and women's health advocates used to butt heads over population, but they're increasingly finding common ground in their support for family planning.

  • The Clean Air Act story: back to the beginning

    In David Roberts’ story about Henry Waxman’s long struggle to strengthen the Clean Air Act (part one, two), some important lessons were unavoidably overlooked, because Waxman inherited, struggled with, and never did manage to remedy a serious architectural flaw embedded in the original 1970 version of the law. When I first lobbied on clean air […]

  • Sierra Club and Clorox celebrate their partnership

    This year, Earth Day was bigger than ever, which prompted some hand-wringing over whether too many people were jumping on the green bandwagon. Wait a minute: Earth Day, too big? Didn't we want everyone on this bandwagon?

    Sustainability is a challenge we all face; our response to it could well define the 21st century. If we are going to succeed, it will take more than a "business as usual" approach. In fact, we believe the whole definition of "business as usual" needs to be upended. Business can no longer afford to ignore environmental warnings; environmentalists can no longer demonize business. Sustainability has made us understand, in a way we never would have before, that we all share a common fate. We need to face the reality that -- like it or not -- we're in this together.

    That's why we -- Sierra Club and The Clorox Company -- decided it was time to bridge the gap and come together as partners. For some, the idea was unthinkable. Had Sierra Club sold out? Was Clorox trying to greenwash? What could "the bleach maker" and the "oldest and largest environmental organization" have in common? The partnership we forged for the launch of the Green Works brand showed just how much.

  • An in-depth response to “The Death of Environmentalism”

    In December 2004, Sierra Club Executive Director Carl Pope distributed this response to the essay “The Death of Environmentalism.” Get the backstory here. There Is Something Different About Global Warming Dear Environmental Grant-Maker: You may have recently received a memorandum entitled “The Death of Environmentalism” by Michael Shellenberger and Ted Nordhaus. Carl Pope. I was […]