Reports Are Grim, But We’re Renewing Our Commitment to Put Climate First

There’s no sugar-coating it. Last week’s report from the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change painted a grim outlook for our climate and the future of this planet.

Aside from acknowledging the reality that human-caused climate change is already wreaking havoc around the globe, the Panel also acknowledged that confronting this crisis will require unprecedented action to curb fossil fuel consumption, mitigate climate disruption, and even to reverse climate impacts by removing carbon from the atmosphere.

Admittedly, the findings from this Nobel Peace Prize-winning panel of thousands of scientists were discouraging, to put it mildly. The take home message was essentially, we’re screwed.

The truth is, we’re screwed only if we do nothing. And as disturbing as it may be, the reality is, the report is immensely liberating.

That’s because what the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change did is effectively make the case for the boldest, most aggressive, most radical action for the climate that we’ve ever seen or thought about.

In the words of climate and energy commentator, David Roberts, the report makes the case for “genuine, no bull-shit ambition” on climate change.

WildEarth Guardians has always brought “no bullshit” when it comes to fighting for the climate. Remember, we’re the group that notoriously said “tough shit” when the coal industry whined that the federal government wouldn’t appeal a lawsuit win we secured over a coal mine expansion in northwest Colorado.

We received some blowback from the quote (an effigy even appeared as well as colorful bumper stickers!), but we never backed down. We meant it at the time and we’d say it again in a heartbeat.

But in the wake of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s report, it’s clear that even our “no bullshit” approach to climate advocacy needs to crank up.

We already make no bones about the fact that our aim is to shut down the fossil fuel industry in the American West, to transition to 100% renewable eleecticity by 2035, and to help communities get the resources they need to move away from fossil fuels and to more prosperous and sustainable economies.

Moving forward, however, it’s clear we need to turn the pressure up on the fossil fuel industry more than ever and bring forward more creative and hard-hitting tactics. Here’s some of our thinking on how to do that:

We will not settle for anything but 100% transition to renewable energy by western utility companies.

As we confront fossil fuel-fired power plants in the American West, our aim will be to secure commitments to move completely away from fossil fuels.

We will engage to secure concrete commitments from utilities to shutter all coal and gas-fired power plants. We will not accept compromise. We will oppose deals between utilities and other environmental groups unless they call for 100% renewable energy.

We will not tolerate companies like Xcel Energy, which in spite of shuttering some coal, continues to fall short of retiring all their fossil fuel-fired power plants, even though renewable energy would be cheaper.

We will be stepping up our efforts to foment local development of renewable energy in the rural west.

Locally developed distributed renewable energy is not only good for economies, it’s literally and figuratively empowering for communities. It puts control of electricity generation into the hands of locals, keeps money from leaving, and creates a more resilient electric grid.

Already, many rural electric co-ops are eyeing opportunities to develop wind, solar, and other sources of power. We will actively support these efforts and also step up our campaign to help rural communities break free of having to purchase costly fossil fuel-fired electricity from wholesale providers, like Tri-State Generation and Transmission, which is already in WildEarth Guardians’ crosshairs.

We will be even more relentless in pushing back against fracking on our public lands and lend more support to local and state efforts to rein in the oil and gas industry.

Already we’ve launched unprecedented initiatives to confront fracking on our public lands, including suing over the failure of the Interior Department to account for the climate impacts of oil and gas and challenging the Department of Transportation over its failure to ensure pipeline safety on public lands.

It’s clear, however, especially under President Trump and his Interior Secretary, Ryan Zinke, that we need to be even more aggressive in exposing and confronting the going climate destruction being perpetrated by companies like Exxon and BP. And it’s clear we need to empower local and state action as well, especially where oil and gas development is not occurring on public lands.

Our plan is bring more and bigger lawsuits, throw our weight behind state and local citizen initiatives to limit fracking, and galvanize even greater opposition to the oil and gas industry among the climate movement. We especially need to foment more climate action in places like southeast New Mexico’s Greater Carlsbad Caverns region, where fracking is consuming every acre of land and releasing more climate pollution than coal-fired power plants.

We will be investing more heavily in advancing initiatives to electrify our transportation system in the western U.S.

Our dependence on oil is driven by the fact that most all of us have no affordable or viable alternative to fossil fuel-powered internal combustion engines. Quite simply, we’re in a forced addiction that won’t be resolved unless and until we make electric vehicles and charging infrastructure more affordable, accessible, available, and reliable.

Although Guardians hasn’t engaged much around transportation, that has to change. With western states already banding together to promote more effective and reliable electrification of transportation systems, there will be enormous opportunities to engage and make a difference.

We will make justice a priority.

Climate change disproportionately threatens people of color, indigenous peoples, and “economically disadvantaged” populations. What’s more, fossil fuels, both their consumption and production, invariably pose greater negative impacts to low income communities, to indigenous communities, and to communities of color. Put another way, climate change is an environmental justice issue and it needs to be confronted as such.

Our aim is to ensure that as we’re confronting the fossil fuel industry, we’re both empowering impacted peoples and communities to push back, and spurring solutions that rectify environmental injustice. In all honesty, our climate crisis is the result of old white men being in power. Solving it means taking them out of power.

We will take direct action.

It’s time to take it to the streets and use our power of protest to challenge the fossil fuel industry and their cronies in the government.

If we truly are committed to “no bullshit” advocacy, then we need to do more than just file comments, lawsuits, and write up blog posts. We need to energize, empower, and activate a movement. And we need to fully exercise our right to free speech. This means we need to be willing to put ourselves directly in the way of those who are disregarding and perpetuating our climate crisis.

Our goal is to bring forward more people power than ever before and do more to disrupt the fossil fuel status quo than ever before. Given the stakes, we simply can’t afford to be timid.

Things are not hopeless. Despite the challenges we face, we have solutions at hand.

Are they hard? Yes.

Are they unprecedented? Yes.

Do they involve risk? Yes.

Might they be uncomfortable? Yes.

But as much as confronting the climate crisis may be challenging and daunting, we know it will be liberating and empowering.

Will it make a difference for our future? Yes.

Will your kids be proud? Yes.

Will you leave a legacy? Yes.

Will you feel fulfilled? Yes.

Will you feel the joy of uplifting your fellow human beings and saving the planet? Yes.

So our question for you is, will you join us in our “no bullshit” campaign to confront the climate crisis? Because we need you and we want you. We believe our future is ours to make and we welcome anyone who agrees to stand with us and help us advance climate progress.

In spite of dire findings from scientists, our ability to effect social change has only grown more resolute. We can deal with this. It won’t be easy, but we can do it.

Jeremy Nichols

About the Author

Jeremy Nichols | Climate and Energy Program Director, WildEarth Guardians

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