Climate Movement is Not Ready for Primetime

Here’s one reason why, drily put by Matthew Yglesias:

I keep meaning to write something about the Tar Sands Action protests that had been going on by the White House and then I keep forgetting.

That’s pretty much been my excuse, too. The point being, it didn’t live up to the hype.

Yglesias goes on to explain why’s he not wowed by the civil disobedience element of the protest. (Others were more impressed, understandably so.) His headline reads:

Climate Civil Disobedience Has a Long Way to Go

That’s another way of saying, The Climate Movement Has a Long Way to Go.

Sorry, not to take anything away from the passion of the people involved, and I know that over 1200 were arrested during the recent two-week protest, but I honestly expected waves of climate concerned to descend on Washington D.C. (And BTW, where were the Gristies? Climate change is a signature theme for the bloggy green site. I had figured some of them would have shown up to cover it live, or maybe even get arrested.) I also thought that climate change was the issue of the day for today’s college students, so I kinda expected that there would be a small army of them camping out in front of the White House during the protest.

Oh, well. What will be interesting to see going forward is if McKibben and company can build on their modest achievement and turn the climate movement into something that has more bite than bark.

**For some larger context on the proposed pipeline that is the object of ire, see here (Bryan Walsh), here (Michael Levi), and here (Andy Revkin).

17 Responses to “Climate Movement is Not Ready for Primetime”

  1. Ed Forbes says:

    LoL”¦Peak Oil anyone J
    ANDREW C. REVKIN: Daniel Kammen: “A  paper by a former University of California Energy and Resources Group faculty member and a student now on the faculty at Stanford [“Risks of the oil transition,” A. E. Farrell and A. R. Brandt] “..if unconventional oil is now part of the resource, we have a not near “˜peak oil, but are, in fact, only about 1/50th of the way through this resource.”

  2. Keith Kloor says:

    Ed, That also depends on whether the unconventional oil can be tapped economically. If the cost is greater than the return, it doesn’t make sense. 

    Of course, if this does come to pass, there are major climate implications, which I know is a big worry of yours. 🙂 

  3. kdk33 says:


    If the cost is greater than the return, it doesn’t make sense.

    Similarly, windmills and solar panels – sans subsidies.

  4. Ed Forbes says:

    “If the cost is greater than the return, it doesn’t make sense.”

    Is your point about the uneconomic viability of windmills? 🙂

  5. Ed Forbes says:

    Darn…you beat me to it

  6. jeffn says:

    If the cost of oil goes up, the use of oil is supposed to go down – at least that is the claim of the greens when advocating for higher gas taxes or new carbon taxes.
    Interesting then that the concern here is that higher-priced oil will inevitably lead to using lots and lots of oil. Either the activists don’t really believe unconventional oil will be expensive or they just really wanted an excuse to raise taxes and are acknowledging here that higher prices will have no affect on GHG emissions.
    Did you really expect a large turnout for this? I would have thought the issue was too obscure and contradictory to attract even college students. “Let’s not have oil from a pipeline in two of the most regulated nations in the world, let’s instead buy it from pipelines in leaky, disastrous, unregulated Nigeria! To the ramparts!”

  7. PDA says:

    Similarly, windmills and solar panels ““ sans subsidies.
    Similarly, fossil fuels:

  8. Tom Fuller says:

    The inability of the AGW movement to actually hit the bricks is I think symptomatic of the overall approach to the issue, relying on a grinding, institutional approach from the top down that focuses on squeezing opposition in a relentless, if clumsy, fashion.

    They would sort of be protesting against themselves, if they did fill the streets. They hold all the positions in power. Who are they going to chant against? Barack Obama? Steven Chu? James Hansen is a top member of the institutions of government.

    They would have to resort to hitting themselves over the head with their signs. We suck! We failed! Hit us again, harder!

    Which would all be true. Never has a movement accomplished so little with so much in the way of resources and positional advantage.

    They’ll still win, more than likely–but not because they’ve done anything to deserve it. 

  9. kdk33 says:


    It’s like you were on a roll, then you pulled that last sentence right outa wacko-ville.

    What gives?

  10. Tom Fuller says:

    kdk33, look around you. The skeptics can win every battle (and lately they have been) and still lose the war. All the consensus side need do is not quit–and they win.

    The consensus team is educating the young. The consensus team is funding the research. The consensus team holds the data. The consensus team publishes the journals. And most scientists (not 97% or anything close to it) agree with the consensus. And the majority of the public does, too.

    Most of us arrayed against the consensus–skeptics and lukewarmers alike–amount to nothing more than a few geezers in garages. And we’re great at noting the frequent errors and exaggerations made by the consensus. Not so good at organizing a response, changing people’s minds, or making allies.

    Bottom line is, all the consensus has to do is wait us out. And they know this from prior experience on other issues. 

  11. Blair says:


    The obvious corolarry to your statement is “when the cost of oil goes up, the supply of oil goes up”.

    The Athabaska Oil sands were not economical at $25/bbl. At $35/bbl it became economical to harvest the resource and at $100/bbl the companies are making money hand over fist.  

    Orinoco is also economically viable at current oil prices although its development moslty awaiting changes in governmental policies in Venenzuela . 

  12. Sashka says:

    I’m afraid Tom Fuller is right.

  13. PDA says:

    Hey Tom, that is a breathtaking counterfactual.
    All the skeptics have to do is keep spreading enough fear, uncertainty and doubt to postpone action. And they have done it, with remarkable success. The majority party of the United States House of Representatives advocates the skeptic/delayer position and has not only killed the climate bill, but has introduced legislation to defund the IPCC. Legislators in both houses are working on bills to prevent the EPA from taking any action related to the emission of a greenhouse gas to address climate change. 
    Neither Barack Obama, Steven Chu, nor the all-powerful Jim Hansen in his office upstairs from the restaurant in Seinfeld have been able to do anything to alter this trajectory, which seems likely to continue indefinitely absent a sudden, unexpected 180° shift in the US body politic.
    Time is not on the consensus side. At all. By which I mean: time is not on any of our sides if the scientific understanding of climate change is within shouting distance of correct.

  14. harrywr2 says:

    Tom Fuller Says:
    September 9th, 2011 at 12:45 pm
    Bottom line is, all the consensus has to do is wait us out. 
    The economics of energy is moving towards the consensus position.
    Whether or not CO2 causes climate change will be nothing more then an academic discussion once the cost of non-CO2 emitting energy becomes lower then CO2 emitting energy.
    The Chinese are building 100GW of windmills for one of two reasons
    1) They are upstanding environmental stewards and will bear any cost to ‘protect the environment’
    2) Power from wind is cheaper then power from imported coal.
    Personally I think it is reason #2.

  15. kdk33 says:

    Natural gas was below $4/mmbtu last week, and headed down.  Hardly helping the economics for wind&solar. 

    Exxon sits on the largest GOM oil find EVER.  Fraking technology is working it’s way into oil recovery.  The keystone pipeline looks like a go.

    Those chinese windmills aren’t real, they are carboard painted to look real to encourage western economies. 

    BTW, the chinese are out to make petrochemicals from coal, which may explain some of their interest in nuclear.

    After 2012 the R’s are likely to hold both houses; perhaps the presidency.  Action on climate seems a long way off to me.  Perhaps you are more the visionary.

    tis and awkward moment as I find myslef agreeing with PDA.

  16. EdG says:

    The Climate Movement?

    LOL. This is getting more absurd by the day.

    All desperate attempts to pretend this is a scientific question are obviously evaporating.

    I like ‘Climate Justice’ even better. Hmmm… now what else appeals to the kind of useful idiots and groupthinkers who eagerly such movements? How about Climate Equality? Or Climate Freedom?

    Or let’s go patriotic and protest the threat to American Climate!

  17. kdk33 says:

    Drill here; drill now.  (from a free market, right wing rag – the opinion section no less).

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