The Birth of a New Movement

Since the What Works project, we have seen the climate groundswell come into its own. Activists are framing the potential of runaway climate change as undercutting the healthy, spiritual, and community-based future that we all want for ourselves and our children. In addition, as people begin to realize the effects of global warming, they are mobilizing nationwide in civic and professional groups.

The best news of all is that these mobilization efforts are creating political opportunities. Consider, for example, these events from 2005 and 2006:

• National media coverage finally highlighted the undeniable risks of climate change, as illustrated by USA Today's cover story in June 2005 ("The debate's over: Globe is warming") and hour-long global warming reports on MSNBC, CNN, and Fox News. In the spring and summer of 2006, the film An Inconvenient Truth was shown in thousands of theaters. As 2006 came to an end, the DVD dissemination of that film was launching hundreds of conversations nationwide, in living rooms and community meeting places and on college campuses, about how to affect change.

• In 2005, evangelical leaders throughout the United States began to speak out about climate change and to organize their own base. On February 8, 2006, eighty-six of these leaders signed the Evangelical Climate Initiative, which declared that "the need to act now is urgent. Governments, businesses, churches, and individuals all have a role to play in addressing climate change—starting now."2

• Fortune 500 companies began to rally for predictable, cost-effective climate legislation. In April 2005, Duke Energy, the third-largest burner of coal in the United States, announced its support for a carbon tax. In April 2006, Paul M. Anderson, Duke Energy's chairman and a member of President George W. Bush's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology, joined dozens of other business leaders at a conference to call for mandatory federal action to reduce greenhouse gasses.

• On February 16, 2005, the day that the Kyoto Protocol took effect for 141 countries, Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels challenged mayors across the country to take local action to reduce greenhouse gasses. By December 2006, 339 mayors representing more than fifty-four million Americans had accepted this challenge.

• On December 20, 2005, seven states—Connecticut, Delaware,

Maine, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, and Vermont— announced an agreement to implement the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, a regional program designed to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from power plants. Massachusetts and Rhode Island soon followed suit.

• On September 27, 2006, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger signed the California Global Warming Solutions Act, which is designed to cap that state's greenhouse gas emissions at 1990 levels by 2020.

• After the November 2006 elections, Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), the new head of the U.S. Senate's Environmental Public Works Committee, vowed to champion federal legislation after California's new law.

As 2007 got under way, Bill McKibben and six recent Middlebury College graduates announced Step It Up (www.stepitup2007.org), a national day of climate action scheduled for April 14, 2007. As people mobilize support for innovative clean-energy policies, these and other leaders are seeking to transform the societal, economic, and political landscape well into the election year of 2008. It is an exciting time, full of possibilities.

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