Hoexter: Will the Climate Movement Embrace Mobilization?

Michael Hoexter, a TCM ally and distinguished climate economist, published a powerful critique yesterday of the climate movement, and of Bill McKibben of 350.org in particular, arguing that movement leaders aren't yet doing enough to emphasize the positive, central role that strong government intervention must play in reducing demand for fossil fuels and saving civilization from climate catastrophe.

The Climate Mobilization strongly supports the campaigns and tireless, ongoing efforts of 350.org activists, who for years have been leading the moral crusade to reduce global atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases.

We believe that a wartime-style Climate Mobilization is the best way to get CO2 emissions far below 350 parts per million — where they must go — as quickly as necessary, and Bill McKibben, as well as Rev. Sally Bingham of Interfaith Power & Light, Michael Brune of Sierra Club, Phil Radford of Greenpeace, Erich Pica of Friends of the Earth, and other notable environmental and industry leaders, have supported this position in a previous statement.

The time has come for the climate movement to openly demand it.

We hope that more activists will soon join the call for Climate Mobilization! Our first National Climate Mobilization Day is on June 14, and we invite everyone to participate and escalate their own advocacy.

Here are some excerpts from Hoexter's article in New Economic Perspectives:

The climate movement has not yet held up a positive role for government in the transition to a net zero carbon, climate-stable future. Some in the "right-wing" of the climate movement are beholden to neo-liberal ideas about the leading role of markets in the economy while others on the "left-wing" of the climate movement are caught in anarcho-communitarian ideas about "communities" making government functions redundant. In my reckoning, only the Climate Mobilization, a new and relatively small group, has in the United States held up an activist role for government, commensurate with the challenge of climate catastrophe and the possible end of human civilization. The call of the Climate Mobilization to date has not gotten the traction it deserves. 

…McKibben and others in the movement imagine what Naomi Klein calls “Blockadia”, various acts of civil disobedience by members of the movement, literally “stoppering” fossil fuel extraction projects, thereby literally “keeping the carbon in the ground” by sheer moral force or by representing a moral example.   We have such an heroic example of this, this weekend in Seattle, facing Shell’s oil rigs bound for the Arctic. I am all for this type of protest that has great symbolic value but despite this heroism and symbolism, climate politics, unfortunately needs to be much more. It does involve, in some way, as Klein has stated “changing everything”.

McKibben and the climate movement seem to be imagining that, in ways that remain unstated, these heroic acts of resistance or, given the forces arrayed against them, the power of the symbolism of their actions themselves would "force" people not to buy and use fossil fuels. Alternatively, and I would wish for this unlikely outcome, they hope that people and governments would have an "ah-ha" moment upon observing the heroic blockades and suddenly "invent the post-carbon future," with no specific demands from the climate movement other than "stop" or maybe a vague call for "100% renewable energy".

...It is from a psychological standpoint understandable though fatally wrong for members of the climate movement to simplify the conflict into a moral contest between the evil fossil fuel industries and the good climate movement. The actual terrain of effective climate action is and will be in persuading politicians and the public to transform via savvy political actions, via policy, and via everyday decisions the demand for energy and the type of energy produced. This is a more daunting task for those prone to see the world in black and white, good vs. evil, as this will require people to engage in an all-fronts battle to persuade their neighbors, friends, and relatives to contemplate a change in lifestyle and politics before it is too late for succeeding generations.

...Climate activists and climate policy cannot just suffice themselves by saying “no” to fossil fuels and holding the producers of those fuels entirely responsible for our predicament. They need to realize that their movement is a multi-issue, multi-sectoral movement to make it possible for people, in the very near future, to foreswear fossil fuel use and still realize many of their current goals: to have families, see their relatives, make friends, accumulate some goods of value to them, have valuable employment, etc. To ignore these strivings, the basis of demand for fossil fuels and energy more generally, is to concede to the fossil fuel economy and the status quo, the immediate welfare of human beings at the expense of the our and future generations welfare in the future.

To do this involves embracing an enormous, government-organized building project to restructure energy use combined with a moderation of energy use, curtailing at least for a few decades the wasteful and luxuriant use of energy enabled by the current relative cheapness of fossil fuels.

...There exist already advocacy groups, practitioners, and “fans” of each of these individual measures or technologies but it is up to the climate movement to create an overarching vision and drive to push these individual solutions to their full potential.

You can read his argument in full here.

What do you think? Are both the “left” and “right” wings of the climate movement neglecting the crucial role that strong government intervention must play in the effort needed to save our climate?

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