A Harvard academic has put the blame squarely for America's failure to act on climate change on environmental groups. She also argues that there is little prospect Barack Obama will put climate change on the top of his agenda in his second term.Writing in Grist Bill McKibben seems to agree in his response to Skocpol's paper
In a research paper, due to be presented at a Harvard forum next month, scholar Theda Skocpol in effect accuses the DC-based environmental groups of political malpractice, saying they were blind to extreme Republican opposition to their efforts.
Skocpol, meanwhile, lets Obama off the hook for the political inaction on climate change, overturning the conventional wisdom among environmental leaders that political cowardice by the White House ultimately doomed climate legislation.
Watching the collapse of the effort to create a cap-and-trade plan for carbon emissions in 2009-10 was profoundly depressing. Reading Theda Skocpol’s insightful history [PDF] isn’t much more fun — but it’s certainly useful, in a Santayana kind of way. Since this is a mistake we can’t afford to repeat (the planet is running out of spare presidential terms and congressional sessions), Skocpol performs a real service by helping figure out what went wrong.While Skocpol is pessimistic about anything being done in the near future due to political polarization, McKibben is more optimistic and mentions the changes that have occurred since the cap and trade debacle in congress especially the grassroots efforts by 350. org to suspend action on the XL pipeline and the current program for fossil fuel divestment movements on university campuses.
The first thing to be said, I think, is that this behind-the-scenes route was worth a try. Given the stakes, you would think elite players, especially in the business community, would have been willing to make the relatively small and painless changes the cap-and-trade law envisioned. Such inside-the-Beltway lobbying is how most environmental change has come, at least since the decline of the ’70s-era movement that really powered the most important legislation.
If the inside-the-Beltway groups had been able to turn to a real grassroots activist movement, the outcome might have been different. But that movement didn’t really exist, and many of the big players had only disdain for its embryonic form — they liked talking with corporate honchos more than treehuggers. And so the lobbyists from the green groups were walking naked into the offices of senators, who recognized that they lacked the ability to inflict pain or offer reward. The result was the rout we saw.
This is fascinating stuff and I urge you to read the articles. Also shows how important our activism is. It truly is in our hands.