Inarguably, “Coal is the single greatest threat to civilization and all life on our planet” as our top climate scientist, James Hansen, has explained.
Hansen will be joining more than 2,500 people who have registered to participate in “the largest act of peaceful civil disobedience on global warming in the country’s history” — this Monday, March 2 at the Capitol Power Plant. The Plant is owned by Congress and burns coal to heat and cool numerous buildings on Capitol Hill. Details can be found at the Capitol Climate Action Coalition website, where you’ll find this video from Hansen urging participation:
If you still need persuading, read the open letter from two of America’s leading men of letters, Wendell Berry and Bill McKibben (see McKibben and Berry call for civil disobedience at DC coal plant: “Bear witness to an evil”).
I will repeat my thoughts on civil disobedience against coal below — and I am quite interested in hearing your thoughts.
Certainly we should have stopped building new coal plants in this country a long time ago. Indeed, we are going to have to start shutting down existing plants as soon as possible (see “Hansen et al: We must phase-out coal emissions by 2030 and stabilize at or below 350 ppm“).
The coal industry has no one to blame but itself and its allies. The industry, together with the Bush administration, decided not to take the threat of global warming seriously and therefore walked away from the central effort to develop a coal plant that doesn’t destroy the climate (see “In seeming flipflop, Bush drops mismanaged ‘NeverGen’ clean coal project“).
Thankfully, we have more than enough affordable and practical low-carbon alternatives to coal available right now (see “If Obama stops dirty coal, as he must, what will replace it? Part 1” and Part 2).
I can’t argue with the call for civil disobedience. If any issue cries out for civil disobedience and marching in the streets, it is this one. That said, each person must decide on their own how best to express their conscience in the public arena consistent with their values.
I am very fortunate to have this blog and many other means of communicating the dire nature of the effort to stop humanity’s self-destruction. Therefore, I am not going to participate in this activity — although I do reserve the right to change this judgment if President Obama and Congress fail to take the strongest of actions to reverse U.S. emssions trends. So I don’t see how I can call on others to do so (see “Gore calls for civil disobedience to stop coal. But will he lead like Gandhi and King?“)
But Hansen’s plea (and Berry’s and McKibben’s letter) deserves to be widely seen — and their call to civil disobedience needs to be seriously considered by anyone who understands what it means that humanity is headed inexorably towards over 850 ppm and more than 5°C warming this century (see “Hadley Center: Catastrophic 5-7°C warming by 2100 on current emissions path” and “M.I.T. joins climate realists, doubles its projection of global warming by 2100 to 5.1°C“).