There's a rift among some of the environmental groups almost as wide as the cracks in melting Arctic sea ice caused by climate change. Some groups, in the name of progress, are advocating compromises with some of the world's worst polluters and for policies they know to be deeply flawed. Others stick to the science and their core values when campaigning to stop the worst effects of climate change. Or so goes the argument in an explosive new article in The Nation magazine that should be required reading for anyone concerned about the battle over what to do about climate change."The Wrong Kind of Green" by Johann Hari was sent to me by dozens of my friends and colleagues. (Full disclosure: my day job is with Greenpeace US.). To a person, they saw it as manna from heaven, a long awaited piece of journalism that laid bare the differences in the community.
Hari sets up his piece like this:
Why did America's leading environmental groups jet to Copenhagen and lobby for policies that will lead to the faster death of the rainforests--and runaway global warming? Why are their lobbyists on Capitol Hill dismissing the only real solutions to climate change as "unworkable" and "unrealistic," as though they were just another sooty tentacle of Big Coal?
Think that got people's attention? Hari points to the compromises some groups have made on US climate legislation and forest protection as evidence that some of Big Green has sold out to the corporations. (You'll have to read his piece to see which groups he calls out.) Hari rightly says that on some issues the pragmatists and incrementalists have an argument to make that compromise is the right strategy to fix some of our worst environmental problems. But when it comes to climate change, Mother Nature trumps politics every time.
Beyond 2 degrees, the chances of any stabilization at the hotter level begin to vanish, because the earth's natural processes begin to break down. The huge amounts of methane stored in the Arctic permafrost are belched into the atmosphere, causing more warming. The moist rainforests begin to dry out and burn down, releasing all the carbon they store into the air, and causing more warming. These are "tipping points": after them, we can't go back to the climate in which civilization evolved.
So in an age of global warming, the old idea of conservation--that you preserve one rolling patch of land, alone and inviolate--makes no sense. If the biosphere is collapsing all around you, you can't ring-fence one lush stretch of greenery and protect it: it too will die.
Read the article and share your comments below. What do you think? Have some green groups lost their way or is there room for compromises on climate change?