We Don’t Need to Live in a World of Climate Doom – Progressive.org

Garen Meguerian
Instead, we need to look at the progress we have made—and build our power for the future.
by Flora Cardoni
July 10, 2024
4:23 PM
During extreme climate events—like the record heat waves we’re experiencing this summer—people who know me as a climate activist often ask: How do you stay hopeful? How do you keep fighting when the effects of climate change keep getting worse? 
The temptation to give in to climate doomerism can be strong, especially when we see new climate disasters every day and our political atmosphere feels almost as heated as our planet. But over the past couple of years, it’s become easier for me to resist. The truth is, while there is still much that needs to be done, we have been making incredible progress towards a clean energy future. 
It’s clear that our movement’s organizing, advocacy, and activism have driven this progress. Our movement is succeeding—and we need to keep at it. 
The United States is close to being on track to reach President Joe Biden’s goal of cutting carbon emissions in half by 2030 and reaching a fully net-zero economy by 2050, a goal that polluters and their allies in Congress called “unrealistic,” “radical,” and even “illegal.” Given the massive amounts of money and political influence fossil fuel companies wield to halt progress on climate change, this is truly an impressive feat. 
Which poses the question: How did we get here? How did we prove the naysayers in Congress and the oil CEOs wrong? 
For one, decades of public education by the environmental movement and the impossible-to-deny evidence of a changing climate have built strong public support for clean energy. Last year, the Pew Research Center found more than two-thirds of Americans “prioritize the development of alternative energy sources such as wind, solar, and hydrogen power over increasing the production of fossil fuel energy sources.” 
A committed, hardworking climate movement turned that public support into political power. We collected petition signatures, met with elected officials, took to the streets, pressured institutions to divest from fossil fuels, and supported clean energy policies on a local and state level.
This activism and public support was the spark needed to convince Congress to pass the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) in 2022, the most important climate legislation in U.S. history. The passage of the IRA, and the changes it has already unleashed, show that the clean energy transition is both politically and practically possible.
The climate movement has succeeded at shifting the politics, even as the powerful fossil fuel lobby has continued to push for license to continue their climate pollution or worse, advocate for the repeal of existing climate solutions. 
For example, Biden and the Democratic Party as a whole have come to respect and depend on—and I’m sure, at times, fear—the political muscle of the climate movement. Biden’s pledge to cut global warming emissions sounded very different from Hillary Clinton’s platform during her 2016 presidential campaign, during which she echoed fossil fuel talking points about natural gas as a “bridge fuel” and the misleading value of so-called “clean coal.” 
And another example: in 2022, as Congress negotiated the IRA, Democrats prioritized clean energy investments while sacrificing other elements of Biden’s original proposal. The final law represents the largest-ever investment to fight climate change in American history. In addition, this year alone the Biden administration has finalized policies to reduce air pollution from power plants, slash methane emissions from the oil and gas sector, dramatically lower transportation pollution from cars and trucks, limit harmful soot pollution, and more. 
These are all policy accomplishments that seemed unachievable just a few years ago. But we made them happen, and it’s no mystery what we need to do next. We know what works, and we need to stick to it. Even though organizing, activism, and advocacy work can be a hard grind, there’s no substitute for building people power. This work is what has made our movement successful and it’s the work that we must continue to invest in.
This column was produced for Progressive Perspectives, a project of The Progressive magazine, and distributed by Tribune News Service.
Flora Cardoni is the Field Director for PennEnvironment and a lifelong climate activist.
July 10, 2024
4:23 PM

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