Fresno, an activist from California, talks about a local climate change group
Promoting legislation to pass laws to encourage the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions is very much like a grassroots effort. The organization I spend the most time with, Citizens Climate Lobby (citizensclimatelobby.org), is just that, a national (mostly) volunteer organization that lobbies members of Congress to pass climate change legislation, specifically a carbon pollution tax and a rebate. money to residents.
Compared to the deep pockets of fossil fuel companies fighting this kind of legislation, our efforts sometimes seem small. But we carry on because we firmly believe in the righteousness of the cause, and we hope that the truth in the message carries weight that our pockets do not.
Anthropologist Margaret Mead once said, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. In fact, it’s the only thing that ever existed.
Those concerned about policy responses to climate change remain hopeful that effective national legislation to address the threats of global warming will come later this year as congressional deliberations continue. Meanwhile, many other people and organizations interested in fighting climate change are taking different steps.
For example, Bill McKibben, perhaps the best-known climate activist working today, formed a national organization called Third Act (thirdact.org), for people 60 or older.
Third Act’s focus on the elderly segment of the population makes sense since we who belong to this group collectively own or control 70% of the nation’s wealth.
Third Act asks people to sign pledges not to open accounts with the four banks that finance fossil fuel development the most: JP Morgan Chase, Citibank, Bank of America and Wells Fargo Bank. People who currently have accounts with these banks are being asked to sign pledges to, at the end of the year, close all deposit and credit card accounts with these banks if they continue to fund businesses that produce fossil fuels.
Given that in 2020 these four banks have collectively lent fossil fuel companies an estimated $210 billion, and the trend appears to be continuing, it seems unlikely that these banks will decide to cut this profitable line of business by here the end of the year. If so, it will be interesting to see the outcome of the thousands of accounts closed by customers at this time.
At the state level, another approach to climate change is exemplified in SB 1173, currently being considered in committee hearings by the California Senate. This bill, promoted by Fossil Free California (fossilfreeca.org), another grassroots organization, would demand that CalSTRS and CalPERS, California’s huge teacher and public employee pension funds, divest themselves of their fossil fuel investments. The two funds are estimated to currently hold fossil fuel investments totaling approximately $9 billion.
The Global Fossil Fuel Divestment Commitments Database estimates that worldwide divestment commitments now total more than $40 trillion. Half of the institutions divested are either faith-based organizations (35%) or educational institutions (15%), followed by pension funds (12%).
A new local group of faith-based institutions has formed in Fresno around the idea of fighting the effects of climate change on Fresno County residents, especially the marginalized. This group is called Fresno Interfaith Climate Alliance.
Although the group is new, the representatives of various denominations who met recently sent a letter to the Fresno County Board of Supervisors asking it to reverse its decision to refuse the state’s offer of a grant for study the impact of climate change on disadvantaged communities. The letter was signed, among others, by representatives of the local Jewish, Christian (Catholic and Protestant), Islamic and Sikh communities.
There is a growing trend of citizen activism in response to the slow political progress in tackling climate change. People are more willing to directly lobby local, state and federal governments to deal more effectively with the problem.
Popular pressure on some companies that contribute the most to the climate problem is likely to continue and expand as well. I think businesses and elected officials at all levels of government will hear more about climate change from their customers and constituents. Perhaps when the voices of the people are strong enough, lawmakers will enact appropriate climate change legislation despite pressure from deeper-pocketed adverse interests.
The time to take meaningful action in an orderly fashion seems to be running out, and more and more people are realizing this and advocating for effective policy solutions.
Ken Wall is a retired banker and banking regulator in Fresno, and is active with Citizens Climate Lobby Fresno. He can be contacted at [email protected]