November 2014
Volume 1, Issue 5

A month ago, we took part in an unprecedented 400,000-person strong People’s Climate March in New York City. It was huge and inspiring, but begged many questions.

Was it worth months of lost organizing time and millions of dollars (and fossil fuels) that people and groups put into it? Some point out that, at the march itself, there were no speeches, no targets, and no demands. The disappointing amount of media coverage mainly focused on celebrities. The march could have done so much more if it dared to articulate a demand – perhaps pointing out that Obama’s climate plan would do more harm than good, and explaining why.

Two of the more popular solutions marchers supported are worthy of a more critical look. There is a growing movement for a carbon tax, and for fossil fuel divestment. We’re always looking out for the policy loopholes that cause communities to be targeted with plans for dirty energy and waste facilities. Out of love for all of the grassroots community groups we support, we spent the November issue of Energy Justice Now taking a critical look at carbon taxes, divestment, and other “false solutions,” and are excited to examine how to improve these campaigns or refocus on more strategic areas.


Fossil Fuel Divestment: How to Evolve the Campaign

- by Mike Ewall, Energy Justice Network

Sometimes, environmental movement campaigns that become very popular aren’t the ones that are the most strategic. Trying to divert the fossil fuel divestment bandwagon to a better path hasn’t been easy (or well-received), but some critical examination is long overdue.

As activists like to point out, we don’t have much time to address climate change. We’re already past the point where we can “stop” it, and likely past the points where we can contain it to the two degree Celsius increase that supposedly averts catastrophic levels of climate disruption. Given this urgency, we cannot afford for so much time and energy to be spent on campaigns that aren’t fitted to the scale of the problem. It’s like scaring people about how awful global warming is, then telling them that they just need to screw in a different light bulb and drive a Prius.

In short, the fossil fuel divestment campaign is symbolic and diverts attention from going after the largest and most critical sectors driving climate change, and from actually disconnecting institutions from reliance on fossil fuels. It implicitly greenwashes other dirty energy sources (some of which are worse than coal) by framing the problem as just about fossil fuels. It similarly ignores the largest cause of global warming: animal agriculture. Unlike the anti-Apartheid campaign, it fails to target corporations in a position to actually change their behavior. Finally, investments are likely to be shifted to smaller fossil fuel corporations, corporations that support the fossil fuel economy, or other damaging investments. Efforts to drive investments to truly clean alternatives will be hampered by economic contradictions, requiring a deeper economic analysis as the campaign evolves.


Are Carbon Taxes Another False Solution?

- by Mike Ewall, Energy Justice Network  

Carbon taxes are emerging as a major top-down climate solution enviros would like to see come out of Congress. Plenty of “tax carbon” signs were present in the 400,000-strong People’s Climate March in New York City last month. 

Even U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is urging nations to adopt either a carbon tax, or the (failed and problematic) “cap-and-trade” model. Cap-and-trade approaches enrich Wall Street speculators, can concentrate pollution in vulnerable communities that lack political clout, and fail to truly reduce carbon emissions, yet elevate lots of sketchy and climate-damaging false solutions from burning toxic landfill gases to running Indigenous people off of their forested lands.


Sadly, carbon tax proposals are riddled with problems as well, making it a “solution” we can’t support. Real solutions would end corporate agriculture and dirty energy subsidies (including massive spending on imperial military adventures) and spell out policies that regulate and mandate what is actually needed to transform the agriculture, energy, materials/waste, and transportation sectors into sustainable climate solutions.

Instead, carbon taxes focus on one sector (energy) and hope that the market will choose the right solutions in the right time frame for all sectors. It’s just as likely to elevate false solutions like nuclear power, biofuels, biomass and waste incineration. Some proposals explicitly promote some of these false solutions.  If not structured properly, a carbon tax can also be regressive (harming the poor more).

In June 2013, we put together an Open Letter to Citizens Climate Lobby, signed by 86 organizations in 29 states and 11 countries, calling out the problems with the carbon tax legislation they’ve been pushing, which highlighted the following five points...


Biomass Energy: Another Kind of Climate Denial

- by Josh Schlossberg, The Biomass Monitor

We’re all familiar with climate change deniers, cheerfully and/or willfully ignorant folk who refuse to accept that human-caused carbon emissions are responsible for the climate crisis — or that there even is a climate crisis. Those of us who value science and common sense typically have as much patience for these twenty-three percent of Americans as we do for anyone who believes that maggots arise spontaneously from rotting meat, witches cause disease, or the Earth is the center of the universe.


Recently, a subtler breed of climate change denier has emerged, spreading their propaganda and even infiltrating aspects of the environmental movement: biomass boosters. These advocates for the biomass energy industry often avoid detection by professing concern with carbon emissions. Yet, while cursing fossil fuels out of one side of their mouths, out of the other they bless the burning of one of the world’s greatest buffers against runaway climate chaos — our forests — for energy.

If the climate movement wants to win over the American people and influence policy, it needs to have credibility, which only comes through consistency, and that means distancing itself from the climate change deniers in our midst.


Energy Justice Now provides critical reporting on the entire spectrum of the Dirty Energy Resistance, highlighting the voices of community organizers battling fossil fuels, nuclear power, and biomass and waste incineration from sea to shining sea. We are accepting submissions at Josh AT

n Solidarity,

Mike Ewall, Josh Schlossberg, and Samantha Chirillo

Editors, Energy Justice Now

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Sign the Energy Justice Platform


Take a stand against dirty energy and false climate solutions by signing your organization onto the Energy Justice Platform.

Isn't about time that the Dirty Energy Resistance unite on a comprehensive platform to oppose any and all forms of energy production that harm human health and degrade the natural world? This detailed platform is the result of years of intensive research and collaborative co-authorship with dozens of grassroots organizers across the country.

Email Traci AT to sign on to the platform, specifying if the endorsement is from an organization or an individual.


Biomass Incinerators


One of the most infamous "false solutions" to climate change is biomass incineration. Despite a typical facility emitting higher levels of air pollution and CO2 than most coal-fired plants, biomass energy has masqueraded as "clean and green" for far too long.
Check out all of the operating, proposed and defeated biomass incinerators across the country here.

The Energy Justice Communities Map keeps track of all the existing, proposed, and defeated dirty energy and waste facilities in the U.S. in order to build a network of community groups to fight the facilities and the corporations behind them.


False Climate Solutions


False solutions to climate change are just as dangerous as doing nothing--and sometimes even worse! Check out the links below to avoid falling for the trap of easy fixes that won't do a darned thing to avoid climate chaos.

Climate Connections: False Solutions to Climate Change

Global Justice Ecology Project's blog with dozens of posts about false solutions.

Indigenous People's Guide: False Solutions to Climate Change

Excellent publication exposing agrofuels (biomass energy), geo-engineering, and GE Trees.

Climate Collective

Great resources debunking supposed climate benefits of nuclear, megadams, and "clean" coal.

Hoodwinked in the Hothouse: False Solutions to Climate Change

A terrific overview of false solutions by Rising Tide North America and Carbon Trade Watch.

The Margarita Declaration on Climate Change

A treatise by 130 social and environmental groups in advance of November's Social PreCOP on Climate Change in Venezuela, calling out carbon trading and calling for reduced
energy consumption.

Agriculture and Climate Change: Real Problems, False Solutions

Highly relevant report by EcoNexus, Biofuelwatch, and others prepared for  the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change in Copenhagen in 2009.

False Solutions

Greenpeace weighs on on the topic, focusing on Carbon Capture, Nukes, and Forest Offsets.

BECCS (Bioenergy with Carbon Capture and Storage): Climate saviour or dangerous hype?

Biofuelwatch tears apart the delusion of burning biomass for energy and the dubious pipe dream of Carbon Capture and Storage.


Energy Justice Network Email Lists

Energy Justice Network hosts seven different email lists focused on opposing a particular form of dirty energy, from Nuclear, to Natural Gas, to Coal, to Biomass/Waste Incineration, to Ethanol, to Tire Burning, to Power Lines. 

Keep your fingers on the pulse of what's going on in the movement while strategizing and networking with fellow organizers.

To sign up for any (or all) of the email lists, send an email to Mike AT, introducing yourself and your work and specifiying which list you're interested in, and we’ll be in touch!