Building a Populist Movement That Can Stop Global Warming

Bill Scher

America’s clean energy market continues to grow. Our wind power capacity is estimated to grow 85 percent by 2020. The U.S. Energy Department touts that “every 3 weeks the U.S. installs more solar power than in all of 2008.” The wave even reaches conservative states like Georgia, which just joined 20 other states in passing legislation in ending restrictions backed by the utility industry that prevented consumers from leasing solar equipment and selling excess power to the utilities.

Yet the U.S. is still trailing China as the world leader in green energy investment. We could be doing more. More clean energy. More jobs. Will the American people demand it?

Last year, before the 2014 New Populism conference, I asked “Can The New Populism Save The Climate?” While the problems of inequality and Wall Street influence have receive significant attention as of late, “climate doesn’t directly benefit from the populist wave. The threat of global warming isn’t as viscerally felt as an insufficient paycheck.” But I offered that “a green investment agenda is something that has populist potential. Direct creation of jobs can counter concerns of jobs lost. Making green energy prices stable and affordable provides relief to people constantly frustrated by oil price spikes.”

At this year’s Populism2015 conference gathering in Washington, from April 18 to 20, you will find that progressive populist organizers are putting the climate crisis front and center, as the title of the opening plenary makes plain: “People and Planet First: The New Populist Movement.”

A major speaker will be Vien Truong of the Greenlining Institute, who has won billions of dollars in state and local funds to invest in green jobs in disadvantaged communities. That includes California, where she helped pass legislation directing 25 percent of the revenue from the state’s “cap-and-trade” program into poor neighborhoods. Vien will highlight the proposal from Robert Pollin of the Political Economy Research Institute, who finds that for $200 billion in annual investments, the U.S. can not only meet our international commitments to reducing carbon emissions but also create more than four million green jobs.

One of the 12 planks in the platform for the conference is a call to “invest in a green economy,” declaring that “public investment in renewable energy and energy efficiency can create jobs and opportunity, particularly in communities of color that have borne the worst consequences of toxic corporate practices.”

One workshop will show how climate is not separate from the larger struggle for economic fairness: “Exposing the Triple Crisis of Inequality, Broken Democracy and Climate Change.” Two more workshops will drill down on how we “Invest in a Green Economy.”

The days when the environmentalism was constantly pitted against economic growth are ending, even if climate science deniers continue to spread fear about economic devastation if we cap our carbon pollution. The New Populism is ready to spread the word that we can protect the planet and the middle class. Click here to register and hear how.

Get updates in your inbox

Comments