rabble blogs are the personal pages of some of Canada's most insightful progressive activists and commentators. All opinions belong to the writer; however, writers are expected to adhere to our guidelines. We welcome new bloggers -- contact us for details.

Weekly Mulch: Climate reform's good, bad and ugly

Please chip in to support more articles like this. Support rabble.ca for as little as $5 per month!

The next United Nations climate change conference is almost a year away, and health care is still dominating the legislative agenda in Washington. That means climate reform opponents, from the coal industry to the global warming skeptics, have plenty of time to work, out of the spotlight, to derail progress.

Take the case of Cape Wind, an offshore wind farm planned for Massachusetts’ Nantucket Sound, as an example. The project faced yet another roadblock this week, when the National Park Service said the site could be listed as a historical place, prized by Nantucket’s Native American tribes. But as Kate Sheppard writes in Mother Jones, the park service’s decision counts as a victory for a less sympathetic opponent as well. William Koch is the founder and president of the Oxbow Group, a privately-held group of companies, and he has laid out more than a million dollars to fight Cape Wind.

“Koch … has made his fortune off mining and marketing coal, natural gas, petroleum, and petroleum coke products,” Sheppard explains. “He’s the son of Fred Koch, founder of oil and gas giant Koch Industries, and brother of David and Charles Koch—who have supported conservative groups like Citizens for a Sound Economy (which later merged with another group to form FreedomWorks) and Americans for Prosperity, which has campaigned against both climate legislation and health care reform.”

Mother Jones is also on the case of the Atlas Foundation, a think tank that promotes climate change skepticism (and also receives funding from Koch). Josh Harkinson examines this group and other foundations that are supporting “a loose network of some 500 similar organizations in dozens of countries” and that are in turn financed by “carbon-spewing American industries.” The Atlas Economic Research Foundation alone has supported more than 30 other foreign think tanks that buy into climate change skepticism, Harkinson reports.

“The foreign groups’ finances are opaque, yet an Atlas Foundation spokesman acknowledges that some of them wouldn’t exist without dollars being pumped in,” Harkinson writes. “In the coming months, these groups will lead the fight in their own countries to derail the shaky deal made in Copenhagen—which will likely prompt American skeptics to cite widespread international opposition to taking action on climate change.”

Of course, the skeptics do have opponents, including the solar and wind power industries that stand to gain from climate change legislation. One group that can be added to that list: Farmers. Lynda Washington of the Iowa Independent reports that “most, but not all, [agricultural] producers will benefit from the package passed earlier this year by the U.S. House of Representatives,” according to a new study by Kansas State University (KSU) researchers.

The American Farmland Trust, which funded the KSU study, will have plenty of strange bedfellows as it lobbies Congress on climate change legislation. Amy Goodman of Democracy Now! reports that the groups joining the battle on Capitol Hill include “venture capitalists, the natural gas lobby, America’s most iconic soup maker Campbell Soup,” according to a new analysis of federal records.

“The sheer range of interests registered to lobby on climate change is expected to create further delays in the Senate’s effort to complete a successful bill to curb fossil fuel emissions,” Goodman explains.

Over the next year, the fight for strong climate policy won’t just take place in Washington. On a state and local level, governments, independent organizations and individuals will work towards turning back global warming. As Mark Herstgaard points out in The Nation: “Hundreds of local and regional governments have also implemented ambitious green energy programs ahead of federal policy. A pioneer of this effort, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger announced in Copenhagen the formation of the R-20 Group—twenty regions around the world that will ’set high standards for cutting carbon and creating green economies, then invite others to join them,’ in the words of Terry Tamminen, the California governor’s former environment adviser.”

And in Yes! Magazine, Tara Lohan writes that some cities “have long been ahead of Congress and the White House on climate commitments … committing to Kyoto goals in 2005 through the U.S. Conference of Mayors Climate Protection Agreement.”

“But the community climate movement goes beyond local government initiatives,” Lohan explains. “It’s a cultural shift involving people at all levels of the community, from tiny rural towns in red states to major metropolitan areas.”

In one California town, that shift promoted Catherine Sutton to start Transition Albany, a project that encourages the town’s residents to consider new ways to face climate change and dwindling oil supplies, reports Pamela O’Malley Chang at Yes! Magazine.

And in Iowa, “Lonnie Gamble, who lives in a solar and wind powered straw bale home in this Jefferson County community, hasn’t paid a gas or electric bill in two decades,” writes Beth Dalbey for the Iowa Independent. Gamble is just one resident of Fairfield, IA, who is helping to “institutionalize sustainable living”, while ““blazing a trail” for other small Iowa cities,” Dalbey reports.

One small thing anyone can do to move towards climate change reform: This winter, remind everyone, as Cord Jefferson does at Campus Progress, that, yes, it’s cold, but that doesn’t mean global warming isn’t real.

“As the World Meteorological Organization has said for years,” Jefferson reminds us, “global warming and cool temperatures go together like cocoa and marshmallows.”

This post features links to the best independent, progressive reporting about the environment by members of The Media Consortium. It is free to reprint. Visit the Mulch for a complete list of articles on environmental issues, or follow us on Twitter. And for the best progressive reporting on critical economy, health care and immigration issues, check out The Audit, The Pulse, and The Diaspora. This is a project of The Media Consortium, a network of leading independent media outlets.

Thank you for reading this story…

More people are reading rabble.ca than ever and unlike many news organizations, we have never put up a paywall – at rabble we’ve always believed in making our reporting and analysis free to all, while striving to make it sustainable as well. Media isn’t free to produce. rabble’s total budget is likely less than what big corporate media spend on photocopying (we kid you not!) and we do not have any major foundation, sponsor or angel investor. Our main supporters are people and organizations -- like you. This is why we need your help. You are what keep us sustainable.

rabble.ca has staked its existence on you. We live or die on community support -- your support! We get hundreds of thousands of visitors and we believe in them. We believe in you. We believe people will put in what they can for the greater good. We call that sustainable.

So what is the easy answer for us? Depend on a community of visitors who care passionately about media that amplifies the voices of people struggling for change and justice. It really is that simple. When the people who visit rabble care enough to contribute a bit then it works for everyone.

And so we’re asking you if you could make a donation, right now, to help us carry forward on our mission. Make a donation today.


We welcome your comments! rabble.ca embraces a pro-human rights, pro-feminist, anti-racist, queer-positive, anti-imperialist and pro-labour stance, and encourages discussions which develop progressive thought. Our full comment policy can be found here. Learn more about Disqus on rabble.ca and your privacy here. Please keep in mind:


  • Tell the truth and avoid rumours.
  • Add context and background.
  • Report typos and logical fallacies.
  • Be respectful.
  • Respect copyright - link to articles.
  • Stay focused. Bring in-depth commentary to our discussion forum, babble.


  • Use oppressive/offensive language.
  • Libel or defame.
  • Bully or troll.
  • Post spam.
  • Engage trolls. Flag suspect activity instead.