Five Groups Fighting Climate Change

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Bill McKibben discusses the recent State Department report on the Keystone XL pipeline.
This week’s guest on Moyers & Company, Bill McKibben, has been a leading environmental activist for years; he got his start in 1988, when, as a freelance journalist, he covered the environment around the time global warming emerged as a notable concern. His first book, The End of Nature, was published the following year, and is cited as one of the first books on climate change written for a general audience. Nearly two decades later, McKibben co-founded Today it is one of the main groups working for change.

If you are interested in taking action to combat climate chaos, here are five organizations, including, on the front lines of the fight. website screenshot

A screenshot from the website. was founded with the goal of uniting climate activists into a movement, with a strategy of bottom-up organizing around the world. Activists in 189 countries have organized’s local climate-focused campaigns, projects and actions. In India, for example, organizers have mobilized people to speak out against the country’s dependence on coal for growth. In the US, the group has campaigned to divest public institutions — such as municipalities and universities — from the fossil fuel industry, and to stop the Keystone XL pipeline.

In the Keystone fight, has partnered with a number of local organizations in the path of the pipeline across North America, including Bold Nebraska, Tar Sands Blockade, the Indigenous Environmental Network, Idle No More and the Hip Hop Caucus. takes its name from what climate scientists say is the safe concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere — 350 parts per million (ppm). (We’ve now passed 400 ppm.)

Sierra Club

Video report: Why the Sierra Club broke with tradition to protest the Keystone Pipeline
In its early days, The Sierra Club, founded in 1892 by conservationist, naturalist and explorer John Muir, was mostly made up of scientists interested in exploring the Sierra mountains. For years, the organization promoted the appreciation and stewardship of the outdoors but steered clear of civil disobedience. A change came last year when, in the face of increasingly dire warnings from climate scientists, the group’s executive director, Michael Brune, and then-president, Allison Chin, were arrested — with about 50 others, including McKibben — outside the White House protesting the Keystone XL pipeline.

“This particular project — the Keystone XL pipeline — is so horrendous, it’s so wrong and it’s being proposed at such an important time that we don’t want to leave any tool on the table,” Brune told Moyers and Company shortly before his arrest, referring to the need to turn to protest. The pipeline would “guarantee that we’re locked into the most carbon-intensive fuel source on the planet for the next half-century.” Earlier this week, the Sierra Club filed a lawsuit against the US Army Corps of Engineers over the project.


Kumi Naidoo, the executive director of Greenpeace International, talks with Bill in September about 30 Greenpeace activists detained in Russia.
Founded in 1971, Greenpeace’s initial advocacy work focused on its opposition to nuclear testing. In 1985, the French Secret Service famously bombed a Greenpeace ship moored in Auckland, New Zealand, on its way to protest French nuclear testing in Moruroa Atoll. Since then, the organization’s priority has shifted from nuclear proliferation to confronting climate change. But their strategy of direct action with an international focus has essentially remained the same.

In September of last year, 30 people who were aboard the Greenpeace ship the Arctic Sunrise drew international attention when they were detained by authorities after a demonstration at a Russian drilling rig in the Arctic. The activists sought to highlight the exploitation of the fragile Arctic environment for fossil fuel extraction. Some of the activists were at first charged with piracy, though the Russian government later reduced the charges to “hooliganism” and released all involved, then dropped the charges entirely ahead of the Sochi Olympics. Two years earlier, two activists — including Greenpeace International Executive Director Kumi Naidoo — boarded a drilling rig off the coast of Greenland and were blasted for hours by fire hoses as the crew attempted to repel them, pushing them into the choppy sea.

Idle No More

Idle No More, a group of mostly Canadian Native North Americans, sprang into existence in October 2012, when Canada’s conservative prime minister Stephen Harper pushed a law, known as C-45, through parliament that rolled back both environmental protections and indigenous peoples’ sovereignty in order to make the country’s tar sands, and the crude oil that could be extracted from them, more easily exploitable. Resource extraction projects, like the tar sands, often hurt North America’s indigenous populations disproportionately.

In protest of C-45, the group organized rallies in major cities across Canada. A leader of Idle No More, Attawapiskat Chief Theresa Spence, started what would become a six-week-long hunger strike and groups of protesters blockaded rail lines and highways.

Last year, McKibben wrote about the group in the Huffington Post, “I sense that [Idle No More] is every bit as important as the Occupy movement that transfixed the world a year ago; it feels like it wells up from the same kind of long-postponed and deeply-felt passion that powered the Arab spring. And I know firsthand that many of its organizers are among the most committed and skilled activists I’ve ever come across. In fact, if Occupy’s weakness was that it lacked roots (it had to take over public places, after all, which proved hard to hold on to), this new movement’s great strength is that its roots go back farther than history.”

The group continues work that others, such as the Indigenous Environmental Network, have been doing for years.

Union of Concerned Scientists

The Union of Concerned Scientists was founded during the height of the Vietnam war during a teach-in at MIT to protest the US government’s militarization of science. Initially, the group was concerned with nuclear proliferation and energy issues, but over time has shifted its focus to sustainability. Today, the majority of the UCS’s areas of advocacy focus on climate change.

The group is responsible for groundbreaking research on sustainability standards for vehicles and the disastrous affects of climate change. “Traditionally there have been two types of science: basic and applied. UCS has added a third category to the canon: engaged science,” the group’s website says. “Since its beginning, UCS has followed the example set by scientists: We share information, seek the truth, and let our findings guide our conclusions.”

Along with other groups such as the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication, the Union of Concerned Scientists has been integral in refuting those who claim climate change is a hoax. The UCS also produces reports on how the fossil fuel industry and other private interests profit from inaction on climate change.

Related: UCS Center for Science and Democracy Director
Dr. Andrew Rosenberg on the attack on science

Also related: Anthony Leiserowitz,
director of the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication,
on how to make people care about climate change

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