My open letter to Greenpeace Global Warming Campaign Director

Yesterday I received an email from Damon Moglen, the Greenpeace Global Warming Campaign Director.  While I applaud his efforts, I feel he is failing to look at the issue in a Sustainable manner, something that has plagued the environmental movement for years.

You can see his email and my response below.  I would like to preface both of these emails with a quote from an excellent book that I am just now getting around to reading, Ecology of Commerce by Paul Hawken (which in turn was taken from a speech by then President of Czechoslovakia Vaclav Havel in his address to the World Economic Forum in 1992):

"Traditional science, with its usual coolness, can describe the different ways we might destroy ourselves, but it cannot offer us truly effefctive and practicable instructions on how to avert them.  There is too much to know; the information is muddle or poorly organized; these processes can no longer be fully grasped and understood, let alone contained or halted."

Dear Chris, May 20, 2009
My name is Damon Moglen, and I've just started as the director of Greenpeace's global warming campaign. In these last weeks, the first piece of legislation attempting to seriously address global warming was introduced in Congress. The bill - authored and introduced by Representatives Waxman and Markey - started off as a good first step toward solving the climate crisis.

But following pressure from an all-out $45 million lobbying push by the coal, gas and oil industries, the bill looks very different today than it did two weeks ago. That's why I want to let you know where Greenpeace stands on the bill.

Unfortunately, we simply can't support this bill in its current state. Here are a few of the reasons why:

  • The bill calls for reducing U.S. greenhouse gas emissions by less than 4-7 percent below 1990 levels by 2020. Even with supplemental reductions elsewhere in the bill, that's way short of the 25-40 percent cuts that leading scientists call for.
  • The biggest polluters would receive hundreds of billions of dollars in subsidies. This is unacceptable. Taxpayers should not foot the bill for dirty industries hoping to continue business as usual.
  • Given all of the carbon "offsets" that the bill offers to dirty industries, they could avoid reducing their greenhouse gas emissions for more than a decade. By that time, it could be too late to stop the worst impacts of global warming.
  • A new generation of dirty coal-fired power plants will be supported through some $10 billion in ratepayer subsidies for carbon capture and sequestration (or CCS) - an unproven technology that doesn't even exist yet.
  • The bill sets a renewable electricity standard that would achieve less than states are likely to accomplish on their own.

All together, this bill simply does not do what the science says is necessary to avoid the worst effects of global warming and to rescue the climate. And for us here at Greenpeace, that has always been the bottom line.

This moment requires bold leadership from President Obama and Congress, and Greenpeace fully intends to demand just that. We'll be in touch over the coming weeks and months to let you know exactly what's needed to rescue the climate. In the meantime, I want to personally thank you for your activism and commitment to this important issue. I'm looking forward to working with you.


Damon Moglen
Greenpeace Global Warming Campaign Director

And now, my response (which I emailed to him):

I sympathize with you because your job is extremely difficult.

Unfortunately, the question you MUST be able to answer to be effective is how your propositions will CREATE and not DECREASE American jobs?

As a student of Sustainability, it sometimes frustrates me that those in the Environmental movement somehow forget that there needs to be a balance between environmental and economic goals. You call for 25-40 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, but how is this achieved without severely hampering American business? If this does hamper American business, what prevents them from going to China, where there will be no greenhouse gas limits? Do you know the message this sends to China? It says, "If you limit greenhouse gas to the point where it severely hampers the ability to be profitable, businesses will leave your country."

You can't send out emails informing people we need to cut greenhouse gas 25-40 percent without a clear indication of how this is SUSTAINABLE. Unfortunately the Environmental movement often forgets that one of the tenets of Sustinability is Economics.

If you continue to push for environmental limits without a clear economic incentive to do so, you will see extreme backlash from the American public. Especially at a point in time when people are unable to pay their mortgage.

What studies has Greenpeace done to this effect? Also, keep in mind that individuals prioritize "tomorrow" (immediate future) before ten years from now (long term future). So telling Joe Sixpack that "the ocean levels will rise covering Manhattan" does no good if Joe can't feed his family.

I say this to help you and give you meaningful feedback. I hope you don't ignore this letter.

Sincerest regards,
Chris Kaiser
Founder of MapAWatt Blog

For Greenpeace to be successful, they have to understand that as much as we all would like to do what is best for the environment at all cost, we also have to realize that economics can't be left out of the picture.  We don't have infinite money to pay for infinite costs.  Without addressing this issue, Greenpeace is actually hurting, not helping the cause to be more sustainable by muddying the waters.  Greenpeace has to quit calling for solutions that they have yet to formulate.

I will also end with a quote from the same page of The Ecology of Commerce in which Hawken writes:

"Business requires more than criticism.  It needs a plan, a vision, a basis - a broad social mandate that will turn it away from the linear, addictive, short-term economic activities in which it is enmeshed and trapped"

Right now, Greenpeace is simply criticizing.  What they, and all Americans, need to do is help formulate a sustainable solution, not a simple band-aid to our underlying problem of un-sustainable economic activities.

enjoyed our post? let others know: 


I applaud and agree with your response. I believe that sustainability should be the focus, rather than the controversial or unsubstantiated effect of greenhouse gas on planet temperature. China has recently called for severe reductions in greenhouse gasses by developed countries (China excluded) that would have a severe negative effect on our economy (and, coincidentally, a positive effect on theirs) as you describe: It would be a different story if the claims by the Chinese (and Greenpeace) were true.

Post new comment

Subscribe to Comments for "My open letter to Greenpeace Global Warming Campaign Director"