Dallas / Fort Worth group rallies members to lobby on climate change
By Julie Thibodeaux
Melting glaciers, devastating droughts and catastrophic storms are catching people’s attention -- even in Texas. Heeding the warnings of the scientific community, including the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, many North Texans are bucking the state’s loyalty to fossil fuels and joining the movement to stop global warming. (Photo: Shutterstock)
Recently, Citizens Climate Lobby, a national grassroots organization dedicated to raising awareness about climate change, launched its first Texas chapter in Dallas. Dallas resident Ricky Bradley, cofounder of the DFW group, said a trip to Glacier National Park in Montana a few years ago opened his eyes to the issue. A former resident of the community, he came upon one of those melting glaciers that had shrunk since his last visit.
“Once I saw it, that’s when it kicked in,” he said.
When he returned to Texas, he decided to take action. He searched the internet and discovered Citizens Climate Lobby. The group’s nonpartisan spirit appealed to the former sports radio announcer. He also said the organization’s emphasis on lobbying and letter writing was a good fit.
“I’m not one of those people who can go out and chain themselves to a bulldozer,” said Bradley. “I had never been involved in an environmental organization but I saw this as something I had to do.”
While Citizens Climate Lobby is based in California, its founder is former real estate developer and Waco native Marshall Saunders. Like Bradley, Saunders became a climate change believer almost overnight. For him, the epiphany was watching An Inconvenient Truth, the 2006 Al Gore documentary.
“I went to see it three times in 10 days,” said Saunders by phone from his home in the San Diego area. “I had no idea we were in so much trouble.”
At the time, he was working for Results, a nonprofit that aims to reduce poverty worldwide. Initially, he became a speaker for the Climate Change Project, Gore’s grassroots organization. After giving a few presentations, he believed he was helping the cause until he read that the oil and gas industry received $18 billion dollars in tax credits.
“I estimated I’d gotten about 18 lightbulbs changed,” he joked.
That’s when the proverbial light bulb went on. He had been trained as a lobbyist. Why not start an organization and train others to become effective lobbyists about climate change? (Photo: Shutterstock (c) Jan Martin Will )
With help from the founder of Results, he launched Citizens Climate Lobby in 2007. Using training methods developed by Results, the group aims to empower people to engage in politics on a federal level. Today the organization has more than 60 chapters across the U.S. The first Texas chapter was launched in Dallas in February, followed by chapters in Austin and San Antonio.
CCL members nationwide are focused on convincing Congress to pass a revenue-neutral carbon tax on oil, gas and coal companies. The fee would be based on the amount of carbon dioxide expected to be generated by the burning of these fossil fuels, which is considered to be the main cause of global warming. The tax revenue would be distributed to the public. In July, 175 Citizens Climate Lobby activists went to Washington, D.C. and met with more than 300 Congress members to discuss the proposal.
While a number of Democratic lawmakers are receptive to a carbon tax as a means to encourage the industry to switch to clean energy, Saunders said CCL’s goal is to convince at least a dozen Republican congressional members to sponsor a bill. Saunders, a Republican until 2004 when he became an Independent, said getting Republicans on board is critical to getting legislation passed.
Saunders said that’s one reason why he is thrilled to see chapters of his grassroots organization spring up in his home state of Texas. Not only because of his heritage, but because of the state’s history of resistance to environmental regulation.
“We have to make it safe for climate deniers to come out,” he said. “We can’t solve this problem until we get together on it.”
To learn more about Citizens Climate Lobby, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
In addition, every Wednesday at 7 p.m., the group hosts an introductory conference call at 866-642-1665, passcode 440699#.
Also see citizensclimatelobby.org.
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Julie Thibodeaux covers environmental issues, green topics and sustainable living for Green Source DFW. Previously, she worked as an editor and writer at the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. See jthibodeaux.com. Contact her at Julie@greensourcedfw.org.