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Lumps of Coal to Congress

To get a Congressman's attention former Vice President Al Gore suggested on Saturday Night Live that he might get crazy and try a trash can of ice water and a note saying, "We're melting-- love the glaciers."

We think a lump of coal is more practical to send --
and a lot dirtier.

It will have more impact if we send our lumps of coal at the same time with a simple consistent message. You can write more but be sure the subject line or title is simple and clear.

Achieve full reduction of CO2 emissions
from coal fired power plants by 2030!

Send this message
with a LUMP of COAL to Congress!
by mail, email, FAX, or walk-in

Coordinate with us and others through Twitter and Facebook and email.

Jump to Sample Letter by Bill McKibben
Jump to Sample Letter by Kevin Norman

Be sure to know where your congressional representatives stand.


SAMPLE LETTER 1: Here is a quote from Bill McKibben to help you to understand why COAL and why NOW: (Bill McKibben is the author of The End of Nature and founder of the campaign.)

"Consider what has to happen if we’re going to deal with global warming in a real way. NASA climate scientist James Hansen — who has announced he plans to join us and get arrested for trespassing in the action we’re planning for March 2 — has demonstrated two things in recent papers. One, that any concentration of carbon dioxide greater than 350 parts per million in the atmosphere is not compatible with the “planet on which civilization developed and to which life on earth is adapted.” And two, that the world as a whole must stop burning coal by 2030 — and the developed world well before that — if we are to have any hope of ever getting the planet back down below that 350 number.

. . .Coal provides 50 percent of our electricity. That juice comes from hundreds of expensive, enormous plants, each one of them owned by rich and powerful companies. Shutting these plants down — or getting the companies to install expensive equipment that might be able to separate carbon from the exhaust stream and sequester it safely in some mine somewhere — will be incredibly hard. Investors are planning on running those plants another half-century to make back their money — the sunk costs involved are probably on the scale of those lousy mortgages now bankrupting our economy.

And if you think it’s tough for us, imagine the Chinese. They’ve been opening a coal-burning power plant a week. You want to tell them to start shutting them down when that coal-fired power represents the easiest way to pull people out of poverty across Asia?

The only hope of making the kind of change required is to really stick in people’s minds a simple idea:

Coal is bad.

It’s bad when you mine it,
it’s bad for the city where you burn it,
and it’s bad for the climate."

Feb 19, 2009: Opinion Why I’ll Get Arrested to Stop the Burning of Coal by Bill McKibben
On March 2, 2009 environmentalist Bill McKibben joined demonstrators who marched on a coal-fired power plant in Washington D.C. In this article for Yale Environment 360, he explains why he was ready to go to jail to protest the continued burning of coal.


Sample Letter 2: Here is another letter sent by a citizen in California to his local Congressman.

"Dear Congressman Miller
Thirty years ago Global Warming was a scientific theory. Now it is visible to careful observers almost anywhere in the world. In California the fire season is now 75 days longer than it was in the 1980s. Tree mortality has doubled since the 1970s. Water has always been a key issue in California. Climate change is already impacting our water supplies. Spring is coming earlier, snowpacks are declining. Lake Meade is at a record low level.
These changes are consistent with changes all over the world. Large scale, long term droughts in Australia, Africa, Southern Europe and the Middle East are threatening the food supplies and well being of millions of people. All of these changes are consistent with the observed increases in temperature and the climate change induced expansion of the Hadley cells.
Meanwhile the melting of the Arctic Sea Ice has destabilized Northern Hemispheric weather patterns leading to floods in Pakistan which displaced more than 20 million people, and a drought in Russia more severe than any recorded in 1000 years and which lead to major failures in the Russian grain crop. Even in the United States extreme rainfall and flooding in the Midwest led to a substantial late season decrease in the estimated corn crop.
The fundamental physics underlying Global Warming is substantial enough that there is virtually no chance that these changes in climate will abate or reverse. In the near term it is almost certain the level of Lake Meade will reach a level low enough to trigger a major reallocation of Colorado River water. This will have major political repercussions throughout the Colorado River Basin.
Longer term, within the lifetime of children now living, we can expect to see even more major disruptions of the climate system. We can expect reductions in spring and summer runoff from the Sierra Nevada of up to 60%. This will cause disruptions in California Agriculture so severe that it might better be called destruction. In addition we can expect sea level rise of more than a meter. (The official California projection for this century is 55 in)  This increase in sea level will by itself endanger billions of dollars of property, including both the San Francisco and Oakland airport.
As monumental as these climate changes might be, many scientists, including Dr James Hansen, believe that we are rapidly approaching tipping points where natural feed backs from melting ice and thawing arctic permafrost will accelerate Global Warming and render it impossible for humans to control. Dr Hansen now believes that the maximum atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration should be no more than 350ppm. As we are now at 389ppm, his analysis would indicate that we are already beyond the safe level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. We are now in a danger zone, a very few years of delay may well mean that any semblance of the climate under which human civilization has grown will be lost for at least thousands of years if not forever. I realize that the political realities of Washington make any action on climate extremely difficult. I also believe that the changing climate is a matter of great urgency. As Global Warming becomes more pronounced, it will become it will become impossible for the ordinary citizen to ignore.
Those who have done less than their absolute best to forestall Climate Change will then have some rather difficult explanations to make not only to the public but their children and grandchildren as well.
The question of what can be done from a legislative viewpoint has long troubled me.
The proposed cap and trade with offsets which has been drifting around without passage in various forms for nearly 20 years has always seemed to me to have fundamental flaws.
The first problem that I have had is that there is the pretence that enacting cap and trade would solve the climate problem without cost. Even a casual analysis reveals that eliminating green house gases will be a costly venture. When the public reads about cap and trade they almost immediately conclude that the proponents are either very ignorant or very duplicitous.
The second problem is that many of the offsets proposed seem on their face to be fraudulent. It is difficult to understand how building alternative energy projects in third world countries or not cutting down forests actually reduces green house gas emissions.
The third problem is ensuring that the proposed trading program is transparent and honest.  The trading scheme envisioned in the cap and trade proposals basically requires us to trust the same financial firms who could not tell a bundle of shoddy mortgages from a AAA bond will reliably determine that a tree still grows in Uganda.
Nonetheless I have supported the cap and trade plan as I have been told that there were no alternatives.
Recently I have seen more proposals for direct carbon taxes.  These appear to me to be  more honest, simpler to implement and less susceptible to fraud than the cap and trade proposals.
I have found recently that others are thinking along similar lines and have developed specific proposals for legislation.
In particular the “Million Letter March,” which is being supported by Dr James Hansen, Bill McIbben and Lester Brown is worthy of my and your support.


Kevin D. Norman


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