On Tipping Points and the Conference

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Why we should start thinking about coming to Washington this summer

By Jon Clark

jon clarkI’ve been working on an op-ed about tipping points and started thinking about how it would apply to what we’re working on with CCL.  I think we all know what tipping points are in climate science: the point when nature takes over.  For instance, we are warming the planet by burning fossil fuels, and the Arctic permafrost is melting because of it.  At some point the methane released from melting permafrost causes more warming, causing more methane release and eventually we’ve passed the tipping point when nature takes over and we head into runaway global warming.

I wonder what the tipping point will be for us to get a carbon tax passed?   I was amazed at our International Conference last year when I learned the President would be giving a major climate speech on the day we 300 or so CCL volunteers would be hitting Capital Hill to lobby our members of Congress.  Obviously, we hit some major tipping point that made President Obama comfortable coming out to give this historic speech that day.  I absolutely believe it was our presence on Capitol Hill that made that possible.

Obama climateWhat a powerful experience for myself that day, to see our President on television sets in the offices of many Congress members.  President Obama was sweating it out (and what a PR stroke of genius to see him mopping the sweat from his brow every minute or two while he talked about global warming in the baking sun!) at Georgetown giving his forty-minute speech while we all roamed the halls of Congress asking for support of our carbon tax.  Coming from such a conservative area in Pennsylvania, I know how tough it can be to get some folks on board with what we’re trying to accomplish. It can really drag you down after a while.  But having the President pushing a market-based solution to climate change while we were sitting in Republican offices felt like a personal “I got your back” from the President.  It’s an experience I won’t ever forget, and experiences like this are why I will be coming back to the conference every year until we get it done.  Armed fossil fuel lobbyists couldn’t keep me away.

The conference acts as a much needed recharge for me every year.  How motivating it is to see so many other volunteers that I know are as concerned about our future as I am walking around Capitol Hill!   It gives me goosebumps to think of what might happen if we had 500 volunteers on Capitol Hill next June.  1000?   I believe we will hit some tipping point eventually, whether it be some unknown number of letters to the editor or op-eds, some magic number of conference attendees, a number of meetings with Congress members,  it could be just a matter of just talking to the one right person, or likely a combination of all.

Our International Conference and Lobby Day will be June 22nd-24th, 2014, but I’m sure we’ll have several additional days of lobbying after Tuesday.  It’s not too early to start thinking about it.  Are you planning on coming?   If not, is there some way you can help others that might want to get there but are unable to finance their own trip?   Fundraisers to subsidize the trip for your entire group?

I can’t promise the President will be giving a major speech in June, but I know something exciting will happen in DC, something always does at our conference.   Who knows what the tipping point will be to get a revenue-neutral carbon tax,  I guess we’ll know when we’ve passed it.

Jon Clark is Mid-Atlantic regional coordinator for Citizens Climate Lobby.


Steve Valk
Steve Valk is Communications Coordinator for Citizens' Climate Lobby. Steve joined the CCL staff in 2009 after a 30-year career with the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.