Climate Change Posers

Coal-fired power plants generate roughly half of the world's electricity supply, and thus contribute strongly to global warming, prompting protests against their use. But no amount of political theater can alter the inescapable fact that coal also provides benefits that we cannot yet replicate with renewable energy.

COPENHAGEN – One of the stranger spectacles of the climate change debate was the sight, earlier this month, of NASA climate scientist Jim Hansen marching hand-in-hand with Hollywood actress Darryl Hannah outside the Capitol Coal Power Plant in Washington, DC.

Hansen promised to brave arrest at what was billed as the world’s largest direct-action climate change protest. Instead, the worst snowstorm in three years reduced the size of the crowd, prevented special guests from arriving, and hindered efforts to use a solar panel to light up a protest billboard. The police reportedly told the crowd that they didn’t want to arrest anybody who didn’t want to be arrested, and nobody was.

That didn’t stop the protesters from proclaiming the event a success. “VICTORY: THIS IS HOW TO STOP GLOBAL WARMING,” declared the Web site of Capitol Climate Action. And, indeed, the US House Speaker and Senate Majority Leader called on the Architect of the Capitol to stop using coal for the Capitol Power Plant (albeit days before the rally). But if stopping global warming were this easy, I – and everybody I know – would be painting placards for the next round of direct action.

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