Two weeks ago a jury in Britain ruled that it is acceptable to break the law if you are protesting against climate change. They acquitted six Greenpeace protestors who had been charged with $70,000 worth of criminal damage after painting the side of the controversial Kingsnorth coal-fired powered station.

Now Al Gore, the former vice president and winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, has come out advocating direct action against new coal plants too. Speaking at the Clinton Global Initiative meeting in New York he said “clean coal does not exist.”

According to Gore, the focus should be on “stopping the construction of new coal plants,” which would add thousands of tonnes of CO2 into the atmosphere, despite “half a billion dollars’ worth of advertising by the coal and gas industry” claiming otherwise.

He added: “If you’re a young person looking at the future of this planet and looking at what is being done right now, and not done, I believe we have reached the stage where it is time for civil disobedience to prevent the construction of new coal plants that do not have carbon capture and sequestration.”

Meanwhile, in comment’s similar to Gore’s (but without advocating direct action) in the UK the Government Department responsible for the environment, the Environment Agency, is also arguing that construction of coal-fired power stations should be banned until their CO2 emissions can be captured.

Lord (Chris) Smith, chairman of the Environment Agency, described any attempt to build such plants without carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology as unsustainable. He said “Building a new generation of coal-fired stations without capturing the carbon emissions would lock the UK into using high-carbon technology for decades to come. This is not an environmentally sustainable way of generating power given the challenges we face with climate change.”


  • This is really a great step – although Gore has said this before, in less public settings. But CD is not only for “young people” – witness Gandhi and King.

    If Gore wants to lead in this area – and I believe he does, and he is well positioned to do so – he needs lead by example here.

    If he does…many will surely follow. On the other hand, if civil disobedience is easily marginalized as “angry radical young people” (as was done in Seattle, portraying the very small number of protesters engaged in property destruction as somehow representative) then it really won’t achieve what we need it to.

    CD is very warranted here. But we need the elders out front, and a united front in the movement.

  • I agree with Steve about this, but, as a 30-something, you’re talking about something scary. I protest, my name goes in a database, I’m blacklisted before you can blink, and sometime later, my passport triggers a DHS watch list at the airport. Or maybe a police database shows me graylisted when they pull me over because the light on my bike is out, and they want to issue a courtesy reminder. (I live in a good neighborhood) If they let me go with a ticket, I guess it’s OK, but when an employer runs a background check on me, does my civil disobedience count me out of the job? Eh, well, who wants to work for jerks like that anyway.

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