Citizens’ Climate is a nonpartisan, non-profit, grassroots organization that tackles climate change through focusing on national policies. Founded in Coronado by Marshall Saunders, this organization is now a recent recipient of the Keeling Curve Prize. This award provides $25,000 annually to ten projects or organizations who have made significant steps towards fighting climate change.
Mark Reynolds has been a member of Citizens’ Climate for the past 11 years. He explained how Citizens’ Climate has built volunteer chapters in almost every congressional district in the United States. “They work very closely with their members of the house and with their senator, they work to actually build support in their district so that members will feel that they have the confidence to take a courageous vote because they know there will be support back home.” He went on to say that last year these volunteers helped to get the first bipartisan climate change bill passed in a decade, called the “Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act.” This bill imposes a fee on the carbon contents of fuel, thereby encouraging companies to seek out cleaner, cheaper options.
Saunders, founder of Citizen’s Climate, was well known and loved throughout Coronado. During his lifetime Saunders visited the Keeling Lab many times, and he was a huge fan. Reynolds said, “He would be extremely proud of this award. We have always been a science based organization and the Keeling Laboratory and the Keeling Curve are really the crucial pieces of science for climate change. We’ve always done what we’ve done because the best climate scientists say we have to.”
Before founding Citizens’ Climate in 2007, Saunders had spent the past 20 years of his life setting up microcredit loans. These loans help impoverished people create their own small businesses, in the hopes that they will be able to lift themselves and their families out of poverty. Saunders had the realization that all of his hard work to help these people would be quickly undone if climate change made their homes uninhabitable. Climate change affects the most vulnerable populations first. While he was working to set up these loans, he did it in relation with an organization called “RESULTS.” This organization proved that if people were organized by congressional districts, and if they had strong support, they could get a lot done. That’s what inspired him to create the grassroots organization now known as Citizens’ Climate.
“[This award] is a huge validation of our work,” said Reynolds. “We are not like the big green groups; we’re a grassroots organization, so this is a big deal in terms of prestige, and in terms of making our work better known.”
One reason that Citizens’ Climate has become so successful is their efforts to remain nonpartisan. Reynolds said, “We believe that the only durable solutions are bipartisan solutions, which is also the hardest place to function. All of the noise, all of the anger, all of the energy is at the fringes. We’re choosing to work in the middle.”
He went on to explain that the prize money they were awarded will help them to consolidate their work there, in order to try to create a place that is attractive to both democrats and republicans. Citizens’ Climate has created a Climate Solutions Caucus in both the House of Representatives and the Senate. This Caucus is bipartisan, and was created with the intention that members of both parties will come together to discuss solutions to climate change and create legislation accordingly. “Our belief is that to get [legislators] to propose bipartisan bills, the first thing we have to do is bring them together so they can start working with each other.”
Climate change will affect all types of communities, but especially ones like Coronado. Rising sea levels will undoubtedly affect the island and its surrounding communities. That’s why it’s so important that an organization like Citizens’ Climate does the work that they do. “If there’s any community that should want us to succeed, it’s Coronado,” said Reynolds. Citizens’ Climate will continue to push for bipartisan legislation in order to fight against climate change and its effects, in the hopes that they can preserve our Earth for the generations of the future. The Keeling Curve Prize can only serve to aid them in their efforts, and will remain a symbol of their hard work and accomplishments.