A New Breed of Climate Protesters Vows to Take the Fight to US Political “Cowards”

Climate Defiance is trying to make the climate crisis a top issue in the 2024 election.

Graeme Sloan/Sipa USA vis AP

This story was originally published by the Guardian and is reproduced here as part of the Climate Desk collaboration.

A climate protest group backed by a cadre of Hollywood filmmakers is preparing to take action against “cowards” and “criminals” of all political stripes as the 2024 election approaches.

Climate Defiance, which disrupted events featuring a string of Biden administration officials this year, and targeted Darren Woods, CEO of ExxonMobil, in December, will consider protesting at events staged by both Democrats and Republicans on the campaign trail after concluding that its “very disruptive” action was bearing fruit.

In an interview, Michael Greenberg, the group’s co-founder, told the Guardian it will also focus “more and more” on state-level demonstrations designed to deter policymakers from approving fossil fuel projects.

Since demonstrating outside the White House correspondents’ dinner in the spring, its activists have staged protests at events featuring a string of senior federal officials, including the transportation secretary, Pete Buttigieg, and the energy secretary, Jennifer Granholm.

Climate Defiance has also interrupted two separate public appearances by the chair of the Federal Reserve, Jerome Powell. It is now recruiting for an organizing director to help coordinate “disruptive, nonviolent direct action to resist fossil fuel extraction,” according to a job advertisement.

“If we were a new group asking nicely, we’d be a random no-name group and the White House could just have conversations with groups a hundred times our size who did the same thing,” said Greenberg, 30. “Why would they talk to us?”

Instead, the group claims its demonstrations at high-profile events have got it a seat at the table. Ali Zaidi, the national climate adviser, has been on the phone. It also targeted David Turk, the deputy energy secretary, who invited Greenberg to a meeting days later.

“The reason they’re willing to meet with us is they know we are really intense and really strident,” said Greenberg. He said the fundamental goal of his group was to build the climate crisis into a top US political issue, “along with racial justice and kitchen table economic issues.”

The administration is taking note—and Climate Defiance is increasingly confident this interest can be traced all the way to the Oval Office. “Congressman Ro Khanna said that the president is talking about us,” Greenberg added.

A Department of Energy spokesperson said: “To solve the climate crisis, we must engage with a diverse variety of stakeholders. Candid, substantive, and constructive discussions among states, local leaders, and climate organizations can create paths to work together to address this existential crisis threatening humanity, create economic opportunity for our nations, and save our planet.”

The Climate Emergency Fund, which has backed disruptive climate groups including Extinction Rebellion, has provided Climate Defiance with about $225,000 in funding. The group has received “roughly” the same amount from other donors, Greenberg said.

The fund’s directors include the film-makers Rory Kennedy, daughter of former US Attorney General and senator Bobby Kennedy, and Adam McKay, director of The Big Short, Vice, and Don’t Look Up. Jeremy Strong, the Succession actor, joined the board in December.

More Mother Jones reporting on Climate Desk

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