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Politicization of Climate Change: the Case of Citizens for Responsible Solar in Rural America

Citizens for Responsible Solar is part of a growing backlash against renewable energy in rural communities across the United States. The group, which was started in 2019 and appears to use strategies honed by other activists in campaigns against the wind industry, has helped local groups fighting solar projects in at least 10 states including Ohio, Kentucky, and Pennsylvania, according to them 

Disinformation used as a weapon to fight renewable energy and stop solar projects is not a new strategy. This is the case of an activist group called Citizens for Responsible Solar, which was found to be spreading misinformation to stop solar projects in rural America.

The group has helped local groups fighting solar projects in at least 10 states, including Ohio, Kentucky, and Pennsylvania. The group was started in 2019 and appears to use strategies honed by other activists in campaigns against the wind industry. Getting projects built in the face of local opposition is among the biggest challenges wind and solar companies face.

Susan Ralston launched Citizens for Responsible Solar to stop a project near her home in Culpeper, Virginia, about 70 miles southwest of Washington, D.C. She brought years of experience in the upper echelons of national conservative politics to her new role as a county-level organizer against rural solar. Many grassroots activists today credit their success in stopping solar projects to Ralston.

One of the disinformation tactics used by these groups is to claim that solar projects ruin the land they’re built on. Yet, with the right practices, companies can improve local ecosystems, and farming can continue alongside power plants. Additionally, the group’s warnings about hazardous waste from solar don’t account for the fact that most solar panels aren’t considered toxic and won’t leach material.

At public hearings starting in 2018, some residents said the solar plant would create problems with stormwater runoff, ruin their views, and harm property values, as well as the local tourism and agriculture industries. Others falsely claimed solar panels would poison the groundwater and cause cancer. These claims are unfounded and lack scientific evidence.

The politicization of climate change, the politicization of energy, and the political nature of the energy transition, which is really just a necessary response to an environmental reality, are reflected in these campaigns against renewable energy. This politicization is unfortunate, as the construction of more renewable energy is key to the country’s plans to cut greenhouse gas pollution and avoid the worst damage from extreme weather in the years ahead.

In conclusion, the politicization of climate change is a common technique used by opponents of renewable energy and solar projects to halt progress toward a cleaner and more sustainable future. By framing climate change as a political issue rather than a scientific fact, these opponents can undermine the urgency of the problem and resist calls for action.

Only through collective action and a commitment to science-based decision-making can we hope to achieve a cleaner, more sustainable future for ourselves and future generations.

Read the full story here 

Photo credit:

Ryan Kellman / NPR/NPR

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