Reason #1: It Won’t Work — On it’s Own
Cutting personal consumption is a piece of the puzzle, but it isn’t enough on its own. If you heard about our pledge system and thought ‘That will never work, the most important thing is cutting fossil fuel subsidies or nuclear power or taming runaway capitalism’ — We hear you. And we agree. But there isn’t any one solution to our climate crisis that will get the job done on its own. It’s time for us to realize that we need ‘both/and’ solutions rather than arguing about ‘either/or’. We need better politicians, better technology, better urban planning. But cutting personal consumption does have immediate impact. It is way faster than building solar power, high density housing, or LEED buildings — and the sooner we cut our carbon output, the more chance the planet has of reaching a safe equilibrium.
Reason #2: Virtuous Circles
You will notice that many of the pledges on our pledge sheet ask you to try a vegan restaurant, test drive an electrical vehicle, or become an early adopter of Renewable Natural Gas. Talking about new businesses and buying their products helps sustainable businesses grow — and as they grow they will be given more shelf space at the grocery store and have more to spend on marketing and opening new branches. Even if you aren’t vegan or vegetarian look around at your grocery store for meat and dairy alternatives and try them out. Some of them taste better than the original and with modern attention to inventory you can bet your local grocery store will take notice. A&W’s beyond-meat burger patty recently SOLD OUT in Canada, so you can be sure that investors and food companies are paying attention.
Reason #3: Social Norms
We think flying for leisure is a normal and reasonable thing to do because so many people do it — and because it is an activity that appears so often in the media. As more and more people stand up and say “I won’t fly until global warming is under control” those around us will begin to see that flying is in fact reckless and immoral. Tweeting pics of your tropical vacation will begin to seem tasteless rather than stylish. We are already seeing these shifts in other areas — plant-based eating went from fringe to mainstream in just a few years. Asking for vegan options at restaurants will cause more and more restaurants to take notice and put those options on the menu and once than happens many people who never think about the climate when they select their meal will order them just because they are there and they look tasty.
Reason #4: Global Warming is Solvable
The global economy is massive and varied. Most of the technologies we need to solve global warming already exist. These technologies are profitable, they are growing and they are driving job creation. Yes, some sectors of the economy and regions of the world will face economic contraction as we make the shift — but economic contraction isn’t the end of the world.
According to some estimates the cost of meeting all government obligations under the Paris Agreement is less than the amount of money hidden away in offshore bank accounts. The Financial Crisis was challenging, but now, a decade later, global economies are running at top speed again. If we invest our surplus into low-carbon technologies we can beat this problem and wake up in a future that is safe and sustainable — and we will likely be eating healthier food, exercising more and breathing cleaner air as a side-effect. In many ways, global warming is a bigger crisis than World War II and yet our response has been so modest. Imagine if we were buying Solar Bonds in the same numbers that our grandparents bought War Bonds! And where are the Victory Gardens and armies of young men and women rolling up their sleeves and fighting the good fight? I think of my own grandfather who dropped out of high school, concealed a contraband radio and hid from the Nazis in a hole in the wall of his family home in order to play a role in the Norwegian Underground. The efforts needed to stop climate change are so much less than the efforts that our ancestors have made again and again in order to build a better world for their descendants. I don’t believe that we are anymore selfish or lazier than our ancestors — it is just that we haven’t yet realized the scale of this problem and no one has given us the tools with which to fight. After all, there are no booths at the County Fair where we can sign up to fight climate change and be rapidly whisked away to a training camp.
Reason #5: You
Frankly, we, as a society, have barely even started trying to solve global warming. I don’t mean to demean the tens of thousands of brilliant and inspiring people who have made solving this problem their lifework. They are heroes and they are getting so much done. But the average person has barely even lifted a finger yet. As soon as we really stand up and take action we will win this fight so quickly.
The Climate Pledge Collective is only as strong as you make it. Right now, we have no paid employees, no grants, no office space — in fact, it’s mostly just me (Matt Lie-Paehlke) with help from my wife and close friends (some of whom are luckily experts in climate change policy) — but so far, this initiative has been receiving very positive responses. People want to contribute and they want tools with which they can make a difference. So please, make a pledge, get a sponsor and start spreading the word so that we can get these big, beautiful virtuous circles rolling towards a lush and sustainable future.