Many people told us to focus on solutions not catastrophe in our messaging. And there is a lot of sense in this; when we are out talking to people in our neighbourhood, we’ve noticed that people are loosely aware of climate change – though not the severity of the danger – but have no idea about what the possible solutions even are. A campaign highlighting climate solutions — like the ones covered in this recent Maclean’s article — would have done a valuable public service, helping people to imagine the better world that we will have to build together and defuse the common complaint ‘but there’s nothing I can do.’
We could have done a series of posters imagining a better world – and maybe we will in the future — but we felt that the starting point for any city-wide conversation on climate change has to be a shared understanding of the facts. Climate Pledge Collective believes that, at their very core, most people are caring and intelligent. Once they understand the facts about climate breakdown and its causes — they will be able to make meaningful decisions that will improve things for everyone. Evoking a lasting feeling of panic or sadness helps us understand a tiny bit of what people on the frontlines of climate breakdown are dealing with every day. By being able to sit with this feeling the solutions we develop might actually go to the root of the problem and address climate justice in a meaningful way.
Unfortunately, there has been so much misinformation, that some people don’t think climate change is even real, others don’t believe it’s manmade or particularly serious. Still others have been led to believe that we can develop new fossil fuel reserves and also fight climate change. Unfortunately, even our developed reserves exceed our carbon budget for keeping the world under 1.5 degrees and pretty much exhaust our budget for keeping the world under 2 degrees as well.
At Climate Pledge Collective, we care about the Canadian economy and workers in Alberta – but that doesn’t justify misinformation about climate change and the impacts of fossil fuels. Yes, we need a just transition that takes into account all the hard work that oil and gas workers have done in the past — but we need to come to an agreement about the facts first and then discuss what to do about it.
Unfortunately, the facts are terrifying. Global food shortages are a real possibility. They aren’t guaranteed, everything related to climate is a question of percentages – but even just a chance of food shortages should make us willing to change everything – because without food, nothing else matters.
Another thing many people don’t understand yet is that we may no longer be looking at a gradually rising temperature. Data within the past year (1,2,3) suggests that we might be shifting to a non-linear breakdown which requires urgent, immediate and even audacious action. How many data points are enough to determine what is an outlier and what is a shift to exponential warming that makes all previous models inadequate? It’s a hard question to answer — but if we wait to find out, it might already be too late.
And yet, we, as a society, are still barely trying. I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that we put more money into making freemium games addictive than we do into climate science.
We really can bring climate change under control, but to do that, we will have to transform everything. And if we are going to change everything we need all hands on deck. That means people taking leaves of absence, changing careers, working part-time and volunteering for climate organizations. It means scientists dropping what they are doing and turning their attention to climate. It means companies taking ownership of the damage they are doing and turning things around, even if they have to risk short-term losses. And it means government backstopping all the people and companies making risky moves to turn things around.
But people are risk averse. They aren’t likely to give up what they know and try to build a brand-new world overnight unless they really believe they have no other options. And that’s why the first-step in any realistic climate plan is panic. Because the facts are terrifying — and if we haven’t had moments of panic we haven’t really accepted the facts yet.
“Adults keep saying we owe it to the young people to give them hope. But I don’t want your hope, I don’t want you to be hopeful. I want you to panic, I want you to feel the fear I feel every day. And then I want you to act, I want you to act as if you would in a crisis. I want you to act as if the house was on fire, because it is.” – Greta Thunberg