By Alex Counts
Long before I got involved in Citizen’s Climate Lobby (CCL), my stock response when debating climate change (which at the time was more commonly referred to as global warming), was this: “Even if the scientists are wrong, even if this is a hoax, the things we would do to address global warming will make sense anyway because they will result in cleaner air, more efficient energy use, and more jobs.”
Ironically, since that time the scientific consensus about human activity impacting the climate has become even stronger, and yet we have an administration in the United States resisting practical steps to address the problem. Fortunately, there are bipartisan stirrings in Congress to take action, stoked in part by CCL’s lobbying. Hopefully, in the not too distant future we will have a Carbon Fee and Dividend bill to rally around so we can harvest the goodwill that has been sown around this issue in recent years. But do all of our hopes rest on this needed policy action?
A new best-selling book titled “Climate of Hope,” by Michael Bloomberg and Carl Pope, says no. It argues that this battle can and must be fought and won on multiple levels.
The first strength of the book is that it clearly explains climate change in layman’s terms and in detail. But even more importantly, Bloomberg and Pope channel the wisdom of my argument about addressing climate being good for society in multiple ways by making one compelling argument after another. Finally, they show that even if the federal government is missing in action on this issue for a time, cities, businesses, and citizens have the power to make substantial progress—and in many cases, they already are.
The book begins and ends with chapters written together by the co-authors, and in between there are alternating chapters written by them individually. Early on, they admit that they have differences: Pope, the former head of the Sierra Club, published a book in 2004 attacking George W. Bush; that same year, Bloomberg, the business mogul and three-time mayor of New York City, voted for him. But on climate change and the exciting possibilities to address it, they are strongly aligned. And while they mention the advantages of a carbon tax several times, they advocate a multi-pronged approach that includes at its core creating more incentives for business, local government, and the public to play important roles in combating climate change.
Clearly, they recognize the need for convincing skeptics and opponents of the need for action. But they decry scare tactics employing doomsday scenarios. Instead, Bloomberg and Pope argue that addressing climate change will not just make our future world more livable, but it will improve it significantly here and now.
Toward the end of “Climate of Hope,” immediately after having made the conservative case for taking on climate change, they sum up the argument for why taking practical steps now makes sense on so many levels. They write, “The best way to reach skeptics is for more people to tell climate success stories…. How [addressing] it makes us healthier. How it extends our life span. How it saves us money. How it makes it easier for us to get around. How it helps connect those in poverty with job opportunities. How it helps us compete in the world. How it strengthens our economy. How it helps create jobs.” The preceding 250 pages contain example after example of why these bold claims are irrefutable.
“Climate of Hope” is chock full of fascinating facts related to climate change, such as how much buildings and manufacturing processes contribute to climate emissions: 33% and 21%, respectively. We learn that China used more concrete between 2011 and 2013 than the United States did in the entire twentieth century. We are told that “unchecked climate change would cost the world 5-20% of global GDP, but that the cost of confronting the problem would run about 1%.” India’s pledge as part of the Paris accord to increase its forest cover from 21% to 33% would, if achieved, “store an additional 14 gigatons of carbon … [which is] as much as the country currently emits in six years.”
Carbon capture using mostly natural processes also comes alive as a hopeful possibility. We learn that if the international community “restored half of the mangroves we have lost since 1980, we would store 6 billion tons of CO2, equal to total U.S. emissions each year.” Reinforcing the argument that these common sense steps benefit society in multiple ways, they add that these mangroves would also protect 2 million hectares of heavily populated coastline.
For those of us who have wanted help in making the argument that addressing climate change is not about sacrifice but rather about win-win solutions, in terms that are accessible to the layperson, this book is an excellent resource that I highly recommend.
A version of this post originally appeared on Citizens’ Climate Lobby’s blog.