- Is this a big government takeover?
- Would a Climate Mobilization destroy the economy?
- Isn't Obama handling the problem?
- There is nothing that can be done.
- Why should we call on the US to act if China, India, and Russia aren’t cutting their emissions as well?
- Why should we take drastic action when scientists can’t tell us exactly when and how the climate will change?
- But Climate Change isn't real/ isn't human induced!
- How can you advocate this when you drive a car/ take plane flights/ eat meat/ etc?
- War is horrible! Why would you reference WWII?
This is a very important question! The Climate Mobilization would certainly increase the size, power, and efficacy of the United States federal government, so this question deserves a lot of attention! When thinking about this issue, let's remember what the government is in the United States: representatives of the people, elected to serve the people. While the US federal government has failed to live up to its responsibilities in recent decades, that does not change the fact that the country was founded as a representative democracy, and that government exists to serve and protect the people. We are calling on the government to fulfill its most basic function: to protect its citizens.
When we look at WWII, we see an outstanding example of what is possible when Americans, coordinated by the government, mobilize together. However we also see the pitfalls of this approach. During WWII, the US put more than 100,000 Japanese Americans into internment camps. The government was worried that these individuals were spies for the Japanese, when in fact they were loyal Americans, many of whom longed to fight for the United States. So it is true that mobilizations can make terrible mistakes—particularly the tendency to overreach and put too little value on individual rights.
The Climate Mobilization should learn from the errors of the past, and keep a close eye on the possibility of state overreach or the violation of civil liberties. This is why the Pledge to Mobilize specifies that the mobilization must be carried out in accordance with the Constitution. One scholar who has written about the prospect of a WWII-level Climate Mobilization has addressed this issue specifically, recommending that a “public advocate” be appointed to check the power of a governmental mobilization board. This is an interesting idea and could prove to be an effective way to check governmental power.
So, the worry about government overreach is a real and legitimate concern. However, there are some crucial points to keep in mind about this. First: the Climate Mobilization, unlike war mobilizations of the past—has no agenda to kill anyone. Rather, it is about saving hundreds of millions of lives from the ravages of climate change. Thankfully, there is no need for a mobilized government to kill anyone on behalf of a massive climate change mitigation and adaptation effort.
Second, the Climate Mobilization will only be implemented if it has the consent of the people; it is not possible to mobilize a country that does not want to be mobilized! That is the purpose of the Pledge—to spread the truth of climate change and the need to mobilize far and wide. In other words, we are coordinating a bottom-up mobilization; citizens demanding that their elected leaders take action.
Thirdly, it is critical to remember that ravages of climate change will bring anarchy and, in response, tyranny. We are already seeing this pattern in countries such as drought-stricken Syria, where a desperate dictator turned to chemical warfare to silence his hungry, thirsty, rebellious people. (See this excellent political cartoon that explains how climate change contributed to the civil war in Syria.) When we fight climate change, we are fighting for civilization, for democracy, for stability, and for freedom. There are moments in our history, such as WWII, when only massive government intervention can preserve our way of life.
Finally, there are no other options. We are in a state of dire crisis. The government, even with all its problems and imperfections, is our only tool for coordinating the massive response needed. If we work together and make sacrifices together, we have a fighting chance of saving civilization.
To the contrary—the Climate Mobilization is our best shot at protecting the economy, along with civilization, from destruction.
American carbon-powered economy is currently stagnating due to daunting oil supply constraints related to the steeply decreasing energy return on investment for global oil production. The 2008 crisis was exacerbated, at the very least, by the rising cost of oil. Since the financial crash, millions of Americans have suffered from the devastating consequences of layoffs, stagnant wages and foreclosures. This process is almost certain to continue; the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development has forecast a doubling in the price of crude oil by 2020—an event that would devastate the world economy.
A rapid, government-coordinated transition away from fossil fuels offers Americans a chance to actively and creatively transform the economy, while maintaining the climatic conditions to support human civilization. However, the transition will temporarily add to the disruptions in the economy.
The Climate Mobilization will create tens of millions of new jobs through direct hiring and public-private partnerships. This new hiring will greatly ease and enhance this economic transition. Americans involved in this historic initiative will work together to install renewable energy systems, transition and localize agriculture, construct public transit networks, conduct research, insulate homes, plant forests, manage wetlands and provide assistance to other national energy transitions abroad. The jobs created during the mobilization will boost the prospects of tens of millions of struggling Americans, at the very least. World War II demonstrates that structuring a massive labor mobilization through a combination of direct hiring and public-private partnerships can lead to widely-shared prosperity.
President Obama announced plans in June, 2014 to require a 30% reduction in national power plant carbon emissions from 2005 levels by 2030. This would likely reduce total national emissions 6% by 2030.
Unfortunately, these cuts don’t come close to what is needed to save civilization. Science clearly demonstrates that we have already emitted carbon and other greenhouse gases beyond what is safe for humanity. To avoid dire consequences, we must reduce our net emissions to zero as quickly as possible, and then continue removing carbon from the atmosphere.
Further, Obama's plan does not overhaul our agricultural system, implement wide ranging adaptation measures, conduct a massive, Manhattan-project type research effort, or pressure other nations to reduce their national emissions to zero. In short, Obama’s plan is not a wartime plan.
It is clear to informed observers that Obama is not adequately responding to the crisis—and Congress is ignoring it altogether, caught up in a trance of denial, passivity, and narcissism. Our government will not lead us until the people demand that they do so. As polar explorer Robert Swan put it, “The greatest threat to our planet is the belief that someone else will save it.” We must not pass the buck—this is up to people like us.
This is a common and understandable sentiment, but there is no evidence suggesting that it is true. Scientists are clear that human activities in coming months and years are absolutely critical to the future of the climate. We may not be able to stop climate change totally in its tracks—at least not immediately—but human activities are what have caused the warming, and a coordinated human response can have a decisive impact on the future of our climate. The future is in our hands. We must act, with immediacy, courage and vigor.
The fatalistic response is understandable. This grim brand of certainty seems to help some people cope with their terror of climate change. Claiming to know, definitively, the fate of humanity and the world can be a relief against the feelings of being small and afraid. Making claims of certain destruction can provide a feeling of power and omniscience. It also absolves the fatalist of the moral duty to urgently fight back.
Such fatalistic certitude is indefensible because: 1) Our top scientists disagree with it, telling us that what humanity does in the next few years will have a tremendous impact on the future and 2) To claim that something as complex as the fate of humanity and the natural world is sealed is the essence of hubris. We don't have the ability to know, for sure, what will happen in any scenario. There are no prior cases of human-caused climate change to study. We are the test case. This is very frightening information, but it does not lend itself to the conclusion that we are, inevitably, doomed. Furthermore, resigning yourself to "doom," means that you're okay with the prospect of billions of people, including possibly yourself, dying early, painful deaths within this century. It could even mean you’re resigned to the suicide of our species.
The dissemination of this unverifiable argument is highly destructive. It is capable of immobilizing large groups of people, who may otherwise be working to save civilization. The idea that our fate is sealed—that destruction is unavoidable—is a self-fulfilling prophesy: If we collectively resign ourselves to despair and do not mobilize, we are surely doomed. Imagine if the sentiment in the US after Pearl Harbor had been, “We can never beat the Axis powers, so let’s just allow the inevitable to happen and surrender to them.” We could have never mobilized. Despair is not a moral option in times of great crisis. We have a moral duty to muster our courage and give this fight our all.
Why should we call on the US to act if China, India, and Russia aren’t cutting their emissions as well?
The Climate Mobilization calls on the United States to lead the world! As the most powerful nation in the world, as well as the nation that has emitted the most fossil fuels cumulatively, we have the clear responsibility to take the lead in solving the challenge of our time. Once we have mobilized, we should apply serious diplomatic and economic pressure on every other nation to join us. To delay action because "others aren't doing enough" is to shirk our responsibilities and to endanger the entire world.
Why should we take drastic action when scientists can’t tell us exactly when and how the climate will change?
There is a large amount of uncertainty in terms of what climatic impacts will occur and when. Partially, this is because we don’t know how humanity will act. It is rather unclear whether we will curtail emissions, or whether we will continue our march towards destruction. But this uncertainty also derives from the fact that our climate and ecosystems are dynamic, non-linear systems. It is therefore hard to predict precisely what effects will happen at specific points in time as the Earth’s climate changes. This is why scientific projections about future warming always include multiple scenarios and ranges. Scientists don’t have a test case from which to derive predictions. We are the test case.
So, how should we as citizens react to this uncertainty? Should we make "Scientists don't know everything! They aren't sure!" our anthem and take this uncertainty as license to continue business as usual?
That would be like saying, "Well we don't know when or how the Axis powers will invade and occupy the United States, so let's not worry about it!"
Rather, the uncertainty must drive us to greater preventative action. We know that carbon and greenhouse gases will cause catastrophic impacts for humanity, but we don't precisely know how and when they will unfold. We must act decisively and immediately to avoid catastrophe.
We wish that were true! How wonderful it would be if the nightmare of climate change was just a bad dream, or even a massive conspiracy. What a relief it would be to be able to plan for a stable future, to live each day without the painful knowledge of climate change. So we understand the appeal of this perspective, and share the desire to doubt or deny the existence of climate change. Unfortunately climate change is very real, and it is our duty to face that terrifying reality.
There is a scientific consensus that fossil fuel emissions are causing climate change. It is settled science, like the fact that the earth orbits the sun or smoking cigarettes can cause cancer.
The only reason there is a sense of uncertainty is because fossil fuel companies have spent hundreds of millions of dollars in a misinformation campaign, creating "foundations" and "institutes" to act as though the science were in doubt. Tobacco companies did the same thing when it became clear that their product caused cancer. They paid scientists to gin up doubt in order to protect their profits. Of course, part of us wants to believe the doubt that fossil fuel companies sell, because it is comforting to us.
For a comprehensive list of "scientific" denier arguments and myths about climate change, see Skeptical Science's Argument Page. They are a great resource if you are talking with someone who is mired in denialist arguments such as, "It's a natural cycle," "There hasn't been global warming for 15 years," or, "In the 1970s, global cooling was predicted."
However—remember that many people who deny the existence of climate change do so because they are scared, not because they actually believe the myths. Overly intellectual or scientific arguments might not be the best way to go. Instead, you could try questions such as, "Well, what if climate change was real and did threaten civilization? Then it would make sense to mobilize, right?"
For a great source of scientific information and arguments against denialist claims, see Skeptical Science.
A dominant discourse in talking about the climate has long been about individually reducing your carbon footprint. This discourse is also sometimes used to dismantle political action through accusing the advocates of change as being imperfect or hypocritical. If you face this question, here is what we suggest you say:
"The only conceivable way to save civilization is through coordinated collective action. The ecological, social, and economic crises we face are simply too enormous and too systemic. Uncoordinated, voluntary actions by conscientious individual citizens cannot possibly prevent the collapse of civilization. We are all caught up in this carbon-intense system. So, while I do make some alterations in my lifestyle to reduce my carbon footprint, I do not view this as an effective strategy. I put the majority of my energy into instigating the Climate Mobilization."
It is critical to note that we are calling for a WWII-Scale Climate Mobilization, not calling for a "Climate-War" or any kind of armed conflict. A WWII-scale climate mobilization's central goal is to protect as much life as possible from the ravages of climate change. We don't seek to kill anyone.
We use WWII to reference to a time in US history when 1) we were faced with an existential threat 2) we made meeting that threat our shared national purpose 3) we converted our economy and society at an extremely rapid, even "impossible" pace. It is an incredibly rich analogy, that provides us inspiration and guidance, including at a policy and governance level. If this sounds strange, please read, "No Ordinary Time" by Doris Kearns Goodwin or The Case for Climate Mobilization by Ezra Silk.