Saving Us | Reflections & Notes

Katharine Hayhoe. Saving Us: A Climate Scientist’s Case for Hope and Healing in a Divided World. One Signal Publishers | Atria, 2021. (307 pages)


Absolutely brilliant.

At the risk of sounding hyperbolically grandiose, this may be one of the most perfect books I’ve ever read. Here’s why.

First, I’ve had the privilege of reading some incredibly insightful books on climate change by some incredible people (many of which are referenced in Saving Us). Do you want to understand the potential apocalyptic hellscape? Read The Uninhabitable Earth. Do you want economics? Read Doughnut Economics, Climate Shock, and The Climate Casino. Do you want the technical analysis? Read How To Avoid A Climate Disaster and Drawdown. Do you want profound insight and truth through poetry, ancient and indigenous wisdom, and art, all through women’s voices? Read All We Can Save. Do you want theology? Read Let Creation Rejoice, Stewards of Eden, and a climate for change (co-authored by Hayhoe and her husband, Andrew Farley). Do you want to get angry at the nefarious actors that have manipulated (and continue to manipulate) our public discourse? Read The New Climate War, and Merchants of Doubt. Do you want a personal clarion call and vision? Read Eaarth, and A Life on Our Planet.

If you want it all, read Saving Us. Like A Life on Our Planet by David Attenborough, Saving Us has brought all of these together in one volume giving the world one of the clearest, most lucid, accessible, straightforward, and honest presentations of the issue of climate change that I have seen. It has synthesized history, science, skepticism, data, psychology, and technology into one cohesive whole. In addition, the balance of each of those subjects is simply impeccable, giving just the right amount so as not to overwhelm, nor perplex the reader. They are woven together into a really logical and beautiful tapestry.

Second, our human consciousness is transitioning to a new era of synthesis, a bringing together of the various multiple facets of our humanity as one. This cultural trend is one that recognizes the power and relevance of both our spiritual and scientific selves, both our individual and collective epistemologies, both our rational and emotional beings, both our left and right cranial hemispheres. Hayhoe in Saving Us does the same, giving all due respect to each, in masterful ways. Bringing our full selves to the table is sometimes not possible when dealing with various disciplines or endeavors. Climate change demands that we do. And Saving Us articulates, not just that we can bring our full selves, but why it is crucial that we do.

Third, as someone who has been in vocational Christian ministry my whole life, Hayhoe’s “faith on display” is exactly how I believe the Christian faith ought to be deployed. She avoids being shy or apologetic, defensively polemical, and even parochial. There is no need to defend her faith, nor deprecate others by it. Her ability to see wisdom and insight from people who do not hold her faith (such as atheists like Peter Boghossian, or Buddhist teachers) is an exemplar of recognizing the mystery and majesty of the divine in the world. And most important, Hayhoe eloquently and powerfully explains why religious values and teachings such as love are a necessary component of human behavior that directly affects climate change. In other words, faith is not a mere private experience. Faith is the fullness of our humanity in how we live. And how we live will manifest itself in what happens in our world. We cannot—we must not—discount religious beliefs as a powerful ally and pathway for climate solutions.

Fourth, while the subject matter of Saving Us is primarily about climate change, the lessons and insights are universally true and will find application to the rest of our human endeavors. In other words, reading Saving Us will make you a better human being. Much like Justin Lee’s Talking Across The DivideSaving Us will open your minds and hearts to yourself and others in a way that will transform how you navigate this complex world of disparate human psychologies.

Last, I can honestly recommend this book to anyone and everyone. Not only is it true that climate change is the most important issue of our day, affecting every human being on the planet, but this presentation rises above the vitriolic, contemptuous, dismissive, divisive, tribal, partisan, and disdainful rhetoric that often characterizes our public discourse, and kindly—and forcefully—invites us all in to participate. Everyone can find themselves in this book.

Thank you @KHayhoe for this extraordinary gift. I’m now going to go talk about it some more. 😉



Increasingly, Americans who identify themselves as either Democrats or Republicans view one another less as fellow citizens and more as enemies who represent a profound threat to their identities. — Beyond Conflict Institute’s 2020 report, America’s Divided Mind

I’m convinced that the single most important thing that anyone—not just me, but literally anyone—can do to bring people together is, ironically, the very thing we fear most. Talk about it. (xi)

| Why are people not talking about something that matters to them so much? (xi)

the biggest challenge we face isn’t science denial. It’s a combination of tribalism, complacency, and fear. (xi)

The Beyond Conflict Institute’s report also shows that people perceive that “the other side” disagrees with them far more than is actually the case. So instead of reacting to something you disagree with, what if you started a conversation bout something you agree on? What if you asked questions rather than arguing? What if you shared, genuinely and personally, how climate change threatens what you care about? And what if you talked about practical, real-world solutions that are already available today? (xii)

The bottom line is this. To care about climate change, you only need to be one thing, and that’s a person living on planet Earth who wants a better future. Chances are, you’re already that person—and so is everyone else you know. (xii)


1 Democrats and Dismissives

It is a common folk theory…that facts will set you free. — George Lakoff, Don’t Think of an Elephant!


…people [in the U.S.] who identify with either of the two main political parties increasingly hate and fear the other party and the people in it. — Greg Lukianoff and Jonathan Haidt, The Coddling of the American Mind: How Good Intentions and Bad Ideas Are Setting Up a Generation for Failure


cf. Global Warming’s Six Americas

Take the Six Americas Super Short surveY (SASSY!):



We often believe that “if we just tell people the facts, since people are basically rational beings, they’ll all reach the right conclusions,” cognitive linguist George Lakoff explains. But that’s not the way we humans think. Instead, we think in what he calls “frames.” Frames are cognitive structures that determine how we see the world. When we encounter facts that don’t fit our frame, it’s the frame that stays while “the facts are either ignored, dismissed, [or] ridiculed.” (9)

[via: Other words might be “lenses,” “perspectives,” “worldviews,” et. al.]


Research on everything from airplane seatbelts to hand washing in hospitals shows that bad-news warnings are more likely to make people check out than change their behavior. And the more vivid and dire the picture painted, the less responsive the recipient. “Fear and anxiety [can] cause us to withdraw, to freeze, to give up, rather than take action [Tali Sharot, The Influential Mind.] (10)

Start with something you have in common. Connect it to why climate change matters to us personally—not the human race in its entirety or the Earth itself, but rather us as individuals. Climate change affects nearly everything that we already care about. It will make us and our children less healthy, our communities less prosperous, and our world less stable. (11)

Then, describe what people can and are doing to fix it. There are all kinds of solutions, from cutting our own food waste to powering buses with garbage to using solar energy to transform the lives of some of the poorest people in the world. There are solutions that clean up our air and our water, grow local economies, encourage nature to thrive, and leave us all better off, not worse. Who doesn’t want that? (11)

By bonding over the values we truly share, and by connecting them to climate, we can inspire one another to act together to fix this problem. But it all begins with understanding who we already are, and what we already care about—because chances are, whatever that is, it’s already being affected by climate change, whether we know it or not. (11)

[via: *Sigh. This complexity and paradox of our human psychology is so slow compared to the time frame in which we need to take physical action. Yet, we really have no other choice but to leverage the very best understanding we have of human psychology, and bring that to bear for our natural world.]

2 Who I Am

Climate change public communication and engagement efforts must start with the fundamental recognition that people are different and have different psychological, cultural, and political reasons for acting. — Tony Leiserowitz and Ed Maibach, Global Warming’s Six Americas 2009.

I’ve become truly convinced that nearly everyone already has the values they need to care about the future of our world, even if they’re not the same as mine or yours. And if they don’t think they care, it’s because they just haven’t connected the dots. … Climate action, in fact, can be an even more genuine expression of their identity and their values than inaction or denial would be. (13)

Scientists have counted over 26,500 independent lines of evidence…showing that yes, the planet is warming. It’s the truth. (14)

…to figure out where to open a discussion, take inventory of who you are and what you might have in common with others you know and meet. If you don’t know what matters to them, ask. Then listen carefully to what they say. (15)






Failing to care about climate change is a failure to love. What is more Christian than to be good stewards of the planet and love our global neighbor as ourselves? (19)


…sharing our personal and lived experiences is far more compelling than reeling off distant facts. Connect who we are to why we care. Bond with someone over a value we already possess and share, one that is already near and dear to our heaerts. (19)

3 Who You Are

The environment is where we all meet, where we all have a mutual interest; it is the one thing all of us share. It is not only a mirror of ourselves, but a focusing lens on what we can become. — Lady Bird Johnson

Our vintage 1969 Ford Bronco…

[via: Hey, I also drove a 1969 Ford Bronco!]








Depending on who you are, whom you’re talking to, and what you both care about, there are all kinds of approaches that will work for you. The only condition is that you have to be genuine. Don’t pretend to be something you’re not. (31)


To put it another way, none of us cares about climate change because a two-degree or three-degree or even a four-degree increase in the average temperature of the planet matters to us personally. I don’t even care for that reason, and I’m a climate scientist. We care because the cascade of events triggered by that warming affects everything we already care about: where we get the food that we eat and how much it costs; how clean or dirty the air that we breathe is; the economy and national security; hunger, disease, (32) and poverty across the planet; the future of civilization as we know it. (33)

This is why, to care about a changing climate, we don’t have to change anyone’s values or try to transform them into anything other than who they already are. We just need to be people who want this planet to continue to be a safe, hospitable home for us all. (33)

| And to share this message effectively, we need to bring our hearts to the table, not just our heads. (33)


4 The Facts Are the Facts

The truth does not change according to our ability to stomach it. — Flannery O’Connor

Scientific-sounding objections are the number one type of objection we hear when people want to argue about climate change. (38)

Scientists call these “zombie arguments.” They just won’t die, no matter how often or how thoroughly they’re debunked. And because they won’t die, it’s clear that, when it comes to climate change, you do have to be able to talk about some of the science. (38)

But as Ronald Reagan said, “If you’re explaining, you’re losing.” So the key when these zombie arguments surface is to have an answer, but to keep it short. Acknowledge the objection, and provide a brief response. Then pivot promptly to connecting over shared values rather than divisive arguments, from the heart rather than the head. (39)


The Earth’s climate is complex. Understanding what we humans are doing to it isn’t. (39)

Global warming isn’t real because I was cold today. Also great news: World hunger is over because I just ate. — Stephen Colbert, 2014


Joseph Fourier was the first to identify our planet’s natural blanket, in the 1820s. In 1856, Eunice Foote…proposed that if carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere were higher, the planet would be much warmer. (40)

[via: Here’s Eunice Foote’s original paper.]

John Tyndall…was inventing the delicate scientific instruments needed to measure precisely how much heat was absorbed by carbon dioxide and “coal gas” (primarily methane). By the late 1800s, scientists (40) could calculate exactly how much the planet would warm as carbon dioxide in the atmosphere increased. By the 1930s, British engineer Guy Callendar could actually measure how temperature had changed since the 1880s due to burning fossil fuels. (41)

Within a few short centuries, we are returning to the air a significant part of the carbon that was extracted by plants and buried in the sediments during half a billion years. … By the year 2000 the increase in CO2 will be close to 25 percent [relative to pre-industrial times]. This may be sufficient to produce measurable and perhaps marked changes in climate. — Proceedings, American Philosophical Society (vol. 114, No. 1, 1970)

…1987, United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) was formed, and in 1990 they released the first of their now six exhaustive and ever-expanding assessment reports. (41)

The Earth Summit was held in Rio de Janeiro in 1992. Nearly every country in the world, including the U.S., signed the resulting U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change [UNFCCC]. … Not until the Paris climate conference in 2015 was the world able to agree to keep “global temperature rise this century well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase even further to 1.5 degrees Celsius.” (41)


Just as a responsible and knowledgeable physician would first rule out all common causes of a persistent low-grade fever—infection? autoimmune disease? cancer?—so, too, have scientists rigorously examined and tested all other reasons why climate could be changing naturally. That’s why we’re so sure it’s humans this time: because natural factors all have an alibi. (42)


…the little Ice Age from the 1400s to the 1800s, the Sun’s energy was slightly below average. (43)

Since the 1970s, satellite radiometer data show that the Sun’s energy has been decreasing. (43)


When volcanoes erupt, they expel vast clouds of sulfur dioxide into the atmosphere. These molecules combine with water vapor to create sulfuric acid “aerosols.” (43)

…1815…Mount Tambora…

But natural geologic emissions amount to around 1 percent of the carbon dioxide and less than 15 percent of the methane that human activities contribute to the atmosphere every year. (44)


Over time, the varying gravitational pull of the larger planets stretches the Earth’s orbit around the Sun from a circle to an ellipse and back again. The axis of Earth’s own rotation also wobbles like a top. (44) …their cumulative effect creates cycles of about one hundred thousand years… (45)


Natural cycles can’t create heat out of nothing. Rather, they help distribute energy around the planet by moving heat between the ocean and the atmosphere, or from east to west, and back again. They warm one part of the planet while simultaneously cooling another. (45)

During El Niño…the ocean releases heat into the atmosphere, which slightly raises the average global air temperature. (45)

In contrast, during a La Niña…cooler-than-average waters in the tropical Pacific absorb more heat from (45) the atmosphere. (46)

During the so-called Medieval Warm Period, temperatures over the North Atlantic were about half a degree to one degree Celsius warmer than average for several centuries. (46)


…the most likely amount of warming humans are responsible for is more than 100 percent. How…? Because according to natural factors, the planet should be cooling, not warming. We are the cause of all of the observed warming—and then some. (47)

Before the dawn of the Industrial Revolution, carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere averaged around 280 parts per million (ppm),… Now…420 ppm. … And the last time climate warmed at a similar pace to today was some 55 million years ago, during what scientists term the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum. That’s when global temperatures rose by 5 to 8°C (9-14°F) over about one hundred thousand years, and sea level was over sixty meters (two hundred feet) higher than today. … Today, it’s estimated that we are currently emitting carbon into the atmosphere at ten times the pace of the natural emissions that drove this previous change. (47)

| What is the best temperature for humans? Neither hotter nor colder: it’s the Goldilocks temperature we’ve had up until now. (47)

5 The Problem with Facts



knowledge deficit model: the idea that, if people disagree with some fact or scientific explanation, it’s because they don’t know enough. (52)

“ordinary science intelligence.” It measures how capable people are of understanding data, statistics, probabilities, and scientific results. [This measure refers specifically to general scientific knowledge and analytical capabilities, not climate-specific knowledge. People who score high on climate-specific knowledge do tend to be more concerned about climate change.] (52)

It turns out that being better able to handle quantitative information and understand science in general doesn’t make you more accepting of thorny, politically polarized scientific topics with moral implications that require a response; it just makes you better able to cherry-pick the information you need to validate what you already believe. … The term for this is motivated reasoning: an emotionally driven process of selecting and processing information with the goal of confirming what you already believe rather than informing your opinions or perspective. Which may beg the question—why did you pick up this book? (53)


When we want to believe something, psychologist Thomas Gilovich says, we ask ourselves “Can I believe it?” and we search for supporting evidence. When we don’t want to believe something, we ask “Must I believe it?” and we search for contrary evidence. We all engage in this type of motivated reasoning when our identity is on the line, even when the stakes are relatively low. The smarter we are, the better we are—or so the social science warns us—at using motivated reasoning to defend our opinions and preserve our self-worth and identity. (54)


If rejecting climate change is part of what we believe makes us a good person, then we don’t interpret arguments to the contrary as “you’re wrong.” Rather, we hear them saying “you’re a bad person.” And no one likes to hear that. It tends to make us double down on our denial in a kind of backfire effect. (56)


There’s a term for this: nearly all of us are cognitive misers. In other words, we look for solutions that take the least thought. And to do that, we often rely on what others think. (58)

If we give people new information that contradicts their frame, what they believe, and what their tribe adheres to, their brains just turn off. Even worse, she says, “because we are often exposed to contradicting information and opinions, this tendency will generate polarization, which will expand with time as people receive more and more information.” (59)


6 The Fear Factor


…the systematic tendency of climate models to underestimate temperature change during warm paleoclimates suggests that climate models are more likely to underestimate than to overestimate the amount of long-term future change. — “Potential Surprises”

So yes: as a scientist it is my considered opinion that there is a very good and entirely objective reason to be afraid. But as a human I believe it’s what we do with that fear that makes all the difference. (65)


First, sharing factually scary information can be an important first step for people who are complacent, who don’t think climate change poses a serious threat—or is even real. (65)

Second, fear works well when coupled with uncertainty to induce inaction rather than action. This explains why those who oppose climate action use fear-laden messaging and why they devote such a great deal or effort to try to cast doubt. …we assign a much greater cost to things being taken away from us than we do to obtaining new things. (66)

Third, communicating scary information can also be effective when we’re functioning as the “ideal man” envisioned by Plato. If we are making decisions rationally, with emotion following after we’ve processed the information, then scary facts will cause us to seek a solution rather than to shut down. …the fourth situation in which fear-based messaging can work: if we do know what to do. (66)


…if negative news about climate change is immediately followed with information explaining how individuals, communities, businesses, or governments can reduce the threat, then this information can empower rather than discourage us. Sometimes we are even able to do this ourselves, internally. (66)


If we are overexposed to fear-based messages, we can become desensitized. Moreover, there’s little evidence that, in and of themselves, they are effective at sustaining long-term action. Rather, fear-based messaging can trigger awareness of our own mortality, invoking our finely tuned package of defenses against the notion of considering our own death—distraction, denial, and rationalization. (69)


To be human is to be a bundle of contradictions—and to have an aversion to anxiety. “We do not accept climate change because we wish to avoid the anxiety it generates,” George Marshall writes in his book Don’t Even Think About It: Why Our Brains Are Wired to Ignore Climate Change.

The human brain is built to associate ‘forward’ action with a reward, not with avoiding harm, because that is often the most useful response. We’re more likely to execute an action when we are antici-(69)paying something good than when we are anticipating something bad” And fear also hampers our ability to think creatively. (70)

When the body releases stress chemicals, the brain shuts down the hippocampus region and you lose about 30 percent of your brain function, including the creative thinking faculties. Fear and doom shut down your brain capacity for creative thinking. Vision and optimism super boost it. — katie Patrick

Anger that sinks into despair is powerless to make a change. Anger that evolves into conviction is unstoppable. — Christiana Figueres

If people aren’t worried about climate change, they should be. (71)

| But if we don’t immediately connect those fears to people’s everyday lived experiences and provide viable and appealing options for dealing with the threat, all too often what happens is exactly the opposite: people disengage or get angry. And if that weren’t bad enough, these fear-based information dumps can stimulate another equally two-edged emotion—guilt. (71)

7 The Guilt Complex

…how we judge ourselves and how others judge us is directly linked to our sense of self. (73)

When we do what’s right and good in our eyes, we feel good. When we judge others and put them down, we feel even better (we are righteous and they aren’t!). … Shaming is a zero-sum game. One person wins only at the expense of another. (74)



cf. The Opower experiment [here, here]

…a follow-on analysis tracking long-term customer behavior found that “households that were politically conservative and that used more electricity than the norm, did not donate to an environmental organization, and did not pay for renewable energy” increased their electricity usage after they got similar information on their bill. If we think we’re being shamed into doing something, it makes us feel—or sometimes even do—exactly the opposite. (778)

…Rebecca Huntley calls the “Puritan ethos of disapproval”… But there is an alternative: showing someone that action can make you feel good. Studies have shown how anticipating the pride of making a choice is much more motivating than our guilt at failing to do so. (78) … When we can’t control those we really want to…we turn our fear on others and use shame to try and control them instead. (78)


I don’t blame anyone for wanting absolution. … But underneath all that is a far more insidious force. It’s the narrative that has both driven and obstructed the climate change conversation for the past several decades. It tells us climate change could have been fixed if we had all just ordered less takeout, used fewer plastic bags, turned off some more lights, planted a few trees, or driven an electric car. It says that if those adjustments can’t do the trick, what’s the point?

The belief that this enormous, existential problem could have been fixed if all of us had just tweaked our consumptive habits is not only preposterous; it’s dangerous. It turns environmentalism into an individual choice defined as sin or virtue, convicting those who don’t or can’t uphold these ethics. When you consider that the same IPCC report outlined that the vast majority of global greenhouse gas emissions come from just a handful of corporations — aided and abetted by the world’s most powerful governments, including the US — it’s victim blaming, plain and simple.

When people come to me and confess their green sins, as if I were some sort of eco-nun, I want to tell them they are carrying the guilt of the oil and gas industry’s crimes. That the weight of our sickly planet is too much for any one person to shoulder. And that that blame paves the road to apathy, which can really seal our doom. — Mary Annaise Heglar, “I work in the environmental movement. I don’t care if you recycle.”



Interestingly, neuroscience, psychology, philosophy, and religion all point to the same solution, albeit from different perspectives. (81)

| First, we do need to know what’s happening. And it should make us—not panicked—but seriously concerned. (82)

But second, we need to know that we can fix it. … If our brain is hardwired to move forward toward a reward but to freeze in response to fear and anxiety, as Tali Sharot explains it, then to spur ourselves and each other to action we must provide a positive incentive to act, not just an apocalypse to avoid. (82)

| And third, our burgeoning awareness or knowledge of what’s “good” versus “evil” also needs to be able to offer a clear and legitimate pathway to alleviating our guilt. (82)

cf. Don’t Even Think About It: How Our Brains Are Wired to Ignore Climate Change, by George Marshall


So how do we move beyond fear or shame? By acting from love, I believe. Love starts with speaking truth: making people fully aware of the risks and the choices they face in a manner that is relevant and practical to them. But it also offers compassion, understanding, and acceptance: the opposite of guilt and shame. Love bolsters our courage, too; what will we not do for those and that we love? And finally, it opens the door to that most ephemeral and sought after of emotions, hope. (83)


8 A Faraway Threat

We care about the polar bears because they’re showing us what’s going to happen to us. If we don’t heed their warning, we’re next. — Steve Amstrup



This very human tendency to ignore certain types of threat is called psychological distance. It’s part of a theory that posits that the further away something is from us—in time, or physical distance, or social relevance—the more abstract and unimportant we will consider it to be. In contrast, the closer something is to us, the more concrete and more relevant it appears. (90)


Climate change falls prey to nearly all the types of distancing explained by this theory. (90)

Then there’s the issue of actual distance, in space and time. People often think of climate change as something that happens to people and places far away:… (91)

And finally, there’s the issue of social relevance. Global warming is often perceived as a niche issue. (91)

The Yale Program on Climate Communication… As of 2020, over 70 percent of people in the U.S. agree that global warming is happening and that it will harm plants and animals… Sixty-five percent of people agree global warming will harm people in developing countries (who live far away) and 61 percent even say that it will harm people in the U.S. (who are not them). But when the Yale researchers ask “Do you think climate change will harm you personally?” the percentage drops precipitously, to a mere 43 percent. Somehow, the majority of us imagine that climate change will affect the world we live in, people far away, even our grandchildren and our neighbors, but not us. [Yale Climate Opinion Maps 2020] (91)




9 Here and Now

Ours is the first generation to deeply understand the damage we have been doing to our planetary household, and probably the last generation with the chance to do something transformative about it. And we know full well, as an international community, that we have the technology, know-how, and financial means to end extreme poverty in all its forms should we collectively choose to make that happen. — Kate Raworth, Doughnut Economics



Forty percent of people in the U.S. live in coastal communities.

[via: This number felt a bit high, but not by much. According to the US Census Bureau, July 23, 2020, that number was ~29 percent. Not insignificant.]




There’s a name for the mental existential distress of our environment being changed in unwelcome ways. It’s solastalgia,… (105)


Climate change isn’t a future issue. It is here and now, for all of us. (106)

10 No Time to Waste

You don’t have to know where we’ll end up. You just have to know what path we’re on. — Kim Cobb

Trying to put a number on exactly how much global temperature change is “dangerous”—and how much carbon we can put into the atmosphere before we hit that level—is like trying to put a number on exactly how many cigarettes we can smoke before we develop lung cancer. (109)

cf. “On the Influence of Carbonic Acid in the Air upon the Temperature of the Ground.”


The reason we can’t put exact dates or figures on risks is not because scientists don’t have a good idea of what the impacts will be at different levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. It’s because different people assess risk differently and are differentially vulnerable to climate impacts. (111)

| So, the magic number? It’s as low as we can go. As far as we humans are concerned, the perfect temperature for us is the temperature we’ve already had for the past few thousand years. (111)

Every bit of warming matters. Every year matters and every choice matters. — Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5 Degrees


The concept that we have a choice to make is surprisingly new. Back in the 1990s, nearly all regional and sectoral climate assessments treated climate impacts as essentially inevitable. (112)

This view isn’t just unhelpful—it’s wrong. Why? If disaster isn’t inevitable, and we can do something about, understanding the difference our choices make becomes absolutely critical. This simple concept is the key to everything I do, and everything I talk about in this book. (113)

| What are our choices? …we have three of them. We can reduce the heat-trapping gas emissions that are causing climate to change; we can build resilience and prepare to adapt to the changes that we can’t avoid; or we can suffer. (113)

So while localized information on how impacts affect us helps people understand why climate change matters, it’s essential to pair this information with an understanding of how our actions matter, how impacts depend on the carbon emissions we produce. (113)


It turns out that for our modern world, the difference between a higher versus a lower emissions future is nothing less than the survival of our civilization. (115)

11 The Sickness and the Cure

Stephen and I are old friends. But fixing climate change is a doddle in the park compared to terraforming Mars. — Martin Rees, responding to Stephen Hawking’s talk suggesting humans will have to populate a new planet to survive climate change.


There is no backup planet in the wings; whether we like it or not, this is our world. That’s why, when it comes to our choices, it isn’t only about avoiding the worst: it’s also about making our planet a better place to live. And nowhere is the contrast between the risk of inaction and the reward of action more evident than when it comes to our health. (119)

The health benefits of climate solutions are profound, nearly immediate, and local—which in turn helps to address the psychological conundrum of climate change being perceived as distant. Climate solutions are health solutions; and not just in the distant future, but today, here, for us. They pay for themselves almost immediately, so their future benefits are essentially free. — Ed Maibach


cf. “Heat and Violence” by Craig Anderson

Air pollution from burning fossil fuels is responsible for nearly 9 million premature deaths per year. …the World Health Organization (WHO) has called air pollution the “single largest environmental health risk” facing humanity; and climate (120) change only makes it worse. (121)

…just as scary are new findings on how air pollution harms our brains. It can increase the risk of dementia and other neurodegenerative disorders that so many older adults experience. It can also affect the newly developing brains and nervous systems of babies before they are born, delaying or impairing cognitive development and increasing risk for autism. (121)


Warmer air holds more water vapor, allowing storms to pick up more moisture. This increases the risk of heavy rain events and exacerbates floods. … Every year, some 3 million people across the globe already die due to waterborne illness, which can be caused by bacteria, viruses, or parasites. Diarrhea alone kills 2 million people, a quarter of whom are children under five, according to the WHO. (123)

cf. Sanergy; Sulabh International


An Oxfam report estimates that climate-fueled disasters are already displacing some 20 million people each year,… (125)


The Oxford Dictionary defines eco-anxiety as “extreme worry about current and future harm to the environment caused by human activity and climate change.” It adds that it is not considered to be a mental disorder since it is a “rational response to current climate science reporting.” I understand; I don’t read “cli-fi” (fiction based on apocalyptic climate scenarios) for the same reason. Reality is bad enough; I don’t need more of it. (126)

I care very deeply about what’s happening, but I feel like my actions are insignificant. And I don’t know where to start. – Renée Lertzman

But accepting who you are and what you feel is a first step. (126) The next is to connect with others, support one another, and raise your voices together. … Again, impacts and solutions go hand in hand. (127)


Climate change touches every single one of the issues that fill the headlines: public health concerns, food security, humanitarian crises, resource scarcity, the economy, and the impact of disasters on our cities and infrastructure. (127)

While they affect every single one of us, it’s the most vulnerable, most marginalized, and most disempowered people who tend to be hurt first and worst. … Those most at risk are those who have already lost the most. (127)

We don’t have the luxury of tackling one crisis at a time. COVID-19, climate change, and systematic racism represent converging crises that need to be tackled in unison. — 2020 Lancet Countdown

The bottom line is this: climate change is not only a science issue. It is not “just” an environmental issue. It is a health issue, a food issue, a water issue, and an economic issue. It’s an issue of hunger, and a poverty, and of justice. It’s a human issue. (128)

…we arrive at a simple yet potentially revolutionary realization: getting people to care about a changing climate doesn’t require them to adopt “new” values. Gone is the burden of inspiring people to “care” about deforestation and melting ice caps. No need to teach them to hug a tree, respect a polar bear (hugging not advisable), or throw themselves into recycling. And good-bye to partisan divides. (128)

Preservation of our environment is not a partisan challenge; it’s common sense. Our physical health, our social happiness, and our economic well-being will be sustained only by all of us working in partnership as thoughtful, effective stewards of our natural resources. — President Ronald Reagan, 1984

We humans are the reason why climate is changing, but that also means our future is in our hands. (128)

[via: If I had to nitpick, the idea that we don’t have to change “values,” is one that I perhaps would quibble with. Conceding, and agreeing with the point that she makes above, I would add and nuance the reality that human values are fundamentally the source of the behaviors—in full coordination with our social psychology, of course—that have gotten us into this mess. We have had over a century to consider shifting those values, and yet, we kept leaning into the values of growth, extraction, entitlement, superiority, in conjunction with our view of nature as a mere product/machine, and wealth, status, and hierarchy as of ultimate worth. These are values that must change to sustain a thriving human civilization into the future. This is why the work of Kate Raworth’s Doughnut Economics is so important, as well as Jeremy Lent’s most recent book The Web of Meaning.]


12 Why We Fear Solutions



Our collective threat meter is unbalanced. In fact, sometimes it’s tipped all the way in the wrong direction. Even people who agree that climate is changing due to human causes still see the impacts as distant and far off. But that’s only half the problem. The other half is that they view the threat from potential climate solutions as imminent. They believe government’s and society’s attempts to address climate change will decrease their quality of life, pummel the economy, and comprise their personal rights. (134)

[via: “proximity effect.”]

| The concept that much of the resistance to climate change is really a rejection of what people perceive to be unpleasant or unpalatable solutions is known as solution aversion. … Through experimenting with people’s reactions, they found that “the source of this motivation [i.e. the negative attitudes of more conservative voters] is not necessarily an aversion to the problem, per se, but an aversion to the solutions associated with the problem.” In other words, Republicans didn’t have a problem with climate science (though they might think they did); they had a problem with climate solutions. (134)

[via: This point is really, really important to understand!]

…the circuits in our brain that register fear of what we might lose as a result of climate solutions build a direct connection to the circuits that say it isn’t real. Why? Because saying “it’s not real” is our defense mechanism. Admitting that climate change is real and harmful but you don’t want to do anything to address it makes you the “bad guy,” and who wants that? As I’ve said before, most of us want to believe we’re a good person. (135)

…if you can convince yourself it’s someone else’s fault, you imagine this will somehow make you feel okay about it at their expense. … That’s why many Dismissives are so combative; they’re constantly in search of confirmation. Arguing, perversely, supplies it. (136)


cf. Carbon Majors Report, Climate Accountability Institute

…one hundred fossil fuel companies have been responsible for emitting 70 percent of the world’s heat-trapping gases since 1988. And even more tellingly, the top eight of them—in order: Saudi Aramco, Chevron, ExxonMObil, BP, Gazprom, Royal Dutch Shell, National Iranian Oil (136) Co., and Petroleos Mexicanos—have accounted for almost 20 percent of global carbon emissions from fossil fuels and cement production since the Industrial Revolution. Not only that, but most of the eight top the list of the world’s richest corporations as well. They’ve gotten rich at the expense of everyone who’s being impacted by climate change—and at least some of them want to keep it that way. (137)

Exxon knew about climate change half a century ago. They deceived the public, misled their shareholders, and robbed humanity of a generation’s worth of time to reverse climate change. — #ExxonKnew

cf. Merchants of Doubt by Naomi Oreskes, Erik Conway; Climate Cover-up: The Crusade to Deny Global Warming by Jim Hoggan



cf. Mitch Hescox, coal executive turned pastor who now leads the Evangelical Environmental Network

…Mitch refers to climate change as a “pro-life” issue. If Christians are truly pro-life from conception to death (rather than from conception to birth, as some people’s attitudes seem to suggest), they should be leading the charge to get rid of fossil fuels—not dragging their feet at the back or heading int he other direction. (140)

cf. Noel Healy; Emem Edoho

So what are the solutions? One of the most surprising is educating and empowering women and girls. (141)

As Christians, I concluded my talk, our response to any challenge should be characterized by love. Jesus says, “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples,” and the apostle Paul amplifies this, instructing his readers that “the only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.” Love is key to acting on climate: caring for the poor and the needy, those most affected by the impacts of a changing climate, as well as creation itself. It’s not only our responsibility, it’s who Christians believe God made us to be. (142)

13 Carbon and the Common Good

Back when the number of humans could be measured in hundreds of thousands, even millions, the planet was, for all intents and purposes, infinite. (143)

Over time, the planet stayed the same. Humans, on the other hand, expanded exponentially. (143)


The fundamental concept of a “commons” as a shared resource was introduced by economist William Forester Lloyd in 1833. It wasn’t popularized, though, until 1968 when another economist, Garrett Hardin, coined the phrase “tragedy of the commons” to describe what would happen if people exploited a shared resource such as common grazing land guided only by self-interest. His point was that our planet is a similarly shared space, but that we had failed to recognize that it also has limits. (144)

In 2009, economist Elinor Ostrom received the Nobel Memorial Prize for showing that real-life commons can be, and in fact often are, managed effectively without need for top-down regulation. The resources need to be well defined… (144) …and managed by a local community who understand the risk of depleting that resource. (145)

| In the case of the planet, however, and humanity’s carbon emissions, these conditions are difficult to meet. When the commons is not well defined (which it isn’t in this case, because the “commons” essentially includes this entire planet) and is not managed by a tight-knit community that understands what it has to lose by mismanaging its resources (which it isn’t, because the “community” in this case includes everyone), its sustainable management often requires formal regulations. (145)


…how did the simple issues of environmental protection, pollution prevention, and climate change become so polarized? (145)

cf. The Loss of Nature and the Rise of Pandemics, World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF)

But because we’re not paying directly for our personal exploitation of the environment, our pollution of the air, water, and soil, the accumulation of millions of tons of plastic waste in the oceans each year, and our heat-trapping gas emissions, we each individually lack the incentive to reduce our impact on the global commons that is the Earth. So is it any surprise that there is such a rancorous, ideological reaction to solutions that, by definition, require collective action? If we can’t see the risks clearly and up close, why would we act? (146)


…there’s at least one person who says, “Well, there’s an obvious solution—population control.” … But, as Betsy Hartmann points out in her classic Reproductive Rights and Wrongs: The Global Politics of Population Control, “high birth rates are often a distress signal that peole’s survival is in danger.” It’s poverty and patriarchy that are responsible for high birth rates, she argues, not the other way around. As women’s status improves, birth rates fall. (147)

Overconsumption by the rich has far more to do with climate change than population growth of the poor. The countries where birth rates remain relatively high have among them the lowest carbon emissions per capita on the planet. – Hartman

cf. the ecological footprint, developed by Mathis Wackernagel and William Rees

People in Canada and the U.S., for example, have an average ecological footprint of around 8 global hectares. The average Australian is a 7, the average Brit is a 4. (147) … In China, they average 3.7; in India, 1.2; and peopl ein countries like Pakistan, Mozambique, and Malawi, less than 1. If everyone in the world lived like the average North American, we would need five planet Earths to suppor them. As it is, we are already running at a global deficit of 1.1 global hectares per person, using up resources faster than they can be replaced. That’s the very definition of “unsustainable.” (148)

The average American emits about 16 metric tons of carbon dioxide into the Earth’s atmosphere annually. Australians…17 tons per year,…Canadians…16 tons… This represents about four times the global average. It’s the amount of carbon dioxide that would be emitted by driving a midsized car one and a half times around the circumference of the planet (60,000 km or nearly 37,000 miles, for reference) once each calendar year. It’s the same amount that would be generated by three people living in the U.K., wehre per capita emissions average 5.5 tons per year, or by twenty-four people in Zimbabwe, and more than forty people living in Yemen today. All told, according to Oxfam, the richest 10 percent of people in the world are responsible for over 50 percent of global emissions. The richest 1 percent produce twice as much carbon as the poorest 50 percent.And the biggest singel institutional consumer of fossil fuels in the world? It’s the U.S. military. (148)


In 2005, the individual carbon part of the footprint was extracted and popularized by a British Petroleum (BP) advertising campaign. It included a tool you could use to measure your (not their) carbon footprint, and what a success it was!

Individual cohoices control at most 40 percent of emissions in wealthy countries. If you assume that the 28 percent of the people in the U.S. who are Alamred about climate change are willing—and financially able—to cut their carbon footprint in half, that would mean to more than a 6 percent drop in U.S. emissions. Add in everyone who’s Concerned, and you can get to 10 percent, maybe. So it’s hard to see BP’s move as anything but cold-blooded in the extreme: inducing guilt in the public so we’ll be too busy blaming ourselves and one another to notice while the richest companies in the world continue to grow their bottom line at the planet’s expense. (149)

In 2020, they [BP] became the first major oil and gas company to announce a carbon-neutral goal by 2050.

[via: I still don’t believe it, but yet, here it is!]

If human population were somehow, heaven forbid, reduced to only 10 percent of its current level, but those were the 10 richest in the world (as Hardin’s “lifeboat ethics” would argue) and the fossil fuel industry continued on their current trajectory, we wouldn’t even cut carbon emissions in half. As appealing as “population control” and personal responsibility can be to some, the math just doesn’t add up. It’s the system we all live in that must change. (150)

[via: Again, only if I were to be nitpicky here, while agreeing with the fundamental point being made; arguably, at some point in population reduction, the actual market that sustains the business of oil production would also decrease. There just simply wouldn’t be as many people purchasing oil as there would be with a higher population, thus conceptually reducing production. Now, is it true that the amount of oil use per person could also increase? Sure. But I’m simply suggesting that calculations have to take into consideration the dynamics of a complex and interwoven system of factors. For example, according to the numbers here, if 10% of the population is approximately 700M people, approximately double the U.S. current population, given that the US is responsible for 15% of the carbon emissions, it would mean that the world would be experiencing ~30% of current emissions, a 70% reduction at 10% of the population. Now, with that said, let’s recognize this means a reduction of the global population of 90% to get a 70% reduction in emissions. That’s still insanely disproportionate and indicting.]

14 The Climate Potluck

Walking out is not an option. We don’t get to give up. This planet is the only home we’ll ever have. — Mary Annaïse Heglar, All We Can Save


…how do you enforce a global target? (152)

The first resort is often peer pressure and shaming. (152)

Peer pressure and shaming can be effective, under two conditions that are just as true of countries as they are of individuals. First, does the opinion of those applying the pressure matter to those being pressured? And second, do those being pressured believe there are viable ways for them to do what’s being asked of them? …unfortunately, in the case of many of the most recalcitrant countries, the asnwer to both of those questions above is still largely no. Shame has not caused them to deviate from their course. 9153)

| Another options is to impose economic mechanisms such as border tariffs and sanctions. (153)


cf. We Are Still In; America Is All In


Once a country understands it’s in its own best interest to act, policies to manage the global commons can be legislated, implemented, and enforced much more effectively. … The first is known as “cap and trade,” the second as “carbon pricing.” (155)

cf. the example of sulfur dioxide emissions and acid rain in the 1980s and 1990s (156)


Cap and trade fixes emissions reductions by letting the price of carbon adjust. But it’s also possible to fix the price of carbon, and let emissions adjust. (156)

Carbon taxation is based on the premise that we need to be paying the full cost of using fossil fuels—and we are not. Putting a price on carbon emissions levels playing field for clean energy, can potentially neutralize subsidies, and can even assign a value to removing carbon from the atmosphere. (157)

cf. Pigouvian tax [“A Pigouvian tax, named after 1920 British economist Arthur C. Pigou, is a tax on a market transaction that creates a negative externality, or an additional cost, borne by individuals not directly involved in the transaction. Examples include tobacco taxes, sugar taxes, and carbon taxes. — Tax Foundation]

Today, simply due to existing regulations, the U.S. already effectively operates with a carbon price of $17 per ton. In Canada, which has explicit carbon pricing legislation, carbon is currently priced at $40 Cdn per ton, and will increase by $15 Cdn per year starting in 2022. Globally, the average price is just $2 per ton. (157)

Nordhaus’s model estimated an appropriate cost of $40 per ton would be enough to prevent dangerous levels of climate change, but that was in 1992. …Weitzman and Wagner write…there is literally no way to get a carbon price that’s less than $100 per ton—and many analyses come up with far higher numbers. (157)

Nordhaus’s model implicitly assumes that climate damages are worse when we are richer, and that we should start low and cinrease the price of carbon over time. But what if climate change makes us poorer every step of the way? — Gernot Wagner, author of Climate Shock


A comprehensive analysis comparing the CO2 emissions of forty-three countries that have some sort of carbon price at the national or subnational level with ninety-nine countries that don’t have one showed that carbon pricing slowed emissions’ average annual growth rate by about 2 percent. For each dollar increase in the cost of carbon, the country’s emissions growth rate decreased by about 0.25 percent. (158)

Here’s the problem, though: unless every country participates, legislation that cuts fossil fuel demand, therefore lowers prices, can (159) indirectly encourage nonregulated countries to up their consumption. German economist Hans-Werner Sinn calls this “the green paradox,” … (160)

[via: Part of the reason I mentioned above a change of values may truly be needed. In a capitalist, balance-sheet ethic, taking advantage of the responsbility of others (the “free-rider problem”) will be detrimental to our global health.]

15 Everyone Needs Energy

Energy manage wisely gives us health and wealth; managed unwisely, it makes us sick and poor. — Michael Webber, Power Trip

cf. Solar Sister

cf. Wiigwaasaatig Energy


…thanks to clean energy advances, we can now achieve the same goals without ruining the environment and our health. So while elecricity is a moral necessity—fossil fuels aren’t. (163)

…given how far we’ve now progressed toward clean energy, it’s not only patronizing but frankly colonialist to presume that everyone else has to use coal, too. (163)

So expecting poor countries to develop in exactly the same way (163) as rich nations isn’t what I would consider to be moral. Quite the opposite: instead of enabling them to stand on their own feet and suply their own energy, it’s inviting them to a lifetime of indebtedness to the rich countries who want to sell them fuel. (164)

Today, many developing countries can leapfrog over obsolete technolgies to newer, cleaner forms of energy, just like they’ve already done with cellphone technology. (164)

Yes, we need energy. … But today, for the first time in hundreds of years, fossil fuels don’t have to be the source of it. (164)

…climate change is an opportunity for economic development—an entire energy system has to be redisigned from the wastefulness of the previ-(164)ous century to a much smarter mode of doing things. It’s a great opportunity to improve global collaboration and knowledge sharing and to create a more just society. — Per Espen Stoknes


According to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), fossil fuel use is subsidized to the tune of 6.5 percent of global GDP, or nearly $165,000 USD per second. [Global Fossil Fuel Subsidies Remain Large: AN Update Based on Country-Level Estimates] (165)

One study finds, for example, that the entire U.S. power grid could be transitioned to 90 percent renewable energy by 2035 at no net cost, and with a reduction in average electricity costs of 13 percent. It would also avert $1.2 trillion in health and environmental damages and 85,000 premature deaths. Globally, the International Renewable Energy Agency’s 2019 report on global energy transformation finds that “for every $1 spent for the energy transition, there would be a payoff of between $3 and $7.” The report also points out that as renewable energy would require fewer subsidies than fossil fuels, this amounts to a $10 trillion global savings through 2050. (166)


To reach its full potential, though, a clean electricity sector needs to be paired with two other (166) strategies: good old-fashioned efficiency, because the cheapest form of energy is the energy that you don’t use, and cutting-edge technology that electrifies cars and trucks, home heating, and industrial processes currently powered by other types of fossil fuels. (167)

It’s called “Rewiring America”… (167)


Electricity generation is a no-brainer, but what about other sources of carbon? Industry is responsible for 21 percent of emissions worldwide. (168)

cf. Heliogen’s solar “oven”; CarbonCure; geothermal, nuclear, batteries, etc.


Is it really possible to move to a world of net-zero electricity? It won’t be easy, but the answer is, emphatically, yes. Much of the technology is already in place to get there; what’s lacking now is the will and the investment. (171)

16 Cleaning Up Our Act

cf. Renewable Energy Group, Inc. (REG)


Today, shipping makes up about 2 to 3 percent of (174) the human impact on climate change. Aviation is responsible for an estimated 3 percent as well. (175)

With aviation, only one-third of its warming effect on climate comes from burning jet fuel. The remainder comes primarily from the condensation trails or contrails planes leave in their wake, as water vapor condenses around particulates in the exhaust. (175)

cf. Eviation; EasyJet; Wright Electric

We [in the aviation industry] aren’t doing ourselves any favours by chucking billions of tons of carbon into the air. It’s got to be dealt with. — Tim Clark

The only question is whether it will occur quickly enough to avoid dangerous climate change—and so far, it isn’t. That’s why we need climate (176) policies: to accelerate the transition that is already occurring around the world. (177)


…there’s another benefit to a price on carbon as well. Too much carbon in the atmosphere is bad, but carbon in the soil and biosphere is good. So how can we get it there? Plants are the key. (178)

Project Drawdown estimates that conservation agriculture could sequester a year’s worth of the entire world’s carbon emissions and save farmers somewhere between $2 and $3 trillion in lifetime operational costs. Another year’s worth could be sequestered by protecting indigenous people’s rights to manage their land, and a further one to two years’ worth of emissions through managed grazing and the integration of trees, pasture, and animal forage. Traditional practices, from fire management to agroforestry systems, not only increase carbon in the soil and biosphere but also protect habitat and biodiversity. It’s yet another win-win. (178)


cf. pyrolysis, burning agricultural waste at high temperatures in the absence of oxygen…biochar; SymSoil; lithosphere; synthetic e.coli; direct-air-capture; Carbon Engineering; 1PointFive


[via: What David Attenborough calls “rewilding” the world, a phrase I love.]

cf.; Ant Forest; Africa Forest Carbon Catalyst; Cities4Forests


cf. solar radiation management, or SRM

17 Time to Speed Up

The most important thing an individual can do right now is not be such an individual — Bill McKibben


Working together to make a large-scale improvement in our treatment of the global commons can be incredibly effective, and the divestment movement is a prime example of this. (186)


A significant proportion of fossil fuel reserves need to stay where they are—buried in the ground—to meet the Paris targets. Specifically, up to 80 percent of known coal reserves, 50 percent of gas reserves, and 33 percent of oil reserves will need to remain unburned if the world is to have any hope of meeting the 2°C Paris target. (188)

…the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission released a report stating that “climate change poses a major risk to the stability of the U.S. financial system and to its ability to sustain the American economy … a major concern is what we don’t know.” (188)

…the evidence on climate risk is compelling investors to reassess core assumptions bout modern finance. — Larry Fink


At the global scale, Morgan Stanley estimated that climate-related disasters alone cost the world $650 billion over a three-year period ending in 2018. North America shouldered the majority of those costs, $415 billion, or 0.66 percent of the continent’s combined gross domestic product. (189)

…it put the annual costs of a 2°C warming to the global economy at $5 trillion and a 4°C warming at $23 trillion. (190)


The bottom line is this: Humans have been using fossil fuels for a very long time—all the way back to the coal we were burning in the Middle Ages. While coal, oil, and gas have brought us significant benefits, they (190) have done so at the expense of accumulating a substantial climate debt that is now coming due. At some point, it just makes sense to move on. (191)

John D. Rockefeller, the founder of Standard Oil, moved America out of the whale oil and into petroleum, and we are quite convinced that if he were alive today, as an astute businessman looking out to the future, he would be moving out of fossil fuels and investing in clean, renewable energy. — Stephen Heintz, president of the Rockefeller Fund

This is the challenge that lies before us, and it’s not a small one. In fact, it may well be the biggest fight our civilization has ever faced. In this fight for our future, though, we’re not alone. (191)


18 Why You Matter

cf. Cranky Uncle Vs. Climate Change: How to Respond to Climate Science Deniers;;

Our actions reinforce, depend, and can even irrevocably alter our sense of who we are. Not only that, but what we do changes others, too. And the contagion of seeing others act, says behavioral economist Robert Frank, can spread “more like outbreaks of measles or chicken pox than a process of rational choice.”


Having solar panels on a house hear you, where you could see them and talk to a real live person who had them, it turned out, was the biggest predictor of whether you’d get them yourself. Why? Because it brought down the “cost” of information. You didn’t have to go somewhere to find a new person to talk to; they were right there beside you… (197)

From where I live in West Texas… We get so much sun that, using presently available technology, I’ve calculated you’d need to cover little more than a square area one hundred miles per side with solar photo-voltaics—which would fit easily right between Lubbock and Amarillo—to supply the entire U.S. with electricity. … [Of course you wouldn’t want to generate a whole country’s electricity in one location; this example is just to illustrate the potential of Texas solar and the fact that it’s really not a lot of land we’re talking about.] (198)

cf. Invenergy project

Texas is now the second largest solar producing state in the U.S. (198)

cf. Mission Solar in San Antonio, part of the just transition movement

Yes, solar panels cut my carbon emissions, but they also make me feel empowered, as if what I do matters. They gave me a sense of efficacy. (199)


In 1977, [Albert Bandura] proposed—and proved—that people change their behavior if they feel self efficacy, which he defined (199) as “the belief in one’s capabilities to organize and execute a course of action.” …psychologists refer to it as a cognitive process. …if you think you can do something, like hiring your neighbor’s installer to put some panels on your roof, you’re more likely to. And if you think what you do will make a difference (for example, you’ll save money and feel good about yourself), that’s even better. (200)

…we humans constantly fall victim to the motivation trap, waiting until we feel like it until we act. In fact, [Rubin Khoddam] says, “valued action,” meaning action that is consistent with your values, “comes first,” and motivation follows. (201)


What builds our sense of efficacy when it comes to climate action? Research is still emerging, but the bottom line is pretty intuitive. When you hear or see or learn about what the real solutions look like, and (201) how many of them are already being implemented or will be in the near future, that can increase your efficacy. And when you see someone else do something or find out about something you can do in your personal life…that increases your efficacy, too. (202)

| It’s a true positive feedback cycle. When we feel empowered to act, individually and communally, that makes us not only more likely to act, but to support others who do. It’s a very human response that has been identified again and again around the world. It also inoculates us against despair: young people who are anxious about climate change, one survey found, aren’t paralyzed by it if they are able to act. …the more we do something, the more it matters to us and the more we care. (202)

[via: Sociology calls this “praxis.”]

Collective efficacy is even more important—the idea that together, as a community, we can make a difference. (202)

cf. Citizen’s Climate Lobby (CCL); Marshall Saunders


I used to think that the important people were taking care of the important problems. I don’t think that anymore. — Marshall Saunders

He didn’t necessarily mean that it’s a bad thing. His epiphany was simply that leaders don’t magically fix problems, even when they’re important. What Marshall realized was that ordinary people share the power to fix important things—and indeed, are the best hope of getting things done. (204)

| No matter what our place in society, important problems don’t get (204) fixed until enough ordinary people mobilize to take action. It isn’t only about what we accomplish ourselves: connecting with others imbues us with a stronger sense of collective efficacy and builds a network of like-minded people. Sharing our opinions and actions alters social norms, the informal rules that govern our behavior. This in turn makes us more likely to support politicians who want climate action and policies to reduce carbon emissions, more likely to speak out about the need to climate solutions, and more likely to be in favor of the changes required to address climate change at scale. It’s like knocking over the first domino: action eventually changes us all. (205)

19 What I Do



cf. Broken Arrow Ranch



This guilt-based system of believing our individual choices are what’s needed to save the world will exhaust us. And when we’re exhausted, when we feel like we’ve done everything we can and it still wasn’t enough, it’s more tempting than not to just throw in the towel and, to paraphrase the prophet Isaiah, think “I might as well just eat, drink, take great vacations, and drive a giant SUV, right? If we’re all going down, why not enjoy the trip?”

[via: cf. Isaiah 22, specifically v. 13]

| So if you feel that, remind yourself—as I have to remind myself, too—that what really counts, what really carries the weight, is when we know we can act, and we share that sense of efficacy with others. That’s how social contagion begins. (212)

The most important thing every single one of us can do about climate change is to talk about it—why it matters, and how we can fix it—and use our voices to advocate for change within our sphere of influence. …connecting with one another is how we change ourselves, how we change others, and ultimately, how we change the world. It’s contagious. (213)

20 Why Talking Matters

If norms lead people to silence themselves, status quo can persist. But one day, someone challenges the norm. After that small challenge, others may begin to see what they think. Once that happens, a drip can become a flood. — Cass Sustein, How Change Happens


Talking may sound simple, almost too simple. But here’s the thing: most of us are not doing it. Even people who are alarmed and concerned (216) about climate change tend to “self-silence” on the topic,… (217)

What do we talk about? Things we care about. Our speech is the television screen of our mind, so to speak. It displays what we’re thinking about to others, which in turn connects us to their minds and thoughts. So if we don’t talk about climate change, why would anyone around us know that we care—or begin to care themselves if they don’t already? And if they don’t care, why would they act? (217)

…the most effective communication strategies are based on simple messages, repeated often, by many trusted messengers. — Ed Maibach

What do people pay attention to most? In general, we tend to favor personal stories and experiences over reams of data or facts. In fact, when you hear a story, neuroscientists have found, your brain waves start to synchronize with those of the storyteller. Your emotions follow. And that’s how change happens. (217)


Sharing a story about what an influential or a surprising person or group of people are doing about climate change can be a good conversation starter, and there are plenty to choose from. (218)

COVID will eventually end. There is no vaccine for climate change. — Amanda Millstein


But even with all that we know and all the passion we have about this topic, we scientists aren’t the most effective messengers on climate change. We’re number two. (220)


you are the perfect person to have this conversation with the people in your life. (220)

…one big misconception: that the only way to have a conversation about climate change is to explain—or argue about—the science and to overwhelm people with the ava-(220)lanche of bad news, starting with the most Dismissive person you know. Trust me, I’ve tried that approach. If talking more science would fix this, I can talk science with the best of them. As for Dismissives, though they may be the loudest voices, hundreds of attempts have taught me that conversations with the seven-percenters are largely fruitless. (221)

But facts about the science are not enough to explain why climate change matters and why it’s so urgent that we fix it. We need more. We need to understand how climate change matters to us, personally, and what we can do about it in our own lives. And you, not I, are the expert on that. (221)


Create opportunities to interact with people… You’ll never know what people really think about climate change unless you ask. (221)

cf. How to Have Impossible Conversations

…the simple act of having a conversation triggers a true positive feedback effect. (223)


21 Bond, Connect, and Inspire


…we don’t really have to agree on the science, as long as we agree on something that matters more. (228)


Whoever we are, we are human. And as humans, we have the power to connect with one another across any of the broad, deep lines scored across our societies and our psyches. We can’t do this by bombarding people with more data, facts, and science showing they’re wrong, or heaping on the judgment and guilt. Instead, we have to start with respect, and with something we both agree on: bonding over a value we truly share, and then making the connection between that value and changing climate. By doing so, rather than trying to change who someone is, instead it can become clear that the person you are talking to is already the perfect person to care about and act on climate change. In fact chances are they probably already care, they just might not have realized why, or known what to do about it if they did. (229)

If you’re wondering where to start bonding with someone and connecting on climate change, ask yourself, “Because of what we both care about, why might climate change matter to us?” (229)


Ask yourself: What solutions can I bring up that whoever I’m talking to might get excited about? Would they be interested in a free market solution to climate change from former congressman Bob Inglis’s republicEn organization? Do they live in an agricultural area like Matt Russell where smart farming techniques to put carbon back in the soil might be of practical use to people? Would they like to hear more about Solar Sisters or Sulabh or other programs that are revolutionizing the lives of the energy-poor? Do they have a pet, and might they like to hear about cricket-based food? (230)

If we don’t offer a solution, things start to look insurmountable. Our brains’ natural defense is to try its best to forget that the problem exists. (231)


cf. Climate Mind


…don’t be too attached to the outcome. … Your goal is to simply open the door, to start the conversation, to practice talking bout what you care about and listen to what someone else cares about, too. In other words, you an plant a seed, you can fertilize and water it, but no matter how hard you try, you can’t will it to grow. (235)

The chief task in life is simply this: to identify and separate matters so that I can say clearly to myself which are externals not under my control, and which have to do with the choices I actually control. — Epictetus


A question is usually a safe bet. … Or you could start with an interesting fact. As you now know, our brains are attracted to new information,… …share how you feel… (235)

For successful dialogue you need to try and to understand people and help them feel safe and understood. … When people feel confronted or attacked, they shut down and become even more committed to polarized views. … Being respectful means not dismissing their views, values, or experiences. — Tani Israel, Beyond Your Bubble


…know when to stop. If your emotions are rising to where you can’t engage respectfully anymore, or you sense yourself trying to push back or judge the other person, or they’re doing the same to you, it’s time to move on or, if necessary, gracefully retreat. Remember, you’re just trying to open the door, not convince someone to renovate their house—and you’re certainly not trying to renovate it for them. (236)

The final step is this: learn from your conversation. Reflect on what you heard. (236)

Every climate exchange is a small experiment! — Talking Climate

Keep going, they say, and keep connected. (237)

| Despite our daily frustrations, we know that in this increasingly polarized, divided, and fractured world, there’s still far more that connects us than divides us. So whoever you are, wherever you live, look for opportunities to have a conversation. Be confident you can make a difference: you can, even if you never see or hear the results yourself. You don’t know what consequences your conversation could have, now or down the road. (237)


22 Finding Hope and Courage

It is a magnificent thing to be alive in a moment that matters so much. — Katharine Wilkinson

Hope has two beautiful daughters; their names are Anger and Courage. Anger at the way things are, and Courage to see that they do not remain as they are. — Attributed to St. Augustine


As humans, our hope is based on the idea of a future, and for most of us, the next generation embodies that future. … But our hope isn’t based on an expectation that they will fix it for us. Rather, we want to fix it for them. If there is no future, then who are we fighting to save the world for? (241)

cf. “The Concession to Climate Change I Will Not Make”


…the book of Proverbs warns, “Whoever sows injustice will reap calamity,” and Hosea says, even more to the point, “for they have sown the wind, and they shall reap the whirlwind.” Consequences aren’t a punishment for sin, as some televangelists hasten to claim every time a disaster strikes. They’re the simple consequence of the fact that we are all subject to the rules of physics. (242)

cf. The Optimism Bias, by Tali Sharot

False hopes spring from our defense mechanisms. (243)

Rational hope accepts that success is not inevitable, or even entirely probable. … Real hope also provides a vision of a future that we want to live in, where energy is abundant and available to all, where the economy is stable, where we have the resources we need, where our lives are not worse but better than they are today. It’s a hope that is aware of all the others who are already working to make that future happen, and a hope that understands why we’re doing this. (243)

We’re not fighting for a merely ‘livable planet. We’re fighting for a riotous, wild, gorgeous, generous, miraculous, life-cradling planet that’s home to a society that works for everyone. — Peter Kalmus


Active Hope is a practice. Like tai chi or gardening, kt is something we do rather than have. … First, we take in a clear view of reality; second, we identify what we hope for;…and third, we take steps to move ourselves or our situation in that direction. … Rather than weighing our chances and proceeding only when we feel hopeful, we focus on our intention and let it be our guide. — Joanna Macy, Chirs Johnstone; Active Hope: How to Face the Mess We’re in Without Going Crazy

So that’s what I do. I make a practice of hope. (244)

…the research I do is clear: it is not too late to avoid the most serious and dangerous impacts. Our choices will determine what happens. (245)

| The future we collectively face will be forged by our own actions. Climate change stands between us and a breathtaking, exhilarating future. We cannot afford to be paralyzed by fear or shame. We must act, with power, love, and a sound mind. Together, we can save ourselves. (245)

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  1. Pingback: Jane Goodall: The Hope | Reflections | vialogue

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