10 reasons to be hopeful about climate progress
By Flannery Winchester
Each month, Citizens’ Climate Lobby hosts an international call featuring a guest speaker to educate listeners on topics related to climate change and our Carbon Fee and Dividend proposal.
When it comes to climate change, what gives you hope? In the face of a big, scary challenge like this, what keeps your spirits and motivation high? It can be a tough question to answer, especially when Trump’s administration seems determined to pull America back from the urgent, bold action we need.
But Drew Jones, co-founder of Climate Interactive, knows exactly how to answer those questions. “I have evidence for hope,” he said when he joined CCL’s July call this weekend. He counted down the top 10 reasons he’s hopeful that we’ll meet our emissions reductions targets and preserve a livable world.
- Cities and states are responding
After President Trump announced his intention to withdraw the U.S. from the Paris Agreement, many cities and states stepped up to fill the leadership void. “I love the city and state response,” Jones said. “Over 200 of them are signing on, saying ‘We’re still in.’ This is really encouraging. We did some math, and we saw that over half of the U.S. population is living in a city or state that’s aligned with Paris goals.”
- Global emissions are flat
“We know we need to peak carbon dioxide emissions globally,” Jones said. That means even as economies grow and populations rise, we need to be reducing our greenhouse gases from this point onward. “Emissions have been climbing since 1980, but over the last three years, emissions have been flat. That could be a peaking of emissions that then will lead to emissions falling, which is exactly what we need in order to limit warming.”
- The Climate Solutions Caucus
This ever-growing caucus of Republicans and Democrats proves that there’s bipartisan support for climate solutions. “Your progress in this area gives me great hope that we’re going to see more and more of this kind of bipartisan, wise, prudent action to protect the security of the country and the world,” Jones said.
And we’re not alone—in fact, we’re just catching up when it comes to carbon pricing internationally. “I’m encouraged by the fact that there are 40 national and 24 subnational jurisdictions that have a price on carbon,” Jones said, as well as the recent push of the Climate Leadership Council, led by James Baker, George Schultz, Ted Halstead and others. “This just gives me great hope that we’re on track,” Jones said.
- Renewables are taking off
Renewable energy is experiencing what Jones called a “reinforcing feedback loop.” The loop looks like this: “Price of wind and solar coming down, demand going up. That’s kicking off more research and development, production experience, economies of scale, public acceptance, that draws that cost down even more,” Jones said. “When Carbon Fee and Dividend shows up, it’s easier and easier to make sure we’re able to meet our energy needs” thanks to low-carbon sources and this reinforcing cycle.
- China’s production and consumption of coal
For a while, China’s coal usage was a big source of emissions. “We had huge growth in the early 2000s,” Jones said. But in recent years, Jones said, that has leveled off and then fallen. “There’s a lot more renewable energy. There’s a lot more gas that’s replacing coal. And of course in many cities, increasingly, there’s a carbon price that’s helping drive the transition of China away from coal.”
- The Paris Agreement
“Even if Trump is successful in pulling out of it, it provides a powerful framework for 194 countries to work together on this important issue,” Jones reminded us. The world saw that clearly when, at this weekend’s G20 summit, the rest of the countries in attendance reaffirmed their commitment to climate action.
As it turns out, solving climate change actually helps address a whole host of other issues too. Jones called them “cobenefits.” He said, “The biggest ones, of course, are health. When we have a Carbon Fee and Dividend and internalize the cost of the coal and oil we’re burning, we then have better air quality, less respiratory disease, less asthma.” We can also enjoy more stability for our agriculture systems, better water quality, even better community connections. “Many other benefits help us really appreciate what a wise move it is to keep the coal, oil and gas in the ground, and to reap these benefits from multisolving.”
- Social change happens slowly, then all at once
“Social change looks impossible until it’s completed,” Jones said. He prompted us to think back in U.S. history about examples such as interracial marriage, women’s suffrage, even recreational marijuana legalization. A Bloomberg chart of those movements showed that, for years, it seemed as though nothing was happening, even when hundreds—thousands—of people worked to advance those causes. Then, suddenly, something shifted and the change happened. “It could be that we’re right on the cusp of huge support for the kinds of actions that we’re all advocating for, that will really surprise us,” he said. “This movement to support a Carbon Fee and Dividend could be imminent.”
- Campus divestment
With huge concentrations of young people whose futures are at stake, college campuses are ripe for climate action. That’s evident in the campus divestment movement. “Young people are questioning whether their campuses should be putting money into fossil fuels,” Jones said. Their advocacy will prompt further discussion and will help bring carbon pricing to the forefront as a viable option to address people’s climate concerns.
- Standing Rock
This powerful movement against the Dakota Access Pipeline is Jones’ number one reason to be hopeful. “We had vulnerable people, diverse Native American groups coming together, arm in arm with other groups, saying ‘We’re going to keep this fossil fuel in the ground.’” It sends a huge signal, Jones said. “I really respect what CCL is doing when it comes to reaching across the aisle,” and our coalition-building doesn’t have to stop there. Jones mentioned other efforts like immigration rights, Black Lives Matter and land rights. ”We can grow the support for something as wise and economically sound as a Carbon Fee and Dividend by reaching across traditional barriers.”
“This is imminently doable. I think you’re on the right track. It’s not going to be easy—it’s going to be worth it,” Jones said.
“Go get ‘em. We need you to win.”