By Elliot Hoffman, CEO, REV
Bill McKibben’s brilliant article published yesterday in the New Republic aggressively demonstrates our nation’s need to mobilize to fight the current World War that threatens us: global warming and climate change. Coincidentally, as I was flying from San Francisco to San Diego early yesterday afternoon I was thinking about this exact issue — not in the great detail that McKibben offers here, but about the “vision” and realities. I couldn’t agree more with McKibben when he writes, “It’s not that global warming is like a world war. It is a world war. And we are losing.”
During WWII, FDR and the nation came together because it was easy to literally see the bombs dropping. The threat our enemies posed was impossible to ignore. The nation mobilized, most people became engaged in small and large ways, but virtually everyone changed their behavior. Our thinking, behavior and culture radically shifted to respond to the threat. Something like 40% of all food was grown in our backyards. As we all know, the car industry transformed into a machine that turned out the planes, ships, tanks, and equipment for the war effort. (Clearly, there were subtleties of politics and back stories which I won’t bother to detail here). We saw the bombs dropping.
The question upon us now is how can we help Americans, as well as people around the world, see that indeed, as McKibben says “the bombs (climate change) are dropping.” The “tiger” was upon us in WWII, a few miles away. Now the “tiger” of climate change is literally upon us, in fact a “herd” of tigers will be upon us in just a few short years if we simply continue on our collective sleepwalking journey.
McKibben also mentions Mark Jacobson from Stanford. About three years ago I participated in a two-day meeting in Napa, CA with about 40 others from California’s senior climate, utility, CARB, EPA, political, and business worlds. I had the opportunity to speak with Mark privately after his presentation to the group. He told a great and compelling story regarding his research, conducted in partnership with Mark DeLucchi from UC Berkeley.
The bottom line, according to these two Marks, is that we already have the technology and the economics to make this work right now. The only thing that is missing is the social and the political will to make this happen. By 2030 (let’s even call it 2040) all of California and most of the nation could convert all of our energy needs — homes, business, transportation, agriculture, etc. — to electricity generated from clean, safe renewable sources such as wind, hydro, and solar. When I asked about the need for base load and the risk of lights not coming on when we flip the switch, Jacobson explained that based on their extensive testing, power would be available available 99.8% of the time (and this was 3 years ago).
As McKibben and Jacobson point out, there are solutions out there now. But can we prevent the worst of climate change? Personally, I believe we can. But it’s up to all of us — in our collective work and in our own personal lives and relationships — to help others see the realities; to help others (and ourselves) understand the enormous opportunities, the “Great Work” of our time per Thomas Berry; to advocate for smart public policy; and, as FDR used to say, “to make the politicians do the right thing.”
Finally, I highly recommend the newly published book, The New Grand Strategy— Restoring America’s Prosperity, Security and Sustainability in the 21st Century by Pat Doherty, Mark “Puck” Mykleby, and Joel Makower. It’s essentially a business plan for America born out of the most senior folks in the U.S. Military and addresses not only climate change, but also sustainability in general. It presents a vision and specific plan for how we can invest in the future in ways reminiscent of what we accomplished together during and after WWII.
The bombs are dropping. Let’s act.