February 23, 2020

Four Inconvenient Truths

“At this week’s climate symposium on CNN, Elizabeth Warren answered a question about whether the government should be regulating lightbulbs in an interesting way. She said, basically, that we’re focusing on the wrong thing. There’s nothing wrong with more efficient lightbulbs, but it’s small beer. That’s what the fossil fuel companies want us to be arguing about, because most of the carbon is thrown up by three industries — construction, electric power, and oil — and arguing about lightbulbs takes attention away from those sectors.

The obvious inconvenient truth that Warren is pointing out here is that we aren’t going to be able to fight climate change with a series of small-change consumer choices. It’s going to require massive changes in large industries, which is a heavier political lift. Below the radar, there’s another inconvenient truth being implied: that people are really irritated by losing even small conveniences, and so focusing energy on these small-beer fights has a real cost in terms of being able to fight the bigger fights.

She’s right about both. But those aren’t the most inconvenient truths about the fight against climate change. Here are four that we need to start acknowledging more widely if we’re going to make the kind of progress we so urgently need.”

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