Time to change strategy: the focus on evidence of climate change fuels apathy

Time for a new perspective on climate change.

Time for a new perspective on climate change.

The world owes Tyler Hamilton a huge thank you. He reports on the good news on climate change. Do you scoff that it doesn’t matter? You’re in good company — many feel like you. It’s why I believe that the strategy of reasoning with deniers is a failure.

The web is full of images that document the retreat of glaciers around the world. Even tech geek sites like sploid-gizmodo show these photos. It’s powerful proof of climate change. But does this motivate people to change their behavior?

People Who Want to Cut GHGs Are Demotivated by Powerful Evidence of Climate Change.

In the comments on the Gizmodo photo essay on glacial retreat, Jesus Diaz wrote: “I watched Chasing Ice on Netflix a few days ago (about a large scale photography project to document this stuff) and it was so damn depressing.”

Mr. Diaz’ response is normal. When you get a steady diet of really bad news it depresses you. What mental state follows depression? Apathy. That’s when you lack emotion, interest and concern.

Powerful Evidence of Climate Change Hardens the Resistance of Deniers

NASA’s web sites have arguably the best photo evidence of glacial retreat all over the planet. It still wasn’t enough to convince deniers. They commented that the photos meant nothing, only showed variation from winter to summer. NASA did more research. It documented the time of year the mages were captured at. I’m sure you’ll be shocked to learn that the photos were in fact taken at the same time of year, decades apart. NASA added this information to the photos on the web site. Pretty air tight, no?

Deniers in the U.S. House of Representatives responded by cutting NASA’s earth science budget.

Although the majority accept that climate change is happening they believe they can’t scrape together the money to live cleaner when they can barely make rent and put food on the table.

A New Approach is Needed

That’s why Hamilton’s stories are so important. He has consistently covered the evidence of progress toward solutions for climate change. In a recent Toronto Star article Hamilton wrote that Obama, when he refused the Keystone XL pipeline, said that “the transition to a clean energy economy… is… going more quickly than many anticipated.”

Mr. Hamilton needs to explain why Obama said that, instead of devoting most of the article to an attack on the International Energy Agency (IEA). Pointing out that the IEA has a history of underestimating how fast the world will move to renewables reinforces the “it’s hopeless” perspective.

So, why did Obama say the U.S. is changing toward renewables faster than expected?

Solar Electricity Costs Reach Grid Parity in 2016 in Most U.S. States

Blue lines above the zero line are states where electricity is cheaper to generate from solar cells than coal.

Blue bars above the zero line are US States where, in 2016, electricity will be cheaper to generate from solar cells than from coal.

Grid parity is when the cost of generating electricity from solar cells is as low as the cost of generating it from the cheapest fossil fuel, coal.

This year electricity from solar is cheaper than coal in 10 US States. By the end of 2016 Bloomberg reports that electricity from solar will be cheaper than coal in most US States.

It’s also vital to remind people of what a game changer solar electricity is. For years the big fear of most people was that the only way to cut greenhouse gas emissions was to live like a cave man. It seemed like the only way for the average person to cut their carbon footprint was to turn off their furnace and air conditioner and starve. If that seems extreme, consider this: GDP growth and oil consumption move in lock step for decades.

The fear of getting poorer is what has paralyzed public action.

We Can Have Our Cake and Eat it Too

But there is big change happening here too. The International Energy Agency states that “the global economy grew by around 3% in 2014 but energy-related carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions stayed flat, the first time in at least 40 years that such an outcome has occurred.

I would go further: 2014 is the first year of growth without more CO2 emissions, ever.

Think: more prosperity without more carbon dioxide.

Economies of scale will increase. So we will soon have more prosperity with less carbon dioxide.

If you own stocks in oil companies, sell them now while they’re still worth something. I have.