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Posts Tagged ‘inconvenient truth’

I am learning lots from email exchanges amongst our green mom bloggers’ group. This week, the question was raised of how to cast the greening of Thanksgiving under a fresh new way? I latched on to the ‘fresh’ part of the question and voiced that we were past the “10 Tips to a Greener Thanksgiving”. One of the moms disagreed. 

I agree that it’s boring, but I think people still need to hear the basics sometimes.  Repetition might be the only way to help people realize they are capable of making small changes.  It may take years of hearing this stuff for my husband’s family to realize that buying “local” doesn’t mean running out to the nearest Harris Teeter for their prepared turkey and fixings all packaged up in nice little plastic containers!!!

Our exchange highlights a much bigger issue. Three years since the release of “An Inconvenient Truth”, what are the most effective strategies to spread the green message? As green communicators, are we to continue as usual, with our various how-to bits, or are we to adopt radically different approaches?

The advertising people tell us we are to pay attention to the following factors for effective communication:

  1. First is recall, or the ability for people to remember the message
  2. Second is persuasion, or the effectiveness of the message in persuading people to change their behaviors
  3. Third is repetition, the number of time a message is impressed upon people’s minds; we know repetition contributes to recall
At stake in our green discussion, is the issue of persuasion. If we are going to drill a green message into the reluctant citizen’s mind, what should it be? Realizing that the same citizen is currently up to here with worries about his or her financial future. This is why I no longer advocate green admonitions. The way to go in my book, is through the connection with economic concerns. In other words, do not talk green. Instead, explore ways to save, and to survive in our dicey economy.

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Pangea Day was a remarkable event in many ways. A live demonstration that it is possible to use Internet technology to bring together, in a participatory manner, millions of people from all over the world, using the power of film, and creativity. 

In the spirit of the event, I would like to share with you, my top three picks.

#1. Papiroflexia. An animation feat. If movies could be poems, they would look like this:

#2. The Ball. I will never be able to throw away any one thing after seeing the video. 

#3. Pale Blue Dot. Makes you think about the big questions . . . I had flashbacks from Al Gore’s Inconvenient Truth.

Thoughts, feelings?

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All the Earth Day circus put me in no mood to celebrate. Still, last night I attended an Earth Day event, sponsored by E2 (Environmental Entrepreneurs), and NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council), two organizations that I am very proud to support. Robert Redford was the main speaker. He was one of my idols, growing up, and I did not want to miss a chance to meet the man in person. Mr. Redford did not disappoint me. I came out of the evening with a renewed sense of commitment, and wishing that more people could have heard him live. Here is a video of a similar talk that he gave for the Apollo Project:

During his Earth Day speech, Robert Redford emphasized again the power of optimism, and of dwelling on opportunities and solutions. ‘America doesn’t do well with doom and gloom. Let’s get off how bad it is. Let’s get on with what can be done.‘ Robert Redford’s new push is on water and the need for quick solutions to the unfolding worldwide water shortage. For those of you also interested in water, click here.

Robert Redford is the perfect eco-hero, someone with the power to inspire through his example, and who has walked his talk for forty years. I can’t help but compare him with Al Gore. Although I am a big fan of Al, my response to his discourse is very different. Al Gore appeals to my intellect. Robert Redford grabs my heart and inspires my whole being to go further and to act.

The power of example.

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Framing Science is using comparison between two years ago‘s Time Magazine special issue on global warming, and this year‘s special issue on same topic, to make a point on shift that is taking place in the media and the collective consciousness:

From fear of global threat and helplessness, to hope and interest in personal solutions. As I look inside, I certainly have made that travel as well. This is also confirmed by latest Nielsen research.

I am curious to know. Does this match your personal experience as well?

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In one of his articles in the WorldChanging blog, Alex Steffen raises the question: ‘Who Will Tell the People? And How?

There’s enormous pressure here in the U.S. on environmental groups, scientists and public officials; pressure to play ball, to support targets that are politically safe, to be moderate. But this is not a situation where such gamesmanship will help our cause. Incremental and limited gains in this situation are in fact disastrous losses.

At the same time, we need to talk with people where they’re at on the issue, not where we wish they were. Somehow we need, in the next couple years, to guide millions of Americans through the progress of emotions — awareness, horror, despair, resignation, engagement, chosen optimism — that most of the people reading this site have gone through… and we have to do it in the next few years.

People are not really ready for this, but we’re not in a position to let that stop us. I’m not sure it’s too much of an overstatement to say that what’s needed is not just some issue education but a national mind-blowing.

I share Alex Steffen‘s frustration and his sense of urgency also. The media and the powers in charge have been tiptoeing around the reality at hand. I keep reading reports about 20 or 30% reduction goals for greenhouse gases in the next decades. Theses reports lead us to believe that things are not so bad after all, and smart technology alone should be able to get us out of our mess. Whose responsibility is it then to deliver the bitter pill of 90% reduction? And what are the strategies to make sure it has the desired effect on Americans’ behaviors?

To the question of who?, one obvious answer involves the media. Andrew Revkin‘s post on DotEarth yesterday, ‘Do the Media Fail to Give Climate its Due?‘, generated quite a lively discussion with the usual cast of characters: naysayers still, moderates, and radicals also. The reason the media have such an important role to play is as educators, and influencers of the crowds, so that the people will be ready to support the drastic emissions reduction policies that are to become an inevitable part of the political future. The objective is for the Most Inconvenient Truth I brought up earlier, to no longer hold.

Alex Steffen alludes to the time element of the process involved in bringing the public around. From personal experience, I can attest to the time lag, between initial exposure to the facts, and actual conversion. From the time when I attended Al Gore‘s presentation of An Inconvenient Truth, back in December 2005 – the first schock to my oblivious brain -, to the time when I finally became willing to make changes in my lifestyle, a good two years passed. Steven Running‘s Climate Grief model is most useful in that respect.

We then need to look at what is meant by the media. Sure, the New York Times, and other national publications, and TV stations have to play their part, but the advertising media should be considered as well. I have been pushing for a large scale, climate fight awareness advertising campaign. Al Gore, of all people should be the one spearheading such an effort. I hear his new book, ‘The Path to Survival‘ will be released next month. That’s good, and it’s not enough. Any good marketer will tell you that PR and the press can only generate so much awareness and persuasion. At some point, one needs to consider taking out the big guns, in this case, advertising. Ask all the presidential candidates!

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Yesterday, in response to my article on ‘Taking the Global Warming Paradox With a Grain of Salt‘, Mary, one of the readers of this blog suggested that I take a look at a 2007 joint survey on global warming, from the Nathan Cummings Foundation and the Breakthrough Institute. While discouraging, the results have the benefit of sounding more realistic than other studies, and of providing clear insights into the kind of communication and policy strategies most likely to succeed.

To the question, “Compared to other problems facing our country, tell me if that issue is one of the most important?”, here is where global warming came out:

  1. War in Iraq 57%
  2. Rising cost of health care 51%
  3. Education 51%
  4. Terrorism 50%
  5. Covering people who don’t have health insurance 44%
  6. Moral values 44%
  7. Social security and Medicare 44%
  8. American dependence on foreign oil 37%
  9. Illegal immigration 34%
  10. Cost of gasoline and electricity 33%
  11. Job creation and economic growth 31%
  12. Federal budget deficit 31%
  13. Quality of the environment 30%
  14. Crime and violence 30%
  15. Global warming 28%
  16. Taxes 25%

To be contrasted with the fact that 70% agree that there is solid evidence of global warming, that it is a big problem, and that government should take immediate action. However they are only willing to support governmental action that does not create any discomfort whatsoever their lives, particularly in regards to their pocket book:

Policies that would gather highest support:

  1. Making clean energy sources cost less 68%
  2. Funding massive federal research and development to develop cleantech 56%
  3. Requiring American industries to reduce their carbon emissions 51%

Policies that would gather lowest support:

  1. Auctioning off the right to emit carbon pay for the right to pollute 9%
  2. Abolishing payroll tax and replacing it with a tax on carbon emissions 11%
  3. Establishing a carbon tax on electricity, gasoline and other products 13%
  4. Making energy sources that pollute – gasoline, home heating oil, coal – cost more 18%
  5. Requiring American consumers to reduce their carbon emissions 37%
  6. Making businesses that emit pay for the right to pollute 38%

More findings from the Nathan Cummings research:

The poll also divided the sample to observe the effects of various psychological primes on global warming public opinion, including using specific consequences of global warming expressed by the environmental community such as the movie An Inconvenient Truth. Telling voters about these consequences did not increase their desire to take action on global warming . . . scaring people is not the way to get them to act.

Finally, the poll tested public support for a variety of global warming policy prescriptions. Voters expressed initial support for a variety of potential government actions, with support for an Apollo-type investment strategy scoring highest. However, when told of the potential costs of those programs, support dropped precipitously, with only the Apollo-type investment proposal retaining support from a majority of voters.

The investment-centered New Apollo program received more support than either Cap-and-Trade or Sky Trust proposals. Additionally, when voters were told of the negative consequences of each program (cost of energy for Cap-and-Trade and Sky Trust; tax and deficit implications of Apollo type investments), Apollo was the only program to maintain majority support of the electorate (54%). Support for a Cap-and-Trade program fell from 62% to 46% when voters were told of the potential impact on energy prices.

Global warming proposals that can be framed as increasing the cost of gasoline and electricity will likely trigger tremendous backlash from an anxious electorate. The key to passing substantive limits on carbon emissions is to couple those limits with specific policies to make clean energy cheaper.

This research leads to some rather chilling conclusions:

People know about global warming and what it means in terms of global consequences. Still they do not consider it as a personal or policy priority. They see it as a problem to be dealt with by government, and only in policies that will not result in them having to make any personal sacrifices, particularly of a financial nature. They seem to think that the problem will take care of itself, in the form of technology, and smart, no pain – all gain, energy policies.

I look at these conclusions, and I ponder other world’s grim facts such as India’s Tata Nano future, China’s threat of ‘no longer just one child policy‘, and China’s support of always more coal plants. And I get depressed, and very, very concerned about the future of our species. Mostly, I am mad at my fellow Americans for being so short-sighted. Don’t they realize that the world is looking up to them to lead the way. How can we keep going with our oil and gas orgy, and expect other countries to show self-restraint. As mean as that may seem, I do hope for a recession, and peak oil to slap my fellow Americans at the gas tank and in their wallets. If not by morality and reason, maybe they will be led by necessity?

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Where have you been Al? With the elections and all, you have dropped from the scene.

A little over two years ago, I attended your presentation of an ‘Inconvenient Truth‘, at Stanford University. I had not been wanting to go. Could care less about that environment stuff. But went because Amy, my husband’s ex had organized the event, and the whole family was going. The room went dark. Amy and a bunch of important people spoke first. Lots of people clapping at the end of each introduction. I thought, why am I here? Then you came on stage, looking like the university professor I remembered from your times running for President.

And delivered a speech so powerful, and presented images and graphs that were so convincing, that I came out of the event a changed woman. You really got me here:

Inconvenient Truth

Lots has happened since then. Your name has become synonymous with the climate fight cause, and you have earned worldwide recognition, last with the Nobel Peace Prize. That’s all good, and I can’t tell you how grateful I am for all you have done.

Now, I am asking you to go further. Many of us greenies are getting annoyed with the lack of attention given to global warming by the media. The San Francisco Chronicle is saying, ‘Media Consigns global warming to back burner‘. Move On is calling for its members to mobilize. Representatives from the press are coming up with all kinds of reasons.

Here is what I would like you to do. Forget trying to get the press to cooperate. Instead, use the power of advertising, and buy your way through the media landscape. If Clean Coal can do it, so can you. Build a coalition of the most creative ad agencies around, and ask them to come up with the best ad campaign ever. A campaign to keep up the awareness of global warming, and to persuade people to take a few simple actions that may add up to big cuts in emissions. A campaign that will also reach the most influential people, the politicians, the business leaders, the philantropists, the influencers, those with the power to make big changes fast. A campaign to make sure that global warming will remain present in the public consciousness, at all times. We may all suffer from the limited worry pool problem, but we can’t resist the power of advertising.

 

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First let me share this video with you:

Now, let me tell you what it did for me. All the images of disasters, melting ice, floods, tornadoes, dead trees: nothing. I have become immune to those images. The one thing that got me a bit: Al Gore’s plea at the end. The part about the grandchildren asking a question, and the two answers. I don’t want to be in the camp of the bystanders.

How about you?

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The latest Pew Report confirms earlier data from a New York Times/CBS News Poll: that the American public still has not awakened to the reality of global warming as an urgent matter:

Global warming became a much more visible issue in 2007. Former Vice President Al Gore‘s crusade against what he calls a “planetary emergency” won him an Academy Award and a Nobel Prize. Yet the American public is not fully persuaded that global climate change is an imminent problem. Fewer than half rate global warming as a “very serious” problem; among those who view it as a problem, only a modest majority (55%) says it requires immediate government action. For liberal Democrats, at least, the environment is a top tier issue in the 2008 campaign. But it rates as far less important for other voting groups, including conservative and moderate Democrats. However, the 47-nation Global Attitudes poll found rising concern about environmental and pollution problems around the world, with many nations blaming the United States for these heightened global threats.

What this says: the message about global warming is not getting through to Americans. This is in contrast to the public in other countries. Environmental bloggers and environmentalists in general tend to live in a green bubble, and fail to realize the reality of the Not So Green Exposure problem that impacts the majority of the American public. Although, it may seems that the media are getting saturated with more and more dire warnings about global warming, the share of voice for the green message is still ridiculously small. Major contributor to the problem is the substantial amount of disinformation spread by conservatives and our leadership. There needs to be a more thought out green media campaign. In his post today, Andrew Revkin asks his readers for suggestions regarding ‘elevator pitch’ for global warming message. It’s a start.

Any ad agency willing to take on the global warming challenge as pro bono account? I am willing to pitch in, for free. Actually, I may even start to write an advertising strategy brief, just like that.

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For us all to ponder, here is the Nobel Lecture that Al Gore gave today in Oslo, as he accepted his 2007 Nobel Peace Prize. I bolded the passages that I wish to comment on in a later post.

Your Majesties, Your Royal Highnesses, Honorable members of the Norwegian Nobel Committee, Excellencies, Ladies and gentlemen.

I have a purpose here today. It is a purpose I have tried to serve for many years. I have prayed that God would show me a way to accomplish it.

Sometimes, without warning, the future knocks on our door with a precious and painful vision of what might be. One hundred and nineteen years ago, a wealthy inventor read his own obituary, mistakenly published years before his death. Wrongly believing the inventor had just died, a newspaper printed a harsh judgment of his life’s work, unfairly labeling him “The Merchant of Death” because of his invention – dynamite. Shaken by this condemnation, the inventor made a fateful choice to serve the cause of peace.

Seven years later, Alfred Nobel created this prize and the others that bear his name.

Seven years ago tomorrow, I read my own political obituary in a judgment that seemed to me harsh and mistaken – if not premature. But that unwelcome verdict also brought a precious if painful gift: an opportunity to search for fresh new ways to serve my purpose.

Unexpectedly, that quest has brought me here. Even though I fear my words cannot match this moment, I pray what I am feeling in my heart will be communicated clearly enough that those who hear me will say, “We must act.”

The distinguished scientists with whom it is the greatest honor of my life to share this award have laid before us a choice between two different futures – a choice that to my ears echoes the words of an ancient prophet: “Life or death, blessings or curses. Therefore, choose life, that both thou and thy seed may live.”

We, the human species, are confronting a planetary emergency – a threat to the survival of our civilization that is gathering ominous and destructive potential even as we gather here. But there is hopeful news as well: we have the ability to solve this crisis and avoid the worst – though not all – of its consequences, if we act boldly, decisively and quickly.

However, despite a growing number of honorable exceptions, too many of the world’s leaders are still best described in the words Winston Churchill applied to those who ignored Adolf Hitler’s threat: “They go on in strange paradox, decided only to be undecided, resolved to be irresolute, adamant for drift, solid for fluidity, all powerful to be impotent.”

So today, we dumped another 70 million tons of global-warming pollution into the thin shell of atmosphere surrounding our planet, as if it were an open sewer. And tomorrow, we will dump a slightly larger amount, with the cumulative concentrations now trapping more and more heat from the sun.

As a result, the earth has a fever. And the fever is rising. The experts have told us it is not a passing affliction that will heal by itself. We asked for a second opinion. And a third. And a fourth. And the consistent conclusion, restated with increasing alarm, is that something basic is wrong.

We are what is wrong, and we must make it right.

Last September 21, as the Northern Hemisphere tilted away from the sun, scientists reported with unprecedented distress that the North Polar ice cap is “falling off a cliff.” One study estimated that it could be completely gone during summer in less than 22 years. Another new study, to be presented by U.S. Navy researchers later this week, warns it could happen in as little as 7 years.

Seven years from now.

In the last few months, it has been harder and harder to misinterpret the signs that our world is spinning out of kilter. Major cities in North and South America, Asia and Australia are nearly out of water due to massive droughts and melting glaciers. Desperate farmers are losing their livelihoods. Peoples in the frozen Arctic and on low-lying Pacific islands are planning evacuations of places they have long called home. Unprecedented wildfires have forced a half million people from their homes in one country and caused a national emergency that almost brought down the government in another. Climate refugees have migrated into areas already inhabited by people with different cultures, religions, and traditions, increasing the potential for conflict. Stronger storms in the Pacific and Atlantic have threatened whole cities. Millions have been displaced by massive flooding in South Asia, Mexico, and 18 countries in Africa. As temperature extremes have increased, tens of thousands have lost their lives. We are recklessly burning and clearing our forests and driving more and more species into extinction. The very web of life on which we depend is being ripped and frayed.

We never intended to cause all this destruction, just as Alfred Nobel never intended that dynamite be used for waging war. He had hoped his invention would promote human progress. We shared that same worthy goal when we began burning massive quantities of coal, then oil and methane.

Even in Nobel’s time, there were a few warnings of the likely consequences. One of the very first winners of the Prize in chemistry worried that, “We are evaporating our coal mines into the air.” After performing 10,000 equations by hand, Svante Arrhenius calculated that the earth’s average temperature would increase by many degrees if we doubled the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere.

Seventy years later, my teacher, Roger Revelle, and his colleague, Dave Keeling, began to precisely document the increasing CO2 levels day by day.

But unlike most other forms of pollution, CO2 is invisible, tasteless, and odorless — which has helped keep the truth about what it is doing to our climate out of sight and out of mind. Moreover, the catastrophe now threatening us is unprecedented – and we often confuse the unprecedented with the improbable.

We also find it hard to imagine making the massive changes that are now necessary to solve the crisis. And when large truths are genuinely inconvenient, whole societies can, at least for a time, ignore them. Yet as George Orwell reminds us: “Sooner or later a false belief bumps up against solid reality, usually on a battlefield.”

In the years since this prize was first awarded, the entire relationship between humankind and the earth has been radically transformed. And still, we have remained largely oblivious to the impact of our cumulative actions.

Indeed, without realizing it, we have begun to wage war on the earth itself. Now, we and the earth’s climate are locked in a relationship familiar to war planners: “Mutually assured destruction.”

More than two decades ago, scientists calculated that nuclear war could throw so much debris and smoke into the air that it would block life-giving sunlight from our atmosphere, causing a “nuclear winter.” Their eloquent warnings here in Oslo helped galvanize the world’s resolve to halt the nuclear arms race.

Now science is warning us that if we do not quickly reduce the global warming pollution that is trapping so much of the heat our planet normally radiates back out of the atmosphere, we are in danger of creating a permanent “carbon summer.”

As the American poet Robert Frost wrote, “Some say the world will end in fire; some say in ice.” Either, he notes, “would suffice.”

But neither need be our fate. It is time to make peace with the planet.

We must quickly mobilize our civilization with the urgency and resolve that has previously been seen only when nations mobilized for war. These prior struggles for survival were won when leaders found words at the 11th hour that released a mighty surge of courage, hope and readiness to sacrifice for a protracted and mortal challenge.

These were not comforting and misleading assurances that the threat was not real or imminent; that it would affect others but not ourselves; that ordinary life might be lived even in the presence of extraordinary threat; that Providence could be trusted to do for us what we would not do for ourselves.

No, these were calls to come to the defense of the common future. They were calls upon the courage, generosity and strength of entire peoples, citizens of every class and condition who were ready to stand against the threat once asked to do so. Our enemies in those times calculated that free people would not rise to the challenge; they were, of course, catastrophically wrong.

Now comes the threat of climate crisis – a threat that is real, rising, imminent, and universal. Once again, it is the 11th hour. The penalties for ignoring this challenge are immense and growing, and at some near point would be unsustainable and unrecoverable. For now we still have the power to choose our fate, and the remaining question is only this: Have we the will to act vigorously and in time, or will we remain imprisoned by a dangerous illusion?

Mahatma Gandhi awakened the largest democracy on earth and forged a shared resolve with what he called “Satyagraha” – or “truth force.”

Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif” size=”2″>In every land, the truth – once known – has the power to set us free.

Truth also has the power to unite us and bridge the distance between “me” and “we,” creating the basis for common effort and shared responsibility.

There is an African proverb that says, “If you want to go quickly, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” We need to go far, quickly.

We must abandon the conceit that individual, isolated, private actions are the answer. They can and do help. But they will not take us far enough without collective action. At the same time, we must ensure that in mobilizing globally, we do not invite the establishment of ideological conformity and a new lock-step “ism.”

That means adopting principles, values, laws, and treaties that release creativity and initiative at every level of society in multifold responses originating concurrently and spontaneously.

This new consciousness requires expanding the possibilities inherent in all humanity. The innovators who will devise a new way to harness the sun’s energy for pennies or invent an engine that’s carbon negative may live in Lagos or Mumbai or Montevideo. We must ensure that entrepreneurs and inventors everywhere on the globe have the chance to change the world.

When we unite for a moral purpose that is manifestly good and true, the spiritual energy unleashed can transform us. The generation that defeated fascism throughout the world in the 1940s found, in rising to meet their awesome challenge, that they had gained the moral authority and long-term vision to launch the Marshall Plan, the United Nations, and a new level of global cooperation and foresight that unified Europe and facilitated the emergence of democracy and prosperity in Germany, Japan, Italy and much of the world. One of their visionary leaders said, “It is time we steered by the stars and not by the lights of every passing ship.”

In the last year of that war, you gave the Peace Prize to a man from my hometown of 2000 people, Carthage, Tennessee. Cordell Hull was described by Franklin Roosevelt as the “Father of the United Nations.” He was an inspiration and hero to my own father, who followed Hull in the Congress and the U.S. Senate and in his commitment to world peace and global cooperation.

My parents spoke often of Hull, always in tones of reverence and admiration. Eight weeks ago, when you announced this prize, the deepest emotion I felt was when I saw the headline in my hometown paper that simply noted I had won the same prize that Cordell Hull had won. In that moment, I knew what my father and mother would have felt were they alive.

Just as Hull’s generation found moral authority in rising to solve the world crisis caused by fascism, so too can we find our greatest opportunity in rising to solve the climate crisis. In the Kanji characters used in both Chinese and Japanese, “crisis” is written with two symbols, the first meaning “danger,” the second “opportunity.” By facing and removing the danger of the climate crisis, we have the opportunity to gain the moral authority and vision to vastly increase our own capacity to solve other crises that have been too long ignored.

We must understand the connections between the climate crisis and the afflictions of poverty, hunger, HIV-Aids and other pandemics. As these problems are linked, so too must be their solutions. We must begin by making the common rescue of the global environment the central organizing principle of the world community.

Fifteen years ago, I made that case at the “Earth Summit” in Rio de Janeiro. Ten years ago, I presented it in Kyoto. This week, I will urge the delegates in Bali to adopt a bold mandate for a treaty that establishes a universal global cap on emissions and uses the market in emissions trading to efficiently allocate resources to the most effective opportunities for speedy reductions.

This treaty should be ratified and brought into effect everywhere in the world by the beginning of 2010 – two years sooner than presently contemplated. The pace of our response must be accelerated to match the accelerating pace of the crisis itself.

Heads of state should meet early next year to review what was accomplished in Bali and take personal responsibility for addressing this crisis. It is not unreasonable to ask, given the gravity of our circumstances, that these heads of state meet every three months until the treaty is completed.

We also need a moratorium on the construction of any new generating facility that burns coal without the capacity to safely trap and store carbon dioxide.

And most important of all, we need to put a price on carbon — with a CO2 tax that is then rebated back to the people, progressively, according to the laws of each nation, in ways that shift the burden of taxation from employment to pollution. This is by far the most effective and simplest way to accelerate solutions to this crisis.

The world needs an alliance – especially of those nations that weigh heaviest in the scales where earth is in the balance. I salute Europe and Japan for the steps they’ve taken in recent years to meet the challenge, and the new government in Australia, which has made solving the climate crisis its first priority.

But the outcome will be decisively influenced by two nations that are now failing to do enough: the United States and China. While India is also growing fast in importance, it should be absolutely clear that it is the two largest CO2 emitters – most of all, my own country — that will need to make the boldest moves, or stand accountable before history for their failure to act.

Both countries should stop using the other’s behavior as an excuse for stalemate and instead develop an agenda for mutual survival in a shared global environment.

These are the last few years of decision, but they can be the first years of a bright and hopeful future if we do what we must. No one should believe a solution will be found without effort, without cost, without change. Let us acknowledge that if we wish to redeem squandered time and speak again with moral authority, then these are the hard truths:

The way ahead is difficult. The outer boundary of what we currently believe is feasible is still far short of what we actually must do. Moreover, between here and there, across the unknown, falls the shadow.

That is just another way of saying that we have to expand the boundaries of what is possible. In the words of the Spanish poet, Antonio Machado, “Pathwalker, there is no path. You must make the path as you walk.”

We are standing at the most fateful fork in that path. So I want to end as I began, with a vision of two futures – each a palpable possibility – and with a prayer that we will see with vivid clarity the necessity of choosing between those two futures, and the urgency of making the right choice now.

The great Norwegian playwright, Henrik Ibsen, wrote, “One of these days, the younger generation will come knocking at my door.”

The future is knocking at our door right now. Make no mistake, the next generation will ask us one of two questions. Either they will ask: “What were you thinking; why didn’t you act?”

Or they will ask instead: “How did you find the moral courage to rise and successfully resolve a crisis that so many said was impossible to solve?”

We have everything we need to get started, save perhaps political will, but political will is a renewable resource.

So let us renew it, and say together: “We have a purpose. We are many. For this purpose we will rise, and we will act.”

© The Nobel Foundation, Stockholm, 2006.

Will China and the US listen?

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