Imagine England being run by Churchill today and Roosevelt sitting in the White House as they discuss our climate crisis. At some point Franklin says to Winston: "This is the Third World War. We had better mobilize our countries and allies into action!"
The amazing thing about climate crisis is that our leaders don't get it. This is the Third World War and if we realized it, and acted accordingly, we could still win it. If we sit and wait for Hitler's armies to overrun most of the civilized world then nothing we will do will stop it. The truth about climate change is that our atmosphere, and the delicate system that controls our climate, could reach a tipping point, a point of no return, when it will spin out of control in a downward spiral. The social implications are horrendous. Today, Stephen Hawking, the most published physicist of all time, is calling for us to start working on colonizing other planets as a hedge. He gets it.
Here's what Winston and Franklin would do. They would mandate a very rapid improvement in gas mileage, ramping up to a factor of three over where we are today.
They would lobby all across the world for other nations to join in and would find a way for them to share in the bounty that will be had by re-engineering the world.
They would make emitting carbon very costly.
They would sponsor research into clean coal generation, improving the already impressive gains that we have made in recent years.
They would quickly bring the capital markets to bear on China, and India and other nations implementing coal-fired plants to assist them in adopting the latest clean coal technology.
They would mobilize their entire economies around the transformation of our gas-guzzling, polluting homes to clean, sustainable energy. A massive conversion to ground-source heating and cooling would occur, creating an entire new industry. Just like your old car has to undergo an emission inspection every year, so would your home be required to get up to standard in energy efficiency.
They would be building massive wind farms.
They would be enacting laws and implementing subsidies that would see the roof of every house become an energy source.
They would insist that every shopping mall roof in their nation become one big solar panel.
They would be finding ways to get every unlit hut in all corners of the world some basic sustainable lighting (which would cost only as much as a few days of the Iraq war effort).
They would help poor nations implement clean technologies for energy generation and would facilitate every person on the planet having access to clean water.
And the list goes on
This could all be done with the scientific knowledge of today. We would not have to invent a magic hydrogen bullet to get there. And, we would be creating tons of jobs, making vast improvements in air quality and would not sacrifice much in the way of our standard of living.
The alternative, a real climate crisis, would result in massive upheavals, tremendous changes in our quality of life, our security and would undoubtedly lead to many wars as we struggle to cope with a world in a downward spiral. New Orleans would look like a holiday camp compared to the chaos that could ensue.
It will take a massive crisis or a confluence of great leaders to mobilize us. The challenge is that when we look around us today, it is hard to imagine a crisis. There is a disconnect. Our lights work, our cities work, the TV is on. We go to gym, fly to Europe, take holidays on cruise ships. And you're telling me that the world is coming to an end?
I guess if we were living in Darfur, where the decline of Lake Chad has precipitated genocide in the region, we might be closer to believing the world is coming to an end.
[Ron Dembo, Founder and CEO, Zerofootprint]