Climate Emergency: Move Fast and Break Things!

“Move Fast and Break Things” shouldn’t only be Facebook’s motto or the approach taken by tech industry giants such as Google and Amazon.

Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg famously coined the term: “Move Fast and Break Things” to describe his approach to scaling the company to more than 2.3 billion monthly active users. Credit: Shutterstock.com.

Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg famously coined the term: “Move Fast and Break Things” to describe his approach to scaling the company to more than 2.3 billion monthly active users. Credit: Shutterstock.com.

Everyone engaged in climate policy needs to understand that we need to adopt a new type war footing to deal with our climate emergency: get new ideas into prototype as fast as possible, try them out in selected areas, choose the ones that will scale the quickest and most effectively, and deploy them on a national basis.

This is not a time for political candidates to tread cautiously on climate, hoping that people will divine their true intentions behind the rhetorical timidity.

The kerfuffle last week about Joe Biden’s attempts to “triangulate” a climate policy for his campaign, to find a “middle ground” that would please both labor unions wanting jobs building natural gas pipelines and climate activists wanting to “leave it in the ground” resulted only in bad press for Uncle Joe.

Like many older politicians, he doesn’t get how angry many younger people feel about the climate mess we of the Boomer generation are leaving them.

What he’s about to find out is that with 20 Democrats running for President, no one feels that they HAVE to support him as their best candidate to beat Donald Trump in 2020. The President has already signaled that he’d love to compete against “Sleepy Joe.”

Joe Biden’s “brain trust” is advising him to adopt a “middle ground” approach to national climate policy. The reality? There isn’t one! Credit: Shutterstock.com.

Joe Biden’s “brain trust” is advising him to adopt a “middle ground” approach to national climate policy. The reality? There isn’t one! Credit: Shutterstock.com.

Clearly, on the Democratic side, the 2020 election is “No Country for Old Men” or “Old Ideas.” That said, what should a “rational” climate policy do? Here are a few guiding principles:

  1. Returning to the Obama-era policies won’t cut it. Restoring them would offer only incremental improvements.

  2. A carbon tax is almost a non-starter politically; most people living day-to-day can’t tolerate even an extra $25/month payment for gasoline or a $10/month charge on their utility bill.

  3. Incremental economic thinking won’t cut it. Thinking small is a certain recipe for generating inadequate responses. We need to increase electric car (and truck) subsidies to $10,000 or more each, so that we can transition to mostly electric vehicles long before the current gas-powered fleet would wear out.

  4. Some elements of the Green New Deal almost certainly have to be put in place by 2024 to have any realistic chance of avoiding climate catastrophe for the world. If the U.S. doesn’t demonstrate leadership in responding to the climate crisis, what will motivate other large countries to adopt similar measures?

  5. Keeping the Federal solar and wind tax credits in place (and increasing them) past 2022 is almost certainly required and at levels of 40% or more that stay in place for a decade. If we want to simulate a domestic solar PV industry, putting tariffs on Chinese panels is a stupid way to do it. What’s needed is a massive market stimulus through accelerated demand.

  6. Ending all fossil-fuel industry tax breaks will be required to force people who still need to use oil and gas (like almost all of us) to pay their true economic cost.

  7. Compensating the losers with cash is the only feasible way to deal with the “War on Coal.” Job training and other incremental means won’t work; money talks, everything else walks. If there’s going to be a million job losses, then we’re going to have to pay $20-$40 billion a year for five years or more to those people to help them transition into a new economy.

A million species are facing “The Sixth Great Extinction” from rapid climate change, not just signature megafauna like polar bears but every part of the food web on which WE also depend. Credit: Shutterstock.com.

A million species are facing “The Sixth Great Extinction” from rapid climate change, not just signature megafauna like polar bears but every part of the food web on which WE also depend. Credit: Shutterstock.com.

I’m sure the list could go on and on. The “wartime footing” and “moon shot” analogies don’t really work to describe a climate crisis that will go on for the rest of the century. Wars start and stop; moon shots begin and end. The reality is that we human beings have never experienced 415 ppm of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere; what about 450 ppm or more? We’re in totally uncharted territory - the climate crisis is a permanent emergency and needs to be thought of that way - and our responses need to be as innovative (and as effective) as Social Security was in the 1930s or Medicare in the 1960s.