Ed. note: This is Chapter 10 of Richard Heinberg’s and David Fridley’s new book, Our Renewable Future, now available from Island Press. Post Carbon Institute’s companion website, ourrenewablefuture.org has also just been launched and contains additional content not in the book.
Sound national and international climate policies are crucial: without them, it will be impossible to organize a transition away from fossil fuels and toward renewable energy that is orderly enough to maintain industrial civilization, while speedy enough to avert catastrophic ecosystem collapse. However, world leaders have been working on hammering out effective climate policies for nearly a quarter of a century, and during that time greenhouse gas emissions have continued to increase. And the impacts of climate change are becoming ever more incontrovertible and perilous.
Clearly, individuals, households, communities, and nongovernmental organizations cannot merely stand by and hope that political leaders somehow find the wherewithal at the last moment (if it is not already too late) to halt our descent into climate chaos. We must put all possible pressure on those leaders to take politically difficult decisions to severely limit carbon emissions.
That will require collective action on a scale that has yet to be seen. The massive transformations in energy systems, government, and the economy that we have described are exceedingly unlikely to occur absent struggle and social action. Powerful interests invested in the extractive economy will not give up their advantages willingly. As Frederick Douglass eloquently said, “Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will.”
At the same time, we must also show that we as citizens are ready for climate policies by proactively reducing our reliance on fossil fuels and cutting our greenhouse gas emissions. In the process, we can road-test behaviors and technologies that are needed on a broader scale. Fortunately, many people, communities, and organizations have already started doing this, but more are needed.
Individuals and Households
Tackling the energy transition, climate change, and energy inequality will require collective action and policy. So the most important thing we can do as individuals is to support equitable solutions to climate change, and support local democracy and engagement in local decisions about energy.
Read more here: What We as a People Can Do