Welcome to the 2nd post of MFG - If you want my money, then save the planet!
In this issue, we’ll explore the 2020 state of the climate crisis and breakdown the major incentives for the US government that got us here today.
Our inaugural post gave readers a helpful framework, so if you haven’t yet, do check that out!
Climate change can be solved with proper alignment between governments, corporations, and consumer-citizens, and better understanding each facet’s incentives and agency is key to bringing about real solutions.
In this issue:
This section, though I really wish it were, is not a waste of breath... Around the world, many have accepted the reality of climate change, but a global culture war on this idea is still being waged.
To arm our readers, here’s a succinct video.
Essentially, Bill Nye quickly shows how carbon dioxide (CO2) in a contained space -- whether a jar or our atmosphere -- causes temperatures to rise vs. a control without CO2.
Heat makes air rise.
Rising air causes pressure differences that cause wind.
More heat, more pressure differences, more winds.
Winds also move moisture.
Bigger winds move more moisture, towards some places, and away from others.
More tornadoes, droughts, floods, hurricanes, dry conditions for wildfires...
We recorded perhaps 100 major natural disasters globally in 1980, over 300 in 2005, and, on brand for 2020, we had over 200 natural disasters only in the first 6 months of the year, the average severity of which was also greater (2). The results of these environmental changes -- food insecurity, climate refugee crisis, mass extinction, and unfortunately much more...-- will continue to exacerbate global tensions both old and new (e.g. the Arab Spring has its roots in climate change).
Knowing all this, how did leaders let it get so bad? Well it’s time to pull out our handy-dandy framework! This time focusing on the incentive structures of the US government.
To best solve a problem, we must understand how it started and why it continues to exist.
The first driver: economic development. No surprises here.
Since the First Industrial Revolution, technological advancements fueled by coal/oil/gas have successfully fulfilled our rapidly increasing need for energy. It’s no wonder why the nationwide infrastructures for industry, housing, transportation, etc. are built by the ever-cheapening inertia of “economic progress”.
In the face of environmental changes, those in power have transitioned from straight-up ignorance to stubborn adherence to sacrificing the environment for development. Or in @realDonaldTrump's case...
The concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive.
(Ironically, China made the same exact argument, over a decade ago, that climate change was a hoax created by the US to hinder China’s economic development… https://foreignpolicy.com/2017/05/31/the-convenient-disappearance-of-climate-change-denial-in-china/)
Even if the US were to view this purely economically, let’s look at energy production.
Fundamentally, for renewable energy, the “fuel” is free and maintenance is minimal. The main barrier is upfront costs, but now the cost of energy from renewables is beating even that of the cheapest coal. Meanwhile, for oil/fossil fuels, the cost of setting up a new drilling sites averages near $650 million, not counting the billions in damages from inevitable oil spills. Economically long term it makes no sense to continue to prop up a more expensive and more harmful industry with near $20 billion in subsidies every year.
And building our infrastructure on renewables has downstream effects on batteries and the kinds of cars, the way we build homes, factories, do agriculture, all the major sources of emissions today. (The Biden plan addresses this, stay tuned!)
But there’s more than just economic inertia to overcome. There's international relations, where countries play a big board game where energy, like monopoly money, is needed to keep the game going and will ruin relationships (or start some actual wars...)
A particular aspect of the US strategy I’d like to highlight is fracking (hydraulic fracturing). Climate enthusiasts would be more than happy to altogether ban fracking. It’s still oil being used with the added detriment of literally fissuring the ground and causing small earthquakes. However we’d be remiss to ignore its role in the government’s board game.
The U.S. has been talking about energy independence for decades and it finally achieved it only just last year in 2019. America still has a fragile energy infrastructure that fracking has played an undeniably important role in, especially because the rest of our existing infrastructure is so oil-centric. Biden acknowledged as much in the 2nd 2020 Presidential debate when he refused to outright ban fracking.
In a world where, between one-quarter and one-half of interstate wars since 1973 have been linked to oil, energy independence and fracking undoubtedly play a role in why the US is so comfortable nowadays with withdrawing troops from the Middle East.
But beyond the narrow-sighted oil games of the past, the global board game has moved to a new phase. The Paris climate accord has been reinvigorated by Biden’s election. And now, a vacuum of leadership in the global fight against climate change has created a fierce competition, albeit a friendlier one, for
international influence between China, the EU, and the US.
So again, before we assess Biden’s climate plan for the US, it is important to understand that we live in a world of intersectionality between complex issues. We know however that among these issues, the climate should play an even bigger role, which is why comprehensive solutions that address conflicting interests need to be devised. Such as with wanting to outright ban fracking, we can’t ignore the role it plays in the US nor should we by any means excuse the damage it does, but we can form the political and economic will to neutralize and disincentivize it to oblivion.
Before we dive further into the U.S., let’s look at the steps the world’s #1 emitter, China, is taking. Let it be clear, this will be a competition for global influence, but at least one that is a win for the world as well. Honestly, I’m all for a sustainability “arms race”.
While China has the headstart, I believe with the Biden climate plan (BCP), America is outlining a bold path forward that creates new innovation incentive structures for the private sector while considering environmental justice factors.
Stay tuned for the next post that covers the BCP and please subscribe to be notified of its release!
Biden’s climate plan is the best chance we have in making some of the systemic incentive shifts we need! And the only real way this happens is if we have a democratic majority in the Senate, so please do all you can to support the Georgia Senate races!
Volunteer, phone bank, donate, translate, find at least some way to spend an hour of your time to this cause.
Still in a mood to give thanks this holiday season? Contribute money to the races of Warnock and Ossoff?
IN FACT, (in the spirit, of if you want my money, help save the planet) share this newsletter/post on social media and send me a screenshot, I’ll donate a random number between $5 and $10 to the Senate races on your behalf!
More action items (will start compiling a list for action items that can be done any time soon!)
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