Dr. Stephen Schneider, a Stanford University professor, spoke about the need for “building coalitions of people” to deal with climate change last week during the National Climate Seminar put on by the Bard Center for Environmental Policy. He included leveraging purchasing power as one way to build a coalition.
Climate change is occurring because economies have expanded by the cheapest means possible, according to Schneider, and that means via fossil fuels. Since the Industrial Revolution, carbon dioxide concentrations have increased 30 percent. In the last 130 years, global temperatures rose 0.6 degrees Celsius.
“When you are talking about planetary commons,” Schneider declared, “the ‘C’ word we need is cooperation…we have to control this [climate change] collectively.” The ‘C’ word that both politicians and businesses operate on, he added, is competition. However, Schneider did not argue that competition should be eliminated. Instead, he believes that cooperation is needed to “transition to sustainable energy systems, sustainable food systems, and share use of knowledge.” The principles of businesses need to be applied to the mitigation of climate change.
During the question and answer time, someone asked Schneider what he thinks needs to be done to mitigate the affects of climate change. He began answering the question by saying, “There isn’t one silver bullet.” He went on to say that a shadow price needs to be added to carbon. He does not have a preference for either cap and trade or a carbon tax, but stated that either would work. However, he also stated, “We can’t just have a shadow price on carbon because the world isn’t only driven by market forces.”
Schneider than listed four things that needed to be accomplished:
- Help people through adaptation programs, particularly people in developing countries.
- Create efficiency standards. He cited building codes for energy efficiency, and better gas mileage as two standards that are needed. He mentioned that California has better efficiency standards than the rest of the country, and also has half the emissions per capita as other states.
- We have to let all the brilliant ideas (start-ups for example) have a chance. Billions of dollars in investment is what it will take.
- Climate change legislation.
Another person asked Schneider about the potential for the U.S. to be left out of the renewable energy market. He said there that what is needed are “significant subsidies: over the next 10 to 20 years. He cited the nuclear industry as a being a government programs, and one that did not began through venture capital. He mentioned that the tens of billions of dollars needed to mitigate climate change is small compared to the Iraq war, or the bailouts of the auto and banking industries.
Schneider’s comments about what is needed to mitigate climate change are reminiscent of remarks made in 2002 by Eileen Claussen, the president of the Pew Center on Global Climate Change. “The only solution to climate change is a fundamental transformation in the way we power our global economy,” she said. “The ultimate success of a climate change strategy-whether… will hinge on the development and deployment over time of a vast array of technologies that dramatically reduce the carbon intensity of the overall economy.”