Michael Grunwald @MikeGrunwald Senior writer, @POLITICOMag. Editor-at-large, The Agenda. Author of The New New Deal: The Hidden Story of Change in the Obama Era. Sep. 16, 2019 3 min read

This is a nice @AmyAHarder column about climate hypocrisy. As she points out, it's hard to avoid climate hypocrisy, but I have a few thoughts about it. 1  https://www.axios.com/energy-climate-change-hypocrisy-ccaddadc-ac26-44f8-bb36-df72a734c93f.html?utm_source=twitter&utm_medium=twsocialshare&utm_campaign=organic 

Full disclosure: I'm a climate hypocrite. I have solar panels and a Chevy Bolt  https://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2018/03/05/my-life-in-the-elusive-green-economy-217213  but I fly a lot and I eat a lot of meat. I try to avoid single-use plastic but I'm not a monk about it. 2

As Amy pointed out, it's basically impossible to live a life of climate purity in a fossil-fueled economy. But it's not as if 100% of my emissions are unavoidable. My hypocrisy is real: I say we're in a climate emergency, but I don't always act that way. 3

This is bad! Carbon emissions are hurting people today, and they'll hurt more people in the future. The more carbon we emit, the more people will get hurt, and the worse their pain will be. Hurting people is bad. We should all try to do less of that. 4

I know this is Captain Obvious stuff. And I know climate deniers use climate hypocrisy as a bad-faith weapon to try to discredit climate activists. Still: hypocrisy is bad. What's the saying, it's the tribute vice pays to virtue? We should try to do more virtue, less vice. 5

I'm getting to a less Captain Obvious point, I promise. 6

The new big idea in Climateworld is that focusing on individual actions to cut emissions is dumb and counterproductive. This climate hawk doesn't care if you recycle:  https://www.vox.com/the-highlight/2019/5/28/18629833/climate-change-2019-green-new-deal  This one wants you to know going vegan won't save the world:  https://www.usatoday.com/story/opinion/2019/06/03/climate-change-requires-collective-action-more-than-single-acts-column/1275965001/  7

The idea is that government policy matters much more than personal behavior. Which is basically true. I mean, my solar panels generated 40 megawatt-hours of power last year. The US generated 4 BILLION megawatt-hours. I didn't really move that needle. 8

But the vehemence with which the policy-first crowd insists that individual action is meaningless reminds me of Jonathan Franzen's dopey argument for climate surrender. My emissions aren't consequential on a global scale, but they're not meaningless. Fewer would be better. 9

Again, emissions hurt people. I've never slapped a random stranger on the street, even though there are 7 billion people on earth and one slap wouldn't hurt even that one person all that badly. The right thing to do is to try to limit the pain we cause random strangers. 10

Also, this is a longer discussion, but individual action can help more than people realize. When my next-door neighbor and I went solar, we screwed up our utility's business model for our entire neighborhood. That's how change can start to happen. 11

Of course, solar-friendly government policies would drive change faster. But individuals going solar help drive support for solar-friendly government policies. 12

Ultimately, we're going to need unprecedented policy changes to avoid a climate emergency. That's what makes climate politics hard. But the argument for making those changes is that the emergency is real. The alternative to unprecedented change is unprecedented disaster. 13

It's just not very persuasive to argue that A. we need unprecedented collective action to deal with this existential problem, and B. it doesn't really matter what we do as individuals. If we want people to believe it's an emergency, we should act like it. 14

And yes, I'm trying to be less hypocritical. I'm still flying way too much, because I'm writing a climate book, but I'm eating a lot less red meat. Unfortunately, meat is delicious and I'm a pathetic glutton, but I'm doing better, and better is better than worse. 15


You can follow @MikeGrunwald.



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