Behavior change and climate change

Every writer on climate change used to mention Jimmy Carter, the malaise speech, the American nationalism about suburbs and hamburgers, the entitled consumer, and ‘behavior change is hard to do’ topics on climate.

In fact, even this August, the excellent Elizabeth Colbert of The New Yorker appeared on a program talking about George Bush saying back in the 1990s that Americans would not compromise on their way of life.

A few years after everyone wore masks, closed schools, stopped commuting, gave up international vacations…not just temporarily mind you. The talk of today is still the end of the office (it’s been where things happen since the 1920s), the end of “downtown” (it was the definition of cool for 50 years), face to face meetings (“the room where it happens” as it is said in Hamilton), and more.

Behavior change, in short, does happen. Not just that: we take car shares, look at smartphones, ebooks, video calls, avoid sugar, count steps, etc. Behavior change happens all the time – we call them trends or fads.

In a moment where the US climate change policy is in the spotlight, the amazing thing about these commentators focusing on behavior change, is that the climate policy that seems most likely to work involves very little scrimping or saving.

We’re just going to make it cheaper and easier to emit zero carbon.

Technologies ABC – green electrons, electric cars, solar panels for heating and cooling = no change to the suburbs. Synthetic meat, new livestock feeds = no change to carnivorous life.

I’m optimistic