In the fight against climate change, there is often a tension between those who view it as an opportunity for moral improvement, and those who view it as a pragmatic problem to be solved.
The truth is both sides are needed if we are to make any real progress. Let’s explore this tension between morality and practicality in more detail.
For those who view climate change as an opportunity for moral improvement, they are highly motivated to solve the problem, but in the “morally correct” way. For example, this faction tends to view imperfect solutions as “a distraction”, especially when they depend on large corporations to implement. This faction would more likely emphasize Degrowth (negative GDP growth) as an essential component of any Climate Action plan.
On the other hand, those who view climate change from a pragmatic perspective prioritize solutions which may be imperfect, but at the same time have a higher likelihood of success. This approach takes into account economic and political trade-offs, current technological limitations and future technological opportunities. It also considers how policies can help incentivize people to become more sustainable without sacrificing their quality of life or economic prosperity too much. However, if this pragmatic calculus turns out not to yield enough progress, then we would have wasted valuable time and resources on sub-optimal solutions.
In order to make real progress on tackling climate change, it is essential that both factions complement, rather than fight against each other. The real blocker of progress isn't either side, but rather those who simply deny the Climate Crisis, or worse, do not care about Sustainability at all and refuse to take any action whatsoever. By combining forces and utilizing the strengths of both approaches - morality and pragmatism - we can create meaningful solutions that will make a difference in the fight against climate change.
We need the moral crusaders to keep organizing and keep the spotlight on the climate crisis. We especially need them to keep persuading the People to join the Climate movement through Advocacy, donations, and yes, Climate Action.
But we also need to make sure we support multiple solution spaces all at once, for example, Carbon Removal, Offsetting, Nuclear Energy, and Green Hydrogen. And we need to make sure our slogans do not defy the laws of Physics. For example, we cannot dismiss Carbon Removal because it is “supported by Big Oil” and “Unproven Technology”. If we had not invested Billions in MRNA vaccines because it was an “unproven technology”, a “distraction” and “Supported by Big Pharma”, we may not have had highly effective vaccines developed at lightspeed during the 2020 COVID-19 Pandemic.
There are some sectors where we simply cannot get by with renewable electricity, such as Aviation. We must invest in dense energy storage, possibly through synthetic, net-zero fuel and Sustainable Aviation Fuel. One cannot simply say “fly less” and hope that we will get the Aviation Sector to net-zero. Taking away access to mobility and human connection is neither practical nor moral. We need to ask ourselves, which is a tougher problem to solve: reducing aviation emissions to net-zero, or convincing the more than 4 billion airline passengers (and counting) to stop flying?
We must also make sure that we accurately call out bad actors who want to hamstring Climate Action, such as some in the Fossil Fuel Industry. We have been misled since the 70s, so we’re skeptical of the Fossil Fuel Industry with good reason. So separating the good solutions from the distractions using objective analysis is essential to getting this right. Project Drawdown has really nailed this.
We need both moral crusaders and pragmatic problem solvers if we want any chance of solving the Climate Crisis. Pragmatists must support the most promising solutions and act more quickly. Activists and Moral Crusaders should not outright reject solutions that make an impact but do not align with their particular morals and values. We must rely on evidence and data to evaluate solutions, and not let purity tests take priority over Climate Action.
To truly make an impact, we must combine forces. Only then can we beat the Climate Crisis and secure our future, and that of the generations to come.