How to Practice "Climate Citizenship"
The biggest contributors to climate change are huge emitters and the governments that empower them by refusing to decarbonize, yet the average citizen has an indispensable role to play in pushing the offenders toward action. In an op-ed for Grist, former New York Times environmental reporter Justin Gillis and Energy Innovation CEO Hal Harvey argue that local political action is crucial to making the world more sustainable:
Levers of power are all around us -- we just need to know where to look. Every citizen can fight climate change by urging our school boards, city councils, electric utilities, and even our employers to cut their greenhouse gas emissions. And with extreme weather impacts hitting each of our communities, we have a responsibility to act.
TED: How to Find Joy in Climate Action | Ayana Elizabeth Johnson, June 21, 2022.
The New School: Hope in the Time of Climate Crisis, April 21, 2022.
Already, concerned citizens are creating major change within their communities. Kids in Montgomery County, Maryland, for example, urged their school board to lease 300 electric school buses to reduce the health and environmental impacts of diesel. Similarly, after a group of 7,600 employees signed a petition to increase the company’s emissions reductions goals, Amazon pledged to meet Paris Agreement goals by 2040 and ordered 100,000 electric trucks.
Individuals can also aid sustainability efforts by replacing fossil-fuel guzzling cars, air conditioners, refrigerators, and gas ranges with electric options. While this may seem difficult and expensive, Gillis and Harvey argue that consumers can make these more environmentally friendly choices in part through smart planning and budgeting.
Now This: Electric School Bus Provides Cleaner Alternative, July 9, 2022.
TED: Climate change | From one kid to another | Bandi Guan, October 29, 2021.
Bloomberg: Amazon Rolling Out More Rivian Electric Vans, July 21, 2022.
Why This Matters
Though the climate crisis can seem overwhelming, electrification and local organizing represent relatively accessible ways for citizen involvement. Moreover, the benefits of electrification run deep: households will save nearly $2,000 each year once they move away from gas and go electric. Offshore wind power on leased public waters can put money back into taxpayers’ pockets. Electrification can also help make the grid more resilient, especially in the face of extreme weather -- a recent study shows that solar batteries can provide useful power during prolonged outages.
NBC: Inflation Reduction Act | Who Qualifies For Tax Credits And Rebates, September 20, 2022.
Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment: Stanford researchers find high emissions of greenhouse gases and toxic pollutants from gas stoves, January 22, 2022.
Grist: What's the true cost of a heat pump?, July 6, 2022.
The Path To Electrification
Installing the infrastructure needed for widespread electrification won’t be easy. According to Rewiring America, shifting the economy away from fossil fuels will require no fewer than 1 billion new electrical objects in the nation’s households alone. Most people will also need to upgrade their wiring in order to support a suite of new electrical appliances.
Upgrading the grid is good for both the environment, global health, and the economy. Electrification has the potential to create 25 million good-paying jobs, 2 million of which will come from investments in distributed solar and batteries alone.
Though it may take time to train enough electricians to meet the demand, the future is promising -- the Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that there will be around 80,000 new electrician jobs available every year until 2031. As Rewiring America CEO Ari Matusiak explains to the Washington Post, "these are jobs that are also career pathways” and will help save the planet.
TED: How to decarbonize the grid and electrify everything | John Doerr and Hal Harvey, November 19, 2020.
60 Minutes: How secure is America’s electric grid?, February 27, 2022.
CNBC: How The US Can Build A 100% Clean Grid, January 27, 2021.
Bloomberg: The Huge, Weird Batteries of the Future, August 4, 2022.
WW0: Creating Jobs While Decarbonizing the US Economy, June 27, 2022.