“Look, 30 years ago this was all still prospective. You couldn’t really take a picture of climate change yet. Now, having wasted 30 years, we’re at the point where it’s a dominant fact of everyday life for hundreds of millions of people and promising to be the overwhelming fact of our time in the years ahead. It’s too late, obviously, to stop climate change. I hope that the book gets across that it may not be too late to keep it from getting absolutely out of control. It’s not a warning. It’s some combination of a report and a chronicle and a plea, I think.”
“…Looking back at the history, that it’s not really a failure of human beings and human nature that’s the problem here. It’s a hijacking of our political and economic system by the fossil fuel industry and a small number of like-minded people. It was our bad luck that this idea that markets solve all problems and that government should be left to wither away crested just at the moment when it could do the most damage. Against that now, we’ve spent the last 10 years building movements. We waited too long to get started, and I kick myself regularly for that.
But now that power is showing itself. Even in the last few weeks, just to watch Extinction Rebellion and [16-year-old Swedish activist] Greta Thunberg’s followers around the world shutting down schools, and the remarkable young people from the Green New Deal fanning out across this country – those things to me are signs that the fever the planet is running is producing in quantity antibodies to fight back.”
“Part of the problem for me is — I’ve alluded to this earlier — I don’t want to say, ‘Oh, if only you’d listened to me back when.’ Thirty years ago there were a lot of small things that could have been done that would have made a big difference. Thirty years ago a modest price on carbon would have reoriented us in a big way. At this point, a modest price on carbon doesn’t do very much. There’s no intellectual reason not to do it, but it doesn’t accomplish what we need in the time that physics has left us to accomplish anything in. It’s really good to have people talking realistically about what it’s going to take.”
“The question is, the world that runs on sun and wind, what kind of world will it be? If it takes us 50 years to get there, then the world we run on sun and wind will be a broken world. If we make it happen faster, it’s not like we’re going to stop climate change. It’s not like it’s going to be a utopia. But we may be able to avoid the worst dystopias.”
excerpts from a longer interview in Yale Environment 360,
published at the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies