Climate change is a monumental problem. I characterize it by saying that it is our species’ greatest confirmed threat. Nuclear war? Possible but unlikely in any given decade. An asteroid/comet collision with Earth resulting in an extinction level event? Possible but unlikely in any given decade. I would, however, rate the asteroid/comet threat above nuclear war. One day, the former will happen, we just don’t know when; the latter can be held off and eliminated based on our own decision making. In a way, climate change combines aspects of both of these threats. Climate change (at a level that will challenge our civilizations) is both possible and likely in a given decade; it is currently happening and its magnitude will only increase each decade during the rest of this century unless and until we decide to do something about it.
It should not be surprising then that, given the sheer magnitude of catastrophic climate change, solutions addressing it are also monumental in scale. That’s the root of why so many climate change activists have been calling for a “climate-Manhattan Project” or a “climate Apollo Project”. My view on climate change actions has shifted somewhat from thinking a bunch of personal actions will eventually accumulate enough inertia to reduce our climate forcing to recognizing that the number of actions will require large-scale policy shifts – something that requires governments to act. That’s why the U.S. Senate’s recent failure to seriously address this developing crisis is so maddening. The status quo approach to policy will not work with climate change, mostly because we’re dealing with physical systems that respond to forcing, not people’s tender egos and greed.