Your holiday dinner talking points on climate change

Keith Gaby

Polls show that most people now understand that climate change is real — so you’re less likely to have to fight that battle at the Thanksgiving table this year. But what, your cranky uncle wants to know, are we going to do about it?

We think the answer is to move to a 100% clean future, which is a bold goal, but one we need since climate change is such a big problem. Here’s how to explain it over pie.

What is a 100% clean future?

A 100% clean future means we don’t produce any more climate pollution than we remove — resulting in net zero pollution. To do that, we need a lot more clean energy, and cost-effective ways to take climate pollution out of the air. We have to get started now, make big progress over the next ten years and get to 100% clean by 2050.

How will it work?

A 100% clean future is practical and achievable because it lets us have a mix of energy sources, as long as the overall balance is zero pollution. So pollution still produced by some factories, for example, will be balanced out by having bigger forests or farming practices that remove carbon from the air. New carbon dioxide removal technologies could pull carbon pollution directly out of the atmosphere, too. They’re not cost-effective yet, so we need more research and development.

What else will it solve?

Reaching 100% clean will help reduce air pollution that causes asthma and heart disease. And reorienting our economy toward using more clean energy will help us win the race for clean energy jobs — we’ll be selling new technology to Europe and China, not the other way around.

Why now?

The threat of climate change is the biggest reason to get to 100% clean, and the consequences of failure are huge. Citibank estimates that it will cost the U.S. more than $40 trillion if we don’t deal with climate change. And the best science says we have to get there by the middle of the century at the latest to avoid the worst impacts.

There are lots of good reasons for transitioning to a 100% clean future, but the most important one is that kid across the table with gravy on her face. We need to leave a better world for her.