Articles Climate Change

The Importance of Leadership in the Climate Crisis

I often describe myself as a multidimensional person. I’m a writer, a musician, an artist, a member of the RChain cooperative, a friend, a citizen, and many other things. First and foremost, I’m a human being living on planet Earth, just like every other person who’s reading this blog post. That’s why it strikes me a bit odd when people see my passion for solving the climate crisis and consider it a departure from my regular artistic activities. Sometimes they suggest that it’s out of my lane, or that it’s surprising that I’ve become such a “tree hugger.” They wonder where my passion for saving the Earth came from. 

My view on this is that if you’re a human being living on planet Earth, and I’ve just established that this should include everyone, the climate crisis is very much in your lane. The Earth is probably the most important thing we all share. It’s our only home, certainly for now. While the vast majority of people realize that we are facing a grave threat, not only environmental destruction, but our own suicide by way of environmental destruction, and that we have very little time to turn this situation around, it’s worth reflecting on this truth. Of those who understand the science, virtually everyone wants change, but not everyone is as enthusiastic to change. 

The best available science tells us that in order to have a fair chance of staying beneath 1.5 degrees Celsius of warming (and to avoid unprecedented, unrelenting widespread disaster), we need to emit less than 420 more gigatons of carbon into the atmosphere, which we are, as a planet, on track to do by 2030 if not much sooner. Global carbon spending is about one tenth of that per year and rising, including the decline in coal use, so we have about 10 years or less until we are “over budget,” meaning we have put ourselves on track for more than 1.5 degrees of warming. This means that we cannot emit even one more gigaton of carbon after 2030 if we want to keep warming under control, so we are going to have to make some serious changes very quickly if we want to keep our carbon spending in check and avoid further catastrophe. 

Some people think that the climate crisis worst-case scenarios like two degrees of warming or higher, like three, four or beyond, just mean that the planet will get a bit hotter. Maybe we will lose edges of some coastal cities and that with some adaptation and a slightly larger infrastructure budget, life will go on. I am here to tell you that life will not go on. 

If we do not meet these targets on time, and in addition to that, if we do not invent other technologies we cannot even conceive of yet, if we do not listen to and empower our indigenous communities, if we do not rewild and restore our natural areas as quickly as possible, and if we do not undertake a number of other widespread and systematic efforts, things will not just be a little hotter. Life for human beings will not go on. 

We are talking about hundreds of millions of refugees and trillions more dollars on wars, and droughts that never end. Add to the list: Crops that never come back. Famine. Rivers and lakes that go dry forever. Water shortages for entire continents. A planet without ice at the poles. A planet with no coral reefs. Fire seasons that never stop. It’s not going to be what you think. It’s going to be much, much worse. 

We can’t run businesses and governments with a planet like that. We can’t build dreams with a planet like that. This is why millions of students around the world have taken to the streets on Fridays to skip class and explain that their futures are in jeopardy and that the adults need to act. This is why Billie Eilish recently performed at the American Music Awards wearing a shirt that said “No Music on a Dead Planet.” 

I found it particularly alarming when the Warner Bros. lot in Los Angeles was evacuated in November due to the presence of a nearby wildfire, the same lot that I had worked on several weeks prior when I was playing violin with Billboard chart-topper Lewis Capaldi on The Ellen DeGeneres Show. This was an emotional warning for many people who live and work in Hollywood as I do. 

Even though California suffered as many as 600 fires across three days in October, life seemed to go on, but not in a way that inspired me and reminded me of our collective strength. There was some of that, of course, but many people in the city didn’t seem to notice what was truly going on around us, even as smoke filled the air for days. 

Every climate disaster on the news seemed to be looked at as a singular, devastating, isolated event. Nobody was connecting the dots. Nobody looked at the whole problem as a global, persistent, worsening, deadly threat that was already way out of control. 

Happily, there is an answer. Decarbonization promises to be the next huge economic opportunity not only for the United States, but for the entire world — if we seize this moment. Implementing green energy solutions and cleaning up pollution also has tremendously positive public health impacts, which further benefit the economy. People enjoy working when they don’t have Cancer and Asthma, for example. We also spend less on healthcare this way. 

There is indeed a lot of work to be done, but it should not be viewed solely as a burden. It is a huge opportunity to save this planet, to save ourselves and to boost our economy with good jobs, clean exports and a planet that can support true success, where there are no disposable people and no disposable places. Imagine this. 

It is our only way to not only survive but thrive. Governments and corporations alike need to see this not only for publicity’s sake but for the sake of the planet, themselves, their own children and the next generation of human beings and wildlife. This is the kind of leadership that we are missing, and it is our only chance to possibly slow, stall, or reverse the mass extinction event that we have very recently started. 

From a blockchain perspective, the thousands of companies and projects that are going to boom in the global decarbonization and green energy economies will need a secure, scalable blockchain to power their products, ideas and services. This presents obvious huge opportunities both for RChain and future portfolio companies, which should not be overlooked. 

Sadly, the recent COP25 climate conference in Madrid ended in disarray, and time and time again we’ve seen that these summits and talks, while they hold tremendous potential and should continue at all costs, keep falling short due to a severe poverty of ambition everywhere that counts. As this article from The Guardian points out, those in power continue to focus on details and minor points rather than “deep cuts” and systemic changes which are what’s truly needed at this late stage. I’ll refer you back to the rapidly dwindling carbon budget. 

The kind of leadership we need from our governments, from corporations, from you, a regular human being living on planet Earth — is the kind of leadership that takes this crisis seriously, that sees the urgency at hand and understands what is at stake and what we could lose. Greta Thunberg (TIME Magazine’s Person of the Year 2019) talked about this at her COP25 speech. To paraphrase, she analogized that when there is a child in the street, the adults do not look away because it is too uncomfortable. When the cars are rushing toward the child, any adult wouldn’t even think about whether or not to act. He or she would run into traffic and save the child. 

Where is that attitude when it comes to saving the planet? Where is that leadership, aside from the youth activists who are sadly tasked with holding politicians’ feet to the fire these days, instead of going to school, or being with their families? Why is it up to them to have all the hope, to save the world on their own?

We need leaders of all ages and all walks of life to speak out with the level of concern that we would have if we saw a child lost in the middle of traffic. The clock is ticking and the carbon budget is dwindling fast. The Amazon, The Congo, The Arctic, Australia, California, and so many other places were on fire this year. It’s estimated that 500 million animals died due to the recent fires in Australia alone. That’s not normal. These areas could turn into carbon bombs rather than carbon sinks very soon. Leadership is needed. You — are needed. 

The same thinking that got us into this horrible situation is not the same thinking that will get us out. It’s important that the will of the people is recognized and that the “us, not me” shift occurs. None of us are well until all of us are well, and we cannot be well on a sick planet. 

Until we have the global leadership that is required to coordinate ourselves on a scale perhaps not yet seen on Earth (a principal goal of RChain’s), these summits will continue to be ineffective, politicians will continue to stall and set vague and distant goals, and corporations will foolishly see the dream of a clean, healthy, equitable world as a chore rather than a benefit to themselves. 

It’s up to each and every one of us to decide if we want to save leopards, or oranges, or sea turtles, or zebras, or pine trees. And if we do, we only have a few years left, so we better get to work. We need to be bold, brave and honest. Only then can we ensure that our planet will be safe to live on. 

It’s up to you to decide how you want to lead your community. Voting, picking up trash, volunteering locally, starting your own green company, running for office, joining a protest, planning or attending a town hall, planting trees, writing your representative, investing in a green company, and talking with your community on social media or face to face about the climate crisis are all things you could do, among many others. Creativity is key! 

If you’d like to be a guest on RChain’s weekly Climate and Coordination call on Fridays at 8:30am PST, email and tell us about the topics that interest you most. The clock is ticking. See you out there!