Thirty years from now, the only thing that will appear important about this historical moment is the question of whether or not we did anything meaningful to confront climate change.[1]  The reason is simple: We are drastically altering the very life support system upon which we depend. And we have only a very narrow window of opportunity to avert catastrophic impacts to society. The time for action is now; each year we delay the required emission cuts become steeper. Yet, non-binding international climate agreements continue to allow global greenhouse gas levels to soar.[2] 

The time to act—at scale—is now. The transformation of our carbon-intensive system can only succeed by raising public support, an effort that must be funded by billions of philanthropic dollars, on the scale of a presidential campaign.

Issues, Questions, and Answers

Click on Issue to navigate down the page.

Issue 1:  I keep hearing that global warming is a major problem. 
Q1.1:  Why is that the case?

Issue 2:  I keep reading about carbon dioxide emissions, atmospheric carbon levels and carbon budgets, but I don’t understand what it means or what I can do about it. 
Q2.1:  I hear that time is running out, what does that mean?
Q2.2: So what does this mean we have to do?

Issue 3:  I’ve heard you don’t call this an environmental issue.
Q3.1:  Why not?

Issue 4:  Thus far, organizations have failed to substantially shift public consciousness and reduce emissions.
Q4.1:  Why have others failed?
Q4.2:  How and why is CCBI different?
Q4.3:  Isn’t there another organization that is doing pretty much the same thing?
Q4.4:  How is the effort you envision different from efforts led by existing organizations?
Q4.5:  How will CCBI succeed when others haven’t?
Q4.6:  Why start in California?
Q4.7:  Why so much emphasis on philanthropy? Isn’t it then a top-down effort?

Issue 5: Your plan calls for a massive public awareness effort to basically alarm-educate-motivate. An Inconvenient Truth followed the same model, yet it failed to change the consciousness of working class voters, and its impact on college-educated voters faded after a few years.
Q5.1:  Since citing alarming scientific facts does NOT effectively stir the public, how will you elicit a significant response?
Q5.2:  And, how can people be motivated to take action and to change in the time and at the scale required?

Issue 6: CCBI calls for a price on carbon, which requires an act of Congress. The US Congress can’t get much of anything done—even the seemingly easy stuff.
Q6.1:  How will you get something past Congress when recently about 90% of the American public supported strengthening of gun control laws, yet nothing happened?
Q6.2:  What is the plan for mustering a Congressional majority for a carbon tax?

Issue 7:  There are already hundreds or thousands of climate change organizations.
Q7.1:  Is it necessary to establish yet another organization with all the associated overhead and infrastructure? Why not just create a new program under the umbrella of an existing organization, to put donors’ dollars to maximum effect?
Q7.2:  How can you unite all these different groups?

Issue 8:  I’ve never heard of CCBI. Tell me about yourselves.
Q8.1:  Who are you and how can you get this huge effort accomplished?

Issue 9:  You seem to have a plan and know-how, yet I find this crisis so threatening and depressing.
Q9.1:  What can you tell me before I go stick my head in the sand?
Q9.2:  Still, what if I cannot conceive of what the world will look like on the other side?
Q9.3:  OK, OK, what can I do?

CO2 and other gases trap heat in the atmosphere


The “Greenhouse Effect”

Carbon dioxide, water, methane and other atmospheric gases trap a certain amount of the Sun’s energy and warm the Earth, thus earning the title “greenhouse gases.” CO2 is a major greenhouse gas, even though only a trace is in our atmosphere. Water vapor and methane are also major greenhouse gases. At the proper levels, these gases create moderate temperatures for humanity and life to flourish. Without this warming blanket, Earth’s temperature would be about 60°F cooler, making it 0°F on average.

It is the excessive buildup of greenhouse gases that poses a threat for humanity. Since the beginning of the Industrial Age in the mid-1700s, our burning of fossil fuels has increased atmospheric CO2 levels from 280 to 400 parts per million (ppm)—about a 40% increase. By increasing the abundance of these gases in the atmosphere, humankind is increasing the overall warming of the Earth’s surface and lower atmosphere, a process called global warming.

Image: Former Climate Commission, Australian Federal Government

Issue 1:  I keep hearing that global warming is a major problem. 

Q1.1:  Why is that the case?

A:  Climate change is one of the greatest challenges we have ever faced.  The burning of fossil fuels, deforestation, and certain agricultural practices release greenhouse gases—especially carbon dioxide (CO2)—that trap heat in the atmosphere. 

Since we began burning fossil fuels and drastically altering forest cover 250 years ago, Earth’s average temperature has risen 0.9°Celsius (1.5° Fahrenheit). This seemingly small increase has already had an enormous effect. The trapped heat draws more moisture into the atmosphere, and changes the global weather patterns. Some regions are battered by more frequent and severe storms with heavier precipitation, flooding, and mudslides. Other areas are becoming drier, leading to more fires, water shortages, and crop damage. Polar ice is melting, causing sea level to rise. This devastation will only increase as temperatures rise. As more carbon is dumped into the atmosphere, the risk of runaway heating is increased.

To maintain a livable climate, humanity must quickly alter its practices. We are currently deeply dependent on fossil fuels for transportation, food production, electricity, and other aspects of modern life. And we are clearing vast swaths of forest. Trees store carbon, and when they are lost due to deforestation, this stored carbon is released back into the atmosphere as CO2, contributing to global warming.

Scientists warn of abrupt and disruptive effects of global warming

Scientists have sounded the alarm with the release of studies challenging the idea that global warming is occurring gradually over the century and that its worst effects can be avoided by keeping emissions below a critical threshold.

A National Research Council report says the planet is warming so quickly that the world should expect abrupt and unpredictable consequences in a matter of years or a few decades. Among the changes already underway are the sudden decline in Arctic sea ice and climbing extinction rates. Scientists based their findings, in part, on the study of climate history as recorded in tree rings, ocean sediment and ice cores. They found the timeline punctuated by big, sudden changes, including ocean circulation shifts and mass extinctions.

As a result of the burning of fossil fuels, industrial activity and deforestation, the amount of carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping greenhouse gases in the atmosphere has soared to levels not seen in millions of years, with global temperatures rising by about 1.5 degrees Fahrenheit (0.9°Celsius). The scientists say the accelerating gas levels increase the risk of reaching various "tipping points," leaving nature and society little time to react.

Tony Barboza, “Studies warn of abrupt environmental effects of warming,” LA Times, December 03, 2013.


Blowing the Carbon Budget

Under business as usual with an emissions growth of 2% per year, we would exceed our carbon budget and the 2°C ceiling by 2032, in just eighteen years, which would be unprecedented in recorded history and very dangerous.
Notes: % in parentheses are chances of limiting warming to 2°C. Assumes limited further non-CO2 forcings as per RPC 2.6.
Data: Historical: Global Carbon Project, Budget: IPCC WGI AR5. Source:

Issue 2:  I keep reading about carbon dioxide emissions, atmospheric carbon levels and carbon budgets, but I don’t understand what it means or what I can do about it. 

Q2.1:  I hear that time is running out, what does that mean?

A:  By 2011 the world had already emitted 531 gigatons (billion tons) of carbon (GtC). This is about two-thirds of the total we can emit to have a 66% chance of staying within the 2°C heat limit, according to the 2013 IPCC assessment. This leaves only another 270 GtC we can emit before we exceed the total “carbon budget” of 800 GtC (this includes all GHG emissions). If global carbon emissions continue to grow at 2% each year, as they have done over the last decade, we will blow through the 800 GtC carbon budget at the start of 2032 – a mere eighteen years from now.

The Copenhagen Accord

In 2009, the world defined a global goal to guide emission reduction efforts. At Copenhagen, 141 countries, representing over 87 percent of global emissions, agreed that holding global temperature increase to below 2 degrees C above preindustrial levels was needed to prevent dangerous climate change.

Unfortunately, the Copenhagen Accord is not legally binding, meaning that countries may continue to emit greenhouse gases at an increasing rate.




Q2.2:  So what does this mean we have to do?

A:  We must quickly mobilize to phase-out fossil fuels and transition to a renewables-based energy economy, while also maintaining and restoring forest cover. A breakthrough in emissions reductions is necessary if we are to succeed. Importantly, it is not too late to avert the worst climate effects and runaway heat increases if we begin these reductions now. Citizens and policymakers must understand several principle actions now needed for climate stabilization under the 2°C heat threshold:

CO2 reductions of over 5 percent per year are now needed

CO2 emissions reductions of 5% per year on average are now needed for the likelihood of staying below the 2°C heat ceiling.  
Graph source: ATL.

  • Starting now, reduce carbon emissions by about 5 percent each year, until fossil fuel phase-out is complete by mid-century,[3] by quickly transitioning from fossil fuels to low carbon energy.

  • Price carbon pollution and remove fossil fuel subsidies. To drive broad-based emissions reductions, we must account for the true societal costs of fossil fuels.

  • Invest globally in the conversion to a clean, efficient, and resilient energy infrastructure and in forest cover. Transition from our carbon-intensive, inefficient, old system. Assist developing nations to bypass carbon energy systems and to restore their forests.

  • The US must lead. The US must embrace the 2°C limit, and lead the global low carbon mobilization. Fossil fuel reductions must begin now in industrialized nations,[4] and within a few years in developing nations.[5]