On Tuesday June 24, 2014, the Wilson Center in Washington, D.C. hosted “Silver Buckshot: Alternative Pathways Towards Greenhouse Gas Mitigation,” a discussion about using smaller bottom-up initiatives to jump-start real progress on greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction. The three speakers all challenged the effectiveness of singular “silver bullet” solutions to climate change and instead proposed multiple flexible solutions understood as “silver buckshot.”
Ruth Greenspan Bell, a public policy scholar and senior fellow at the World Resources Institute, called for “skillful incrementalism” in implementing this strategy. Because it is impossible to solve all global environmental problems at once, it is wiser to first focus resources on narrower issues that are ripe for resolution, like GHG reporting and monitoring. Bell contended that smaller measures of progress could be used as stepping stones for larger ones and demonstrate mutual trust between countries engaged in climate change negotiations. Moreover, these negotiations should be limited to discussions among the major players in climate change whose impact on the climate is greatest. The greatest headway on GHG mitigation will be made if the U.S, China and India are all involved.
Psychologist Elke Weber added a behavioral dimension to the conversation, insisting that individuals’ actions can be reshaped to great environmental benefit. One of the easiest ways to make behavior environmentally friendly is to make it the default option; instead of opting into green choices, people should need to opt out. Making energy efficient appliances, vehicles, houses etc. the default option for consumers increases their usage and decreases GHG emissions.
The problem is that right now industry and government are unwilling to take this necessary step in GHG mitigation. This issue can be solved by framing climate change as a security concern, says CNA Military Advisory Board Executive Director Sherri Goodman. Goodman described climate change as a “threat multiplier” for instability in volatile regions of the world, posing a significant national security threat to the U.S. The best way to manage these risks is for the U.S. to lead global efforts to develop energy efficient solutions that slow climate change.
Overall, the discussion was encouraging. Each speaker brought a fresh perspective to the environmental debate. The diverse panel of psychologists, consultants, and research fellows was appropriate to address such a multifaceted issue. If we are to solve a problem as great as climate change, we will need all hands on deck.