Frustrated by the U.S.'s lack of progress on climate solutions, we created a six-point plan to remedy the situation. Our strategy recognizes that President Obama's Climate Action Plan isn't enough to avoid the worst climate impacts, and lays out specific policies that would reduce greenhouse gas emissions to the levels that the best scientists say is necessary.

Our document is called The Plan: How the U.S. Can Help Stabilize the Climate and Create a Clean Energy Future, and is broken down into 2 categories: actions that President Obama can legally take on his own, and ones we must pressure Congress to pass.

We know this is an ambitious undertaking–but we're trying to push the politics of climate change because the planet can't afford to wait around while our politicians dither.

You can learn more about our organization at


EDIT: You can download the full version of our report here. It contains all of our citations for our claims about nuclear power, which I expect to be one of the more controversial topics we talk about.

Update: To everyone who responded: Thank you so much. I have enjoyed learning your opinions, agreeing with you, and disagreeing with you. It has been fun, but I sadly have to sign off. I will address some of the last remaining questions in the next day, but for the most part I'm done posting. Thanks again.

Comments: 814 • Responses: 22  • Date: 

Rilgon123 karma

Why should anyone take seriously a "clean energy plan" whose info about nuclear power is hilariously inaccurate and borderline yellow journalism?

Here's a hint: Most "clean power" can't sustain peak loads without either ridiculous investments of land area or water that we need for way more important things, and has more attributable deaths per terawatt hour than nuclear (yes, even precious golden goats like solar and wind energy). "Meltdowns" haven't been a threat since modern breeder reactors and LFTRs started being built and operated (and if you make a single quip about Fukushima you just further betray your ignorance). Long term waste storage isn't needed because waste from current-or-older-gen nuclear plants is ready-made fuel for breeder reactors.

darkslope-5 karma

The policies we prescribe in our plan advocate for no new subsidies for nuclear energy, and highlight the current risks of nuclear power, such as:

-massive cost overruns that burden future ratepayers

-taxpayer liability for any large-scale disaster

-the threat of meltdown from non-breeder reactors and LFTRs

Our point is this: nuclear power has many risks, is often far more expensive than projected. And many of the projects take years and years to complete. If a private contractor would like to install a reactor, they are free to do so under our plan. We just don't want the government to give them subsidies and subsidized insurance rates. In order to reduce emissions as quickly as possible in the short term, nuclear is not the way to go. However, we utilize free markets to achieve this, so we never explicitly say that you cannot build a nuclear plant. We think that it would simply be unwise to rely on nuclear to make a significant dent in short-term emissions.

As for the baseload renewables issue, renewables can be integrated into the grid with reasonable backup costs, on the order of a couple of cents/kWh. You may examine our citations for this claim by looking at citations 5-10 in our full document, available for download here.

Here are the studies we cite:

Delucci and Jacobson 2010 Greenpeace 2007 NREL 2012 Makhijani 2010 Mathieson et al. 2011 Sovacool and Watts 2009 Wiseman et al. 2013 WWF 2011

WorkingDead86 karma

From your website, your team doesn't seem to have any engineers, anyone with power generation experience, or anyone with any sort of technical degree. Do you think you team is really qualified to comment on this issue?

darkslope13 karma

You're absolutely right that we are policy people. One member of our team had a short stint in generation at an electrical utility but that's it. When doing the research and writing of our report, however, we consulted many people with technical backgrounds as you can see if you dig into our citations or our acknowledgments. We don't claim to be anything we're not. What we are is deeply embedded in our fields and deeply committed to creating political change. We know that the best and brightest minds out there already have come up with so many of the solutions to our problems. What we want to create is the political and economic climate that will support them.

cgbroncos11343 karma

Do you think congressional action is really viable in this political climate? Do you even think unilateral executive action is too risky for the Democratic Party considering the issue is so controversial?

darkslope37 karma

Great question. In the current political climate, congressional action is extremely unlikely. But we're trying to shift that political climate to make climate solutions viable in the mainstream. And the way we're going to do that is by illustrating the benefits of action (new jobs, cleaner air, reduced climate damages now and down the road, and national security, to name a few).

Obama's Climate Action Plan is basically the most his administration can do without help from Congress. But is it too risky for Democrats? The thing about executive action is that Congressmen can stay neutral on the issue, because new regulations aren't their doing. So it'll be risky for the Democrats in fossil fuel-heavy states, while Democrats in California and NY, for example, might throw themselves behind these new regulations.

But I would say that many Democratics will, for the most part, support Obama's plans. The problem is that those plans don't go far enough, so we want to mobilize the public to push their lawmakers further.

backbeat120937 karma

Your plan doesn't mention any attempts at near-term partnership or development of the oil and gas industry. Alternative energy supplies would likely take decades to develop and implement, especially if the goal is to create a new standard energy source. Oil and gas has been the primary supplier of energy to the world for decades, and has undeniably demonstrated an ability to become cleaner over the course of that period. Take cars as an example - total car emissions have dropped significantly over the past few decades, even as the number of drivers on the road have increased. Given this, why not try to work with oil and gas companies, rather than against them, in order to make the existing energy market cleaner? If you pull the right levers (not claiming to know which those would be), I have to imagine there is much more progress to be made in that area.

darkslope15 karma

Cars have absolutely become cleaner over the past few decades. But the oil that goes into the engines still contains the same amount of carbon as it did 20 years ago. While efficiency can play a big role in the transition, efficiency alone cannot provide all of the reductions we need. We aren't inherently against working with oil and gas companies, so long as they acknowledge that in order to maintain a safe climate, demand for oil will have to decrease, starting very soon, and proceed towards very low amounts by mid century. If they are on board with that, then I'm all for partnerships with oil companies that would assist in the transition.

So I guess to sum up, I do think there is some more progress to be made in terms of efficiency. And one of the most effective ways to encourage oil conservation is by putting a price on carbon, as ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson once threw his support behind. We'd love to work with anyone and everyone, including oil companies, who will push for our carbon-reducing policies to come to fruition. But that speech was in 2009, and I'm not sure if Tillerson, or any other CEO for that matter, still believes that.

jsennn27 karma

Let's say the president and congress are super supportive of your proposals and everything is accepted with flying colors...

At their current increasing rates of emitting GHG, won't developing countries just knock out the potential cutbacks in the U.S.? How can we solve a global environmental issue from a national level?

darkslope23 karma

Great question. Yes, developing countries are emitting greenhouse gases at increasing rates. But if the President and Congress adopt our policies, and let's say, the BRIC countries keep on spewing out Greenhouse Gases, then we are "stuck with:" slashed oil dependence, reduced air pollution, insulation from oil price shocks. So it's not as if taking action here is without its merits.

The U.S. is a leader, and other countries look to us to act. There is no chance that if we do nothing, then China will take aggressive action. So the only hope for the global climate is for the U.S. to show leadership by implementing a bold climate plan, and use that as leverage in global climate negotiations. Again, there are myriad other benefits of action, and if the U.S. could come to China and say that we have a plan to do our part, it would vastly increase the likelihood that China will follow suit. It is in our interests both from a national security standpoint and a moral standpoint. We have to be able to say that we gave it our all.

window517 karma

Will anything the US does to lessen its CO2 output have any effect on global climate change? Doesn't China, India, Brazil have a bigger impact on CO2 output than the US?

darkslope28 karma

See my response to jsennn above. I'll repost here:

Great question. Yes, developing countries are emitting greenhouse gases at increasing rates. But if the President and Congress adopt our policies, and let's say, the BRIC countries keep on spewing out Greenhouse Gases, then we are "stuck with:" slashed oil dependence, reduced air pollution, insulation from oil price shocks. So it's not as if taking action here is without its merits.

The U.S. is a leader, and other countries look to us to act. There is no chance that if we do nothing, then China will take aggressive action. So the only hope for the global climate is for the U.S. to show leadership by implementing a bold climate plan, and use that as leverage in global climate negotiations. Again, there are myriad other benefits of action, and if the U.S. could come to China and say that we have a plan to do our part, it would vastly increase the likelihood that China will follow suit. It is in our interests both from a national security standpoint and a moral standpoint. We have to be able to say that we gave it our all.

JorusC13 karma

I'm not going to bash your plan like everybody else. Instead, I have a simple question for you.

What burden of proof would you require before you would, hypothetically, stop believing in man-made climate change?

I'm not asking you to spout off a bunch of facts to convince me that it's true. I'm asking for the line - at what point would you say, "Okay, that's it, I've been believing a lie." Would it be a certain period of no change? What would define no change? How long would the period be?

See, I'm asking this because I've talked with other people with similar philosophies as you, and they couldn't answer me. It never occurred to them that there might be a point at which they shouldn't believe. And if that's the case, then that's what it is: belief. Faith. A religious duty to try and stop the armageddon that your priests have told you is coming.

Of course you aren't just a true believer in some cult. You're an educated scientist. Well, every scientist must face the Null Hypothesis, and we all must be willing to have standards that the evidence must meet before we trust it. So tell me, what is your line? At what point would man-made climate change not exist?

darkslope11 karma

Hypothetically, if the scientists believed the opposite of what they do now (i.e. 97% believed that climate change does not exist and is not cause by man), I would believe what they are saying. For me, maybe in 20 or 30 years if global temperatures have not risen at all, I might start to feel that way. I don't think that's going to happen, given that temperature has been consistently rising (the stat that climate hasn't warmed in 15 years has to do with a misleading short term statistic). I am always open to interpreting scientific data that comes out. If there were any serious scientific data over the next 2 or 3 decades that showed that the long-term warming trend (meaning greater than citing a couple of years where temperature decreases) has slowed or reversed, I would be open to that. The thing is, I think it's too risky to wait that long to find out. It's all about hedging bets now against something that I am extremely sure is true, and if it is true then we must take significant action to prevent it. Hope I answered your question! Let me know if I didn't.

Chapped_Assets11 karma

How do you plan to market this to the people? What will be the biggest obstacle to your objective?

darkslope6 karma

We're marketing this from both a cost/benefit perspective and a risk management perspective.

The long-term costs of energy investment, whether we stick them in fossil fuels or renewables and energy efficiency, will be comparable according to studies we cite in The Plan. But including the benefits of slashing our reliance on foreign oil, reducing vulnerability to price shocks, reduced climate damages, and cleaner air, the benefits of climate action clearly outweigh the costs.

In terms of risk management, climate change is like a big game of insurance. Just as we buy health insurance to protect against a small risk of catastrophic injury, we should apply the same principle to global warming: let's buy insurance against the risk of catastrophic damages (and we're talking about many percentage points of GDP, here). But in this case, the insurance premium is low cost, or, with technological breakthroughs, even negative cost.

Put another way, I see the net costs of climate investment as kind of like the insurance premium here, to hedge against the risk of catastrophe. But whether it's a low net cost (most likely), no net cost, or negative net cost, it's still worth it to pay for the climate insurance, if you're risk averse.

I think the biggest obstacle to our objective is the long-term nature of the problem. Since the worst damages will be down the road, it's hard to convince people that they should pay to avoid that. But, we are seeing some footprints of climate change right now, and the American people seem to be waking up to the realities of climate change. The challenge is communication of risk and cost/benefit.

darkslope5 karma

I am now back answering questions! I'll try and get to as many that I missed that I can. Thanks for the patience.

funtoimagine1 karma

Suppose you fall short of your admirable goal to "shift the political climate." What other ways do you think your document could be beneficial to Americans? Would you ever consider making parts of The Plan teachable to children so that future members of the constituency could be equipped to make the best decisions for the planet?

darkslope-9 karma

So far, the thing that people have said is most inspiring about The Plan and the work that we are doing is that it shows people that there actually ARE solutions to the climate crisis. We have the technologies we need already, and they’re only going to get better. Policy solutions have been thought of that can be implemented without wrecking the economy and screwing over poor people. That is definitely the message that we are trying to get out in the mainstream, even while we meet with wonks and advocates to try to put policies forward.

As far as kids go, we’ve actually been invited to brief a classroom of middle-schoolers already, so we’re gonna come up with a kid friendly version and hopefully that can become adaptable and useful. :)

mel_cache2 karma

So what are they, in a nutshell?

darkslope-8 karma

This Sierra Club blog post gives a pretty good short outline of the initiatives we propose.

For those who don’t click through:

Going Beyond the President’s Plans

Greenhouse Gas Fee

Energy Incentives Restructuring

National Green Bank

Supply Side Fossil Fuel Regulations

Presidential Commission on Climate Solutions

itsmedasho-1 karma

Ultimately this plan just seems to need traction and a base level of support in order to really make it plausible. Although the Republicans seem to be the main ones blocking the base idea of fixes to climate change, in reality it's not Like the Democrats are doing that much to bring this issue to the center of the our consciousness. We really need Great ideas like this coupled with a relentless and coordinated push to bring it to the masses and get people on board. How do you all plan on effectively enacting that part of the plan?

darkslope-11 karma

We've got to try everything, and mobilize and engage with as many people and groups as possible to build support for our policies. The key is being relentless: never give up, and look at what groups' core values align with ours in order to build a broad constituent base. The beautiful thing about The Plan is that there's something for everyone: free market solutions that don't pick winners and losers should appeal to some conservatives, while sticking to aggressive emissions reductions targets should attract the most ardent climate activists.

We're working with a bunch of other groups to fire up their support base, as well as build our own and do the same. It's all about finding areas of convergence. And once enough people support real climate solutions, we'll be ready to finally apply some heat to Congress and the President to take serious climate action.

darkslope-1 karma

Thanks for all of the amazing questions. I'm signing off for now, will be back at 8AM Eastern. Looking forward to answering more questions!

digitalset-21 karma

I don't like your plan. It appears to be the same starry-eyed nonsense that has been spouted for 20 years.

Let's go point by point:


A)Ok, carbon sequestration is a bad idea. I don't like it as it's fundamentally an unstable situation to remedy a problem. But, you throw nuclear power in that category as an unsafe and undesirable alternative. That is simply a lack of education on your part. Nuclear power is the only option we have right now which can reduce electrical generation carbon emissions significantly in the next 20 years. You and people who think like you will have to be part of a large educational campaign because you clearly don't understand the technology, based on your statement in the Exec Summary.

B)You are not going to get Americans to ride public transportation without a large cost increase from natural economic forces. Won't happen, better than you have tried, give it up. High-speed transportation: again, no. Sorry, do your research. You are saying nothign new that anyone else has said. If you think vast eminent domain siezures is a good thing for the 'working class', you probably don't belong to the working class but are a young upper-middle-class college student.

C)You want to stop the US from exporting coal and natural gas? When you can grasp the economic reality in the country today, you and your group might think twice about actually expecting people to give up livelihoods and participation in a rare export industry. In short, ridiculous, just plain thoughtless and callous on your part.

2)Greenhouse gas fee. People like you always think that adding regulations is all right as long as you make exceptions for the poor. Classic hallmark of a bunch of high schoolers or college undergrads who think you can just wave a wand at economic reality and make things happen. In short, no. You will probably never understand this, so my attempt in a few short sentences is void. If you can't understand economics and government regulation, go back and take Econ 101 and 102.

3)Basically four points about how things should be with nothing new to say, except this: Stopping subsidies for advanced fossil fuels. That's stupid, because there are already federal loan guarantees for renewable energies, a lot of them. Stopping advanced fossil fuel research is not only unfair, it's unwise, as greater efficiencies can come out of that research. Stopping and kind of research is just a sign of unfairness, meanness and shortsightedness. I don't like it and I generally don't like people who propose such things. Usually small-minded people on a self-righteous campaign fueled by late nights of vodka and red bull. It's just a stupid proposal.

4)Green Bank: Purely absurd. Again, conceived by the naive. Just plop down a new economic reality as if that's how the Federal Reserve was created. Then, exclude everyone else from participating, just because your cause is so important, why can't everyone see that it requires special treatment? Just naive, immature thinking.

5)No proposal to put the people you wish to unemploy at Powder River back to work on something else. Again, probably more hand-waving on your part about how then can move to a city and ride the high-speed rails to a job making windmills. OR, you didn't think about that at all, which is more likely.

6)Because things are not going how you think they should be going, you basically accuse the Administration of being slack and ill-educated. You probably can't even conceive of the fact that the President already has very good environmental advisors, but also has economic and political advisors, and that he doesn't make decisions in a vacuum, like you probably can in your rented office space or dorm room, or coffee shop.

Executive Summary. At best, you appear to be good-hearted but naive people who don't understand complexity or compromise. At worst, you could be just another set of soon or recently graduated college students looking for a career in the non-profit industry.

Either way, your plans are ill-conceived, un-original, and not happening because they're bad plans and don't take into account complex factors.

I sincerely hope you fail, which you will. Please go back to educating yourself then put your effort into a specific area where you can make a difference.

darkslope332 karma

1) A) Nuclear power is by no means the only option we have right now to reduce electrical generation carbon emissions significantly in the next 20 years. Currently, there are 24 nuclear reactors proposed in the U.S. eligible for government subsidies (they have to be proposed before December 31st, 2008), and only 1 new application has been submitted after this date (it won't receive government subsidies). Even if all of these units are built (which they will not be), this would represent roughly an 23% increase in nuclear output, assuming all current reactors stay on line, and it would take a long time before they are finally complete. While this would represent a non-trivial increase in the share of greenhouse gas-free baseload power, to say that "nuclear power is the only option we have that can significantly reduce electrical carbon emissions significantly in the next 20 years" overstates nuclear's potential (a 23% increase would raise nuclear's share from 19% to 23%), and ignores the potential of energy efficiency and renewables, such as solar (the conservative DOE estimates that solar's share can increase from <1% to 14% of electricity generation by 2030) and wind (can increase from 3.4% to 20% by 2030).

B) American public transit ridership is already growing, and an investment of $30 billion over the next 20 years can double this growth rate. I don't see any data you have that backs up your claim of "large cost increases from natural economic forces," or that "vast eminent domain seizures" will be necessary, so I can't really respond to those. If you would like to provide me with some sources, I will look them over and respond to them.

C) The entire goal of our project is to avoid the worst impacts of climate change. Will some new coal and gas export projects have to be scrapped? Yes. Do we want the U.S. to stop exporting coal and gas altogether right now? No, we've never said that. Ultimately, it will be up to other countries to reduce their demand for our coal and gas, and to a certain extent there's not much we can do about it (since we're not going to become a trade-protectionist state). But we can put the brakes on the startling rate of fossil fuel extraction, and take control of our own fossil fuel resources in order to prevent too much coal, oil, and gas, from flowing out of our borders. Our export strategy will only be one part of a strategy to control exporting emissions. The majority of it will be up to other countries to reduce their demand for our fossil fuels, and that can only happen once the U.S. commits to act decisively.

2) A greenhouse gas fee is not a regulation, it is a way to internalize the external costs of greenhouse gas emissions, under the principle that the polluter should pay for his/her costs to others, and level the playing field for energy technologies that don't contribute to climate change. You may scoff at "making exceptions for the poor," but we think it is fair to compensate low-income Americans from being overly burdened by a problem that is overwhelmingly not their fault.

3) There are federal loan guarantees for renewable energy, but President Obama now wants to earmark many of these loan guarantees that should legally be available for all technologies including renewables for for "advanced fossil energy." We're not saying stop all loan guarantees to fossil fuel-based projects that could reduce emissions, but rather put every technology on the table to determine the most effective solutions. As for the potential of fossil fuels vs. renewables in the R+D sector, see our above point of the potential of efficiency and renewables. In the long term, there's only so much cleaner fossil fuels can get, while renewables have vastly more potential to reduce emissions.

4) The idea for a National Green Bank was conceived by renewable energy stakeholders, business leaders, and ratepayers. Everyone can participate in getting financing from a Green Bank to invest in emissions reducing projects, and no one is excluded. The Green Bank leverages public capital with private capital, and instills confidence in new energy markets with proven financial returns. One already exists in Connecticut, and one recently opened in New York and the UK as well. There's nothing exclusive about this; on the contrary it includes clean technologies by providing them with more financial confidence in the form of lower borrowing costs. Other such banks have been proposed, for example to support our flailing infrastructure. Another great thing about these banks is that they are self sustaining once created, operating at no cost to the taxpayer.

5) Page 30 of our report reads as follows: provide jobs training and transition programs for workers in vulnerable industries, such as coal miners and oil rig operators. If you do the math, the amount of money we suggest allocating is quite generous as well.

6) We never accuse the Administration of being ill-educated. While I cannot speak to the competency of the President's environmental advisors, the President must do more to engage the American people and encourage Congress to take action. We simply want him to go beyond his Climate Action Plan and take bolder executive action (actions which we list at the end of our full report), as well as speak out more to Congress and encourage them to act where he cannot.