Readers: The entries in this blog are built around the assumption there will be a 5th revolution in the US — the Revenge Revolution. More about the Revenge Revolution, a list of earlier revolutions and the author, Entry #1

Periodically I write a “sense check” to assess whether a revolution in the US is possible or whether the entire exercise is based on a statistical aberration — i.e., a roughly 50-year cycle between major upheavals in the US.  Entry #400 was the most recent “sense check.” 

For the past 6+ months, I’ve been working with a group of fellow MIT alumni to assess and then recommend practical solutions to climate change. While the group has made every effort to remain apolitical, by its very nature the group is highly biased toward science and quantitative analysis.

Within the group there is no dispute whether climate change is real. There is no dispute within the group whether the consequences of climate change are severe for the US and every other country worldwide, even if we begin to take action now.

Like many issues, most people have a difficult time imagining the future. Whether the consequences of climate change are difficult to imagine or the consequences are easier to ignore and one finds it more comforting to hope that the problems goes away, there seems to be a little concern within the general populace about consequences of climate change.

The lack of concern makes implementing necessary solutions even more difficult. To help listeners better understand complex problems, using an any analogy often help. For climate change, I found the following analogy gets people’s attention and adequately describes the scope of the problem if nothing is done.

Imagine climate change as a game of Russian Roulette.  If you want to ignore climate change and do nothing, then load the chamber not with one bullet but with five bullets.  Now, spin the chamber and pull the trigger.  Chances are the outcome will not be a good one. 

If you want to take serious action to address climate change, then you put only one round in the chamber. A positive outcome is not guaranteed but the chances are very good. So ask yourself, do I want to play Russian Roulette with five rounds in the chamber or just one round?

What also seems to help people understand complex problems is a set of Q&A where the questions and answers are phrased in terms understandable to most everyone.

Recently a colleague asked me to list top-line bullet points about climate change that she could weave into an upcoming speech. A couple of Q&A examples follow. Link to entire Q&A set.

  • Q: What’s the solution to climate change or are we doomed no matter what we do?
  • A: We are not doomed if we start taking action now.  The longer we wait, the more difficult the solution becomes.  Think of the solution as a 3-legged stool.  The legs are:
    • Using existing and likely future technology to reduce CO2 and other GHG (greenhouse gas) – methane, e.g.
    • Providing adequate funds to pay for implementing technology
    • Creating new jobs to replace those lost and ideally creating  even more jobs
  • Q: How do we implement these solutions?
  • A: Think of another 3-legged stool. Most of the necessary technology is available today. Thus the implementation plan is one that is more dependent on a willingness to solve the problem. To address climate change both society and legislators need to commit to:
    • Implementing science-based solutions, not political solutions
    • Using not just public funds but insisting on private funds as well
    • Ensuring fair-and-equitable implementation across all socio-economic groups. Like Covid-19, all socio-economic groups will be affected by climate change.

How will efforts to address climate change affect the 5th US Revolution, aka the Revenge Revolution? The groups most affected by climate change are under age 50, and especially under age 30. Like the cultural revolution of the 1960’s/1970’s, US Revolution #4, the younger generation likely will be the primary force for change.

The younger generations tend to lean left politically and many seem more open to a larger role for government. The younger generations’ support for actions to address climate change will diminish further the voice of the Republican far right.

The more I’ve delved into what’s required to address climate change, and how solutions now depend on personal commitment, since technology is available to solve most of the problems, the more I wonder if the Revenge Revolution will be driven by the younger generations. Are they waiting to “Throw the (older) bums out?

Will the younger generation claim, and maybe rightfully so, “You old guys screwed it up. Now we’re going to run the show.” More to come.