Carbon Nation – a way to bridge the US political divide?

Posted on December 1, 2011


Hearing Peter Byk talk about his film, Carbon Nation, is enough to give anyone hope that Republicans and Democrats can be brought together in mutual support of positive, solutions-based approach to climate change in the US.  Byk’s enthusiasm is contagious.  His tale is partly about his own road to Damascus of sorts.  In the course of tootling about the US filming great energy and carbon projects he discovered that people had more views in common than in division on energy efficiency and low carbon energy.  He realised that by moving away from the climate change debate itself, polarisation about low-carbon energy solutions melted away.

In classic ‘yes we can’ style, Byk treated his audience this evening with lots of anecdotes of how he has persuaded government departments, multinational companies, politicians and lots of ordinary people of the benefits of implementing low-carbon solutions in buildings and energy systems right across the US.

There is much to be cynical about when it comes to US policy on climate change, but Byk was quick to point out that at the same time the US Government is playing hardball in Durban, America’s municipal governments and many of its large corporations are pushing the agenda forward internally.

As a citizen of the second-largest carbon consumer per capita, it is both frustrating and joyous to hear about an approach that works to bridge the divide between the climate deniers and the rest… walking away from this debate, and by focussing on solutions instead.

I would be remiss though not to point out that as the world’s largest carbon consumers per capita, both Australia and the US have the longest to fall.  Unfortunately, we know that energy efficiency and technology replacement will only get us so far. The deeper changes that are required must be planned systemically and they do require us to address our personal carbon/energy consumption.   These nations will have enormous difficulty maintaining competitiveness in future if they cannot reduce carbon and energy consumption to levels that at least match Europe, if not the emerging economies.

Still,  there is much to be learnt from Byk’s approach in achieving consensus.  Something that Australian politicians desperately require.