The Azimuth Project
Plan C

Idea

Plan C, which is one of the Azimuth Project’s open projects, aims to be a realistic strategy for tackling global warming, peak oil, the water crisis, the extinction of species, deforestation, ocean acidification and related problems.

There are many similar-sounding plans already listed here and analyzed under Plans of action. So, why do we need yet another?

We believe that many of the existing plans are extremely optimistic: they assume that most people will change their behavior in dramatic ways before problems become very serious.

We believe that while optimism is a crucial part of any successful endeavor, it is also good to have a plan that assumes plausibly suboptimal behavior on the part of the human race. This is the idea behind Plan C.

Typically, people only take dramatic action when their livelihood is in immediate danger. This is not the currently the case with climate change and the depletion of the world’s oil reserves. The effects of these problems are only slowly becoming visible. Many doubt their seriousness. Few are willing to take bold steps. And since most proposed solutions involve some self-sacrifice, nobody wants to take the first step.

It is quite possible that the conditions for dramatic action will only be met at a fairly late stage — a stage when we wish we had taken action much sooner. At this point, we may have to make some very hard choices. It would be good to have Plan C mapped out by then.

What’s wrong with Plan B?

In his book Plan B, Lester Brown used the term “Plan A” to stand for “business as usual”. He introduced the term “Plan B” for his strategy to solve the problems caused by business as usual. Time magazine explains the idea in simple terms:

Brown lays out an alternate path that could save us from the worst consequences of climate change. At the heart is a call to reduce global carbon dioxide emissions 80% by 2020 — far more aggressive than anything you’ll hear from political leaders or even most activists. It’s an ambitious plan, one that is less concerned with political feasibility than the survivability of the planet. “This is not Plan A, business as usual,” Brown writes. “This is Plan B — a wartime mobilization, an all-out response proportionate to the threat that global warming presents to our future.”

The engineer Saul Griffith has posed the problem in a similar way, saying:

It’s not like the Manhattan Project, it’s like the whole of World War II, only with all the antagonists on the same side this time. It’s damn near impossible, but it is necessary. And the world has to decide to do it.

He estimates that to hold carbon dioxide concentrations to an acceptable level, we will have to reduce the fossil fuel burning by 80% in 25 years, or it will be “too late” to hold the carbon dioxide concentration in the atmosphere to 450 parts per million.

This estimate may well be accurate. However, anybody who believes that we will reduce carbon dioxide emissions 80% by 2020 or even 2035 is living in a dream world: a world populated by people who already accept that we are in the midst of a crisis and are willing to make dramatic changes in their behavior, starting now. This is not the world we see today. Most citizens do not currently see the climate change problem as analogous to World War II.

If 2020 or 2035 rolls around and we are far from making the changes called for by Lester Brown or Saul Griffith, we may need “Plan C”.

Also see

category: action