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Can Infographics Save the Planet?

Dan Lashof

Posted June 4, 2013

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If infographics can save the planet then we should be in pretty good shape because James West over at the Climate Desk has produced a couple of great ones. I’m particularly fond of “How to fix the climate, in one simple flowchart,” which was also posted today on Grist.

This graphic is clear, funny, and most important, it gets the policy issues right.

The flowchart lays out six options for confronting climate change.

Option 1: Do Nothing. Verdict: Driving off cliff=bad. That pretty much sums it up. A lot of people have used a lot more words to say a lot less.

Option 2: Price Carbon. Verdict: No GOP, No dice. This could have been a tricky one. Lots of editorial writers and policy wonks have been talking about the benefits of a carbon tax or cap. They aren’t wrong, but wishing for it won’t make it so.

Option 3: Get the EPA to Do It. Verdict: Obama Needs to be the Red-Tape-Cutter-In-Chief. The flowchart makes it clear that this is the most viable path forward, as NRDC has explained at length. If I were to pick a nit, this isn’t just about cutting red tape, it’s about exercising leadership. I would rephrase the verdict to: Obama Needs to Turn His Words into Actions.

Option 4: Hack the Planet. Verdict: Break Only In Case of (Severe) Emergency. This also could have been tricky. So-called geoengineering is too unproven and too risky to count on as Plan A, but climate change is too serious to dismiss this option out of hand. The verdict here is just right.

Option 5: Move to Another Planet. Verdict: Quite appealing if you’re Richard Branson.

Option 6: Go Solo. Verdict: Individuals and Governments Unite! Here the flowchart provides a short and sensible list of things individuals can do to reduce their carbon footprint (I would add select Energy Star appliances and renewable electricity if your utility provides that option), but makes it clear that policies are needed to drive the scale of emission reductions we need.

So there you have it: A great summary of the climate policy landscape in one easy-to-read flowchart. This follows on the Climate Desk’s flowchart on climate science, How to win a climate change argument. Together they provide a pretty complete guide to climate change for very busy people.

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Switchboard is the staff blog of the Natural Resources Defense Council, the nation’s most effective environmental group. For more about our work, including in-depth policy documents, action alerts and ways you can contribute, visit NRDC.org.

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