Adult vs. childish responses to the climate crisis: leading the public into emergency mode

Introducing the Climate Emergency Movement
Updated: May 2019 By Margaret Klein Salamon, PhD Founding Director, The Climate Mobilization. Originally Published: April 2016.


Imagine there is a fire in your house.
What do you do?
What do you think about?
You do whatever you can to try to put out the fire or exit the house. You make a plan of action.
Your senses are heightened, you are focused like a laser, and you put your entire self into your actions. You enter emergency mode.

The climate crisis is an unprecedented emergency. It is the top national security threat, public health threat, and moral emergency. Humanity is careening towards the deaths of billions of people, millions of species, and the collapse of organized civilization. States under severe climate stress, such as Syria, are already starting to fail, bringing chaos, violence, and misery to the region. The world order itself is crumbling, in significant part due to climatic and resource pressures. The
climate crisis acts as a “threat multiplier” making not only severe storms, but also war, nuclear exchange, and epidemics more likely. Britain is leaving the European Union, and America’s political system, undermined for decades by corruption and bad faith, is in dire peril.

How we react to the climate crisis will shape centuries and millennia to come. Given the stakes, and the extremely short timetable, it is imperative that we strive to maximize the efficacy of our actions — from ourselves as individuals, from our nation, from the global community of nations, and from the organizations that are trying to avert this catastrophe.

In this paper, I will introduce the psychological concept of “emergency mode” which is how individuals and groups function optimally during an existential or moral crisis — often achieving great feats through intensely focused motivation. The goal of the climate movement must be to lead the public out of “normal” mode and into emergency mode. This has huge implications for the climate movement’s communication style, advocacy, and strategy. Because emergency mode is contagious, the best strategy is for climate activists and organizations to 1) go into emergency mode themselves, and 2) communicate truthfully and emotionally about a) the climate emergency, b) the need for emergency mobilization, and c) the fact that they are in emergency mode, as clearly and emphatically as possible.

The initial publication of Leading the Public into Emergency Mode in 2016 suggested this approach as a “New Strategy for the Climate Movement.” I am absolutely thrilled to report that in the 3 years since publication, this approach — both as a policy program and as a mode of campaigning and communicating, has been adopted by an extremely energized set of organizations. My claim that embracing the truth and campaigning for an
emergency response to the climate crisis would be highly effective is proving true. The climate emergency movement has exploded onto the US and global political scene, and is growing all the time. This updated and revised essay 1) explains the theory and practice of “emergency mode,” and 2) introduces the organizations and campaigns that comprise the Climate Emergency Movement, as humanity’s best hope.

The Climate Mobilization launched in 2014, telling the truth about the Climate Emergency — it is an acute and existential threat to us all — and advocating for a WWII Scale Climate Mobilization to eliminate emissions in 10 years or less, and initiate a massive drawdown program. For the first four years of existence our language, vision, and timelines were relatively marginal — though they inspired fierce devotion in our volunteers and supporters. Our strategy always centered around “inception” and “pollination” meaning that if we could “de-risk” our approach and prove its viability, then other larger groups would begin taking it on. At the end of 2018, the dam finally burst and the Climate Emergency Movement has emerged, finally, as a powerful force. This movement tells the truth about the scale of the crisis, and demands a “Green New Deal” or a WWII-scale climate mobilization — a 10 year transition to zero emissions plus drawdown. Led by Alexandria Ocasio Cortez and the Justice Democrats in Congress, the Sunrise Movement, Zero Hour, School Strikers, and Extinction Rebellion in the streets, this movement has burst forth with tremendous force and momentum. As of the time of this writing, more than 500 cities in 4 countries have declared a “Climate Emergency,” and most of the major Democratic Presidential candidates have stated that they support the Green New Deal. The Climate Mobilization is proud to have made critical contributions to these breakthroughs, by developing, building,
and spreading the Climate Emergency Declaration campaign, through policy development such as the Victory Plan and more. (See our “impact page” for more about how we paved the way.) We have been able to achieve all of this because we have entered emergency mode! We are extraordinarily focused on and dedicated to the mission: spreading climate truth in order to commence WWII scale climate mobilization that eliminates emissions in 10 years, restores a safe climate, halts the 6th mass extinction of species, and creates a regenerative economy. This paper is based on a combination of theory and practice.

I have researched social movements, flow states, and more, to develop the concept of emergency mode, and these ideas have been developed and refined through my experience in running TCM, collaborating with other organizations, and attempting to communicate about the climate crisis to people from all walks of life. I will make specific suggestions for the climate movement in the second half of this paper. But first, we must understand
emergency mode.

Emergency Mode: Optimal Functioning in an Existential
(or Moral) Crisis

Most psychological and sociological writing about the climate crisis has warned climate “communicators” of the risks of triggering primitive and pathological responses to crisis: “fight or flight,” panic, and the devastation caused by Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Because of these bleak portrayals, many political and organizational leaders have dared not convey the horrifying truth of the climate crisis, since they operate under the mistaken belief that the only response to emergencies is panicked chaos. But aside from panic, individuals and groups can also respond
to emergencies with reason, focus, dedication, and shocking success. Emergency mode is the mode of human psychological functioning that occurs when individuals or groups respond optimally to existential or moral emergencies. This mode of human functioning — markedly different from “normal” functioning — is characterized by an extreme focus of attention and resources on working productively to solve the emergency.

We are all, at times, confronted with emergency situations. Children, and adults who are overwhelmed by the situation for whatever reason, enter either panic mode, in which they act without thinking, or are paralyzed and unable to act. Children, for example, will often hide during house fires. However, healthy adults respond to emergencies by entering emergency mode.

Normal mode Emergency mode

  • Priorities: Many balanced priorities v. Solving the crisis = One top priority
  • Resources: Distributed across priorities and saved for future v. Huge allocation of resources towards solution
  • Focus: Distributed across priorities v. Laser-like focus
  • Self-esteem source: Individual accomplishment v. Contributing to the solution

Emergency mode occurs when an individual or group faces an existential threat, accepts that there is a life-threatening emergency and reorients by:

  1. Adjusting their hierarchy of priorities so that solving the emergency is the clear top priority
  2. Deploying a huge amount of resources toward solving the crisis
  3. Giving little priority to personal gratification and self-esteem enhancement for their own sake, and instead seeking them through engagement with the emergency. People seek to “do their part” to solve the crisis and build their skills to contribute more effectively.
    Emergency mode is a fundamental departure from “normal” mode of functioning. In normal mode, the individual or group feels relatively safe and secure, does not recognize any immediate existential or major moral threats — either because
    there is none, or because they are in denial — and therefore:
  4. Maintains a portfolio of priorities
  5. Attempts to distribute focus and other resources wisely
    among them
  6. Gives considerable weight to personal gratification,
    enjoyment, and achievement
    Long Emergencies
    Usually emergencies take hours or days to resolve, but people
    can and do also enter long emergency modes that last for years.
    These “long emergencies” include diseases like cancer, which
    is life-threatening but not immediately curable, acute poverty, in
    which the person struggles daily with the emergency of meeting
    basic needs, and war. For these long emergencies, the business
    of normal life must be integrated into the emergency response.
    For doctors, nurses, paramedics, crisis counselors, hostage
    negotiators, firefighters, police officers, soldiers, and (hopefully)
    climate campaigners, emergency mode is a regular, on-going
    There is also moral emergency mode, when an issue of grave
    injustice becomes elevated to the status of an existential threat.
    People in emergency mode are the driving force behind most,
    if not all, successful social movements — whether it is moral
    (fighting for principles, and the safety of others), existential
    (fighting for your own safety, and the safety of others) or a
    combination. These people have decided that nothing, not even
    survival, is more important than the struggle. They dedicate
    themselves to it fully and utilize all of their capabilities in the
    service of victory.
    Emergency mode is a state of enhanced performance,
    characterized by flow states. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, the
    psychologist who discovered flow and pioneered its study
    calls it the “optimal state of consciousness,” it’s a state in
    which “we feel our best and perform our best.” When people
    are in emergency mode, they experience heightened focus,
    perception, and abilities. A McKinsey study found that executives
    who experienced flow states are five times more productive.
    Csikszentmihalyi describes flow as:
    Being completely involved in an activity for its own sake. The
    ego falls away. Time flies. Every action, movement, and thought
    follows inevitably from the previous one…your whole being is
    involved, and you’re using your skills to the utmost.
    Skill level Challenge level
    Apathy Boredom
    Anxiety Arousal
    Flow is most likely to occur when the task is challenging, but
    our level of skill is high. Flow can be triggered by facing danger,
    though it is not a state of high anxiety. Steven Kotler wrote The
    Rise of the Superhuman about flow in extreme sports. Kotler
    argues that flow can be triggered by situations that involve
    serious consequences and risks.
    In all other activities, flow is the hallmark of high performance,
    but in situations where the slightest error could be fatal, then
    perfection is the only choice — and flow is the only guarantee
    of perfection. Thus, flow is the only way to survive in the fluid,
    life-threatening conditions of big waves, big rivers, and bigmountains…
    Necessity, as they say, is the mother of invention. Or,
    as Danny Way (professional skateboarder) explains: “It’s either
    find the zone or suffer the consequences — there’s no other choice
    – Kotler, Steven. The Rise of Superman: Decoding the Science of
    Ultimate Human Performance (p. 22).
    In short emergencies such as a fire, individuals stay in an
    emergency flow state the entire time — they never take their
    mind off the emergency. If the individual is in long emergency
    mode, however, these emergency flow states are experienced
    frequently, but other elements of life, such as rest, recreation, and
    close relationships, are also maintained. Speaking personally,
    I entered emergency mode 6 years ago — since my friend
    challenged me to “actually try to solve the climate crisis,” and
    have worked, sometimes struggled, to stay close with friends and
    family, and to relax. Indeed, balancing one’s intensive work on
    solving the emergency and all other activities can be one of the
    most challenging elements of facing a long emergency.
    On the other hand, living in emergency mode can be extremely
    rewarding. Flow states in general are sought after, and a key
    indicator of psychological health. People enjoy being fully
    engaged in activity — “in the zone” — utilizing their entire capacity,
    whether they are playing sports, performing musically, studying
    intensely, or responding to an emergency. As Csikszentmihalyi
    described the rewards of flow:
    The best moments in our lives are not the passive, receptive,
    relaxing times…The best moments usually occur if a person’s
    body or mind is stretched to its limits in a voluntary effort to
    accomplish something difficult and worthwhile.
    I have spoken with Emergency Room doctors, firefighters, and
    climate campaigners who report being hooked on the sense of
    purpose, feeling that they are useful, and the relief from selfinvolvement
    that their immersive work provides.
    People must feel competent to handle the emergency in order
    to enter emergency mode. If you are overwhelmed, you may
    panic. If you feel helpless, you cannot enter emergency mode,
    regardless of how acute the moral or existential threat.
    Bill McKibben reports that the question he is most often
    asked is “What can I do?” This is accurate to my experience
    as well — millions of Americans want to help fight the climate
    crisis, but don’t know how to do so effectively. The more
    the climate movement can provide structures for people’s
    engagement — providing directions and support for people who
    are ready to tackle the climate emergency — the more people
    will go into emergency mode. Effective, transparent leadership
    is also critical in enabling people to enter emergency mode.
    Confidence that leaders and decision makers are competently
    addressing questions of strategy and policy for the emergency
    mobilization allows participants to focus on their contribution.
    Essential to long emergencies is the human capacity for
    dedication and commitment — the mind state that brings a
    person back, over and over, to the emergency issue despite
    inevitable interruptions and temptation to avoid the issue. It also
    takes a good deal of courage, and ability to stay calm under
    intense stress. The famous “Keep Calm and Carry On” posters
    from wartime United Kingdom addressed this challenge. We
    could translate them into this framework as meaning, “Don’t
    Panic and Stay in Emergency Mode.”
    Groups in Emergency Mode
    In emergency mode, members of groups — such as organizations,
    or even whole countries — work productively together in a
    coordinated way to solve a crisis. The vast majority of people
    contribute their best effort and available resources. People fill
    different roles and take on complementary projects in order to
    ameliorate the crisis. While the profit motive and self-interested
    behavior are not eliminated in a long emergency, working for
    the common good to create solutions, rather than focusing on
    their own comfort or advantage, becomes the norm. People
    gain satisfaction and pride from helping the group or the wider
    emergency project, and they feel motivated, even driven to do so.
    Humans evolved in tribes, and group success was vital to
    the survival of each individual. Psychologist Jonathan Haidt
    describes human nature as “90% chimpanzee and 10% bee” to
    illustrate our evolved, combination of social but self-interested
    (chimpanzees) and group-oriented behavior (bees).
    We are like bees in being ultra social creatures whose minds
    were shaped by the relentless competition of groups with other
    groups. We are descended from earlier humans whose groupish
    minds helped them cohere, cooperate, and outcompete other
    groups. That doesn’t mean that our ancestors were mindless or
    unconditional team players; it means they were selective. Under
    the right conditions, they were able to enter a mind-set of “one for
    all, all for one” in which they were truly working for the good of the
    group, and not just for their own advancement within the group.
    By far the most powerful trigger for the “hive switch” is
    a catastrophic event that clearly signals the arrival of an
    emergency, particularly an external attack. The surprise attack
    on Pearl Harbor led the United States to “flip the hive switch” and
    enter emergency mode in an incredibly powerful, productive way.
    The United States in Emergency
    Mode: WWII
    After years of stubborn, isolationist denial of the threat and
    clinging to “Normal Functioning” as Germany swept through
    Europe, the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor ended American
    isolationism and initiated the example par excellence of America
    in emergency mode: full-scale mobilization.
    Economic mobilization is an emergency restructuring of a
    modern industrial economy, accomplished at rapid speed. It
    involves the vast majority of citizens, the utilization of a very
    high proportion of available resources, and impacts all areas of
    society. It is nothing less than a government-coordinated social
    and industrial revolution. Mobilization is what happens when an
    entire nation enters emergency mode, and the results can be
    truly staggering.
    In Climate Code Red, David Spratt and Philip Sutton highlighted
    the differences in normal political mode and emergency mode,
    drawing heavily from WWII:
    Normal political-paralysis mode Emergency mode
    Crises are constrained within business-asusual
    Society engages productively with crises, but
    not in panic mode
    Spin, denial, and ‘politics as usual’ are
    The situation is assessed with brutal honesty
    No urgent threat is perceived Immediate, or looming, threat to life, heatth,
    property, or environment is perceived
    Problem is not yet serious High probability of escalation beyond control if
    immediate action is not taken
    Time of response is not important Speed of response is crucial
    The crisis is one of many issues The crisis is of the highest priority
    A labor market is in place Emergency project teams are developed, and
    labor planning is instituted
    Budgetary ‘restraint’ is shown All available / necessary resources are
    devoted to the emergency and, if necessary,
    governments borrow heavily
    Community and markets function as usual Non-essential functions and consumption may
    be curtailed or rationed
    A slow rate of change occurs because of
    systemic intertia
    Rapid transition and scaling up occurs
    Market needs dominate response choices
    and thinking
    Planning, fostering innovation and research
    take place
    Targets and goals are determined by
    political tradeoffs
    Critical targets and goals are not compromised
    There is a culture of compromise Failure is not an option
    There is a lack of national leadership, and
    politics is adversarial and incremental.
    Bipartisanship and effective leadership are the
    During WWII, the country joined together with a spirit of unity,
    sacrifice, and common purpose. Young men sacrificed their
    lives fighting for their country. Women surged into factories to
    produce war materiel. Native American “code talkers” helped
    transmit secret messages for the allies. Citizens invested their
    available cash reserves in war bonds. The federal government
    instituted a sweeping rationing program in order to ensure a
    fair distribution of scarce resources on the home front — and to
    share the sacrifice equitably. Gasoline, coffee, butter, tires, fuel
    oil, shoes, meat, cheese, and sugar were rationed, and every
    American received a fair share. “Pleasure driving” was banned,
    the Indy 500 was shut down, and a national speed limit of 35
    miles per hour was established. Comprehensive wage and price
    controls were put in place to combat inflation.
    Wealthy elites set aside their personal interests in favor of the
    war effort. Conservative business titans joined labor leaders
    and liberal bureaucrats — after years of bitter acrimony over
    the New Deal — to focus America’s industrial might against the
    Nazis and Imperial Japan. Factories were rapidly converted from
    producing consumer goods to producing tanks, guns, bombs,
    and planes — shattering all historical records for war production.
    Taxes were also increased significantly, particularly on high
    earners, who paid a steep “Victory Tax,” the most progressive
    tax in American history. The top marginal income tax rate on the
    highest earners reached 88% in 1942 and a record 94% in 1944.
    By entering emergency mode and mobilizing for total victory,
    the United States accomplished truly staggering feats. By
    1944 the United States had produced 229,600 planes — more
    than three times the original, highly ambitious, goal set out
    by President Roosevelt three years earlier. In response to a
    cutoff of critical rubber supplies in Southeast Asia, the federal
    government launched a crash program that scaled up synthetic
    rubber production from under 1% to about 70% of total U.S.
    production — a 100-foldincrease — in about four years. In 1943,
    reclaimed rubber from citizen scrap drives provided about 50% of
    domestic rubber production.
    We also made huge advances in the sciences. The first
    computer was invented, as were blood transfusion and radar
    technology. The Manhattan Project successfully built the world’s
    first atomic bomb in less than three years — a morally fraught
    but nonetheless stupendous feat of planning, cooperation and
    scientific ingenuity.
    Despite all the resources that were diverted to the war effort
    during this multi-year emergency, the United States also
    managed to maintain — and in some cases expand — its basic
    systems including infrastructure, education, health care, and
    child-care, and in large measure made sure that the basic needs
    of the civilian economy were met.
    We need not have an overly rosy view of that time period to
    appreciate its transformative effects, and the transformative
    potential of mobilization, generally. One glaring problem were
    racist policies and attitudes — the military itself and many of the
    industrial mobilization jobs were segregated, and more than
    100,000 Japanese Americans were interned. However, during the
    Mobilization, major strides were made towards both racial and
    sexual equality, as well as fair employment practices.
    Moving Towards Emergency
    Emergency mobilization on this scale is precisely what we need
    if we are to prevent a global cataclysm and restore a safe and
    stable climate. We need to transition away from fossil fuels and
    carbon-intensive agriculture as soon as possible, draw down all
    the excess CO2 and cool the planet below present levels. This
    will happen only with public planning coordinated by the federal
    government, global cooperation, massive public investment,
    forceful regulations and economic controls, and full societal
    participation. The Climate Mobilization provides an in-depth look
    at what such a mobilization would look like in our Victory Plan.
    Factors That Prevent
    Emergency Mode
    Given the increasing public awareness of the existential risk
    posed by climate change, why hasn’t the transition to emergency
    mode happened by now? It turns out the threat posed by climate
    change is fundamentally different from the one we faced
    during World War II, making it more difficult for society to enter
    emergency mode. We can still get there — indeed we must get
    there to have any chance of bringing the climate crisis under
    control — but it will take some planning and effort. To understand
    what is needed, it will help to take a closer look at the psychology
    of emergency mode.
    The psychological capacity for both normal mode and
    emergency mode arose over hundreds of thousands of years of
    human evolution. Individuals and groups who usually manage
    broad and diverse interests, but are able to snap into intense
    focus when in danger, have the best overall survival prospects.
    The challenge is when to enter emergency mode, when to
    continue business as usual, and how to trigger a switch in mode.
    The factors that trigger an emergency response are also
    products of evolution. Psychologist Daniel Gilbert argues that
    humans are wired for a reflexive response to threats that are
    “intentional, immoral, imminent, and instantaneous.” When
    threats, such as terrorism, contain all of these characteristics it
    can trigger significant over-reactions. But if a threat, such as the
    climate crisis, does not contain these elements and is instead
    unintended, caused by actions that are regarded as normal and
    moral, with the worst impacts in the future and the disaster
    unfolding over decades, then an emergency response will not
    immediately be triggered and the risk of under-reacting is very
    We cannot count on people entering emergency mode
    reflexively. Rather, we need to accomplish it through education,
    organizing, and setting an example. Thus I argue that the role
    of the climate movement should be to enter emergency mode
    themselves and lead the public there.
    Pluralistic Ignorance (ie Social Proof)
    The way we respond to threats — by entering emergency mode
    or by remaining in normal mode — is highly contagious. Imagine
    the fire alarm goes off in an office building. How seriously should
    you take it? How do you know if it is a drill or a real fire? Those
    questions will be predominantly answered by the actions and
    communications of the people around you, particularly people
    designated as leaders. If they are chatting and taking their time
    exiting the building, you will assume that this is a drill. If people
    are moving with haste, faces stern and focused, communicating
    with urgency and gravity, you will assume there is real danger
    and exit as quickly as possible.
    Psychologist Robert Caladini describes the concept of pluralistic
    Very often an emergency is not obviously an emergency…in times
    of such uncertainty, the natural tendency is to look around at
    the actions of others for clues. We can learn, from the way the
    other witnesses are reacting, whether the event is or is not an
    emergency. What is easy to forget, though, is that everybody else
    observing the event is likely to be looking for social evidence, too.
    Or as researchers Bibb Latané and John M. Darley put it, “Each
    person decides that since nobody is concerned, nothing is
    wrong. Meanwhile, the danger may be mounting to the point
    where a single individual, uninfluenced by the seeming calm of
    others, would react.”
    This is a critical point, with grave implications for the climate
    movement. To evaluate whether we are currently in a climate
    crisis, the public will look to each other — and particularly to the
    climate organizations, writers, and leaders. Are they calling it
    an emergency? Does the tone of their writing and statements
    convey alarm and a passionate desire for massive action to avert
    imminent crisis? Are they demanding an emergency response?
    Are they acting like it’s an emergency? Are they themselves in
    emergency mode? If the answer to these questions is “no,” the
    individual will conclude that there
    must not be an emergency, or that
    emergency action is hopeless
    because the leaders are apparently
    unwilling to coordinate emergency
    action. This suggests the sad,
    dangerous conclusion that NGOs
    who communicate with euphemism
    and advocate carbon gradualism are
    actually preventing the public from
    entering emergency mode.
    The mainstream environmental movement, and Democratic
    Party, has been stuck in gradualism for decades, calling for a
    multi-decade reduction of fossil fuel use through policies such
    the Clean Power Plan and carbon pricing. Furthermore, virtually
    no mainstream environmental groups call for actions to draw
    down (or sequester) excess greenhouse gases, which must begin
    now on a massive scale and are essential if we are to avoid a
    climate catastrophe and restore a safe climate.
    Gradualists use euphemistic assessments of the Climate
    Emergency to make their policies seem appropriate, and advise
    people to use “positive” language when communicating, and not
    to “scare people.” Gradualists will go as far as to “tone police”
    organizers, authors, or filmmakers who are telling the truth about
    the Climate Emergency, criticizing them as fear-mongering or
    This attitude misleads the public and blocks Americans from
    entering emergency mode. We cannot expect the public to
    support policies that are more aggressive than what Greenpeace
    or the World Wildlife Foundation is calling for. Organizations that
    claim to be protecting the climate have a special duty to reckon
    with climate truth, and advocate the only solution that could
    actually protect humanity and the natural world: emergency
    A sense of helplessness is preventing many people from entering
    emergency mode in response to the climate crisis. Our political
    system seems beyond repair, the culture in the thrall of denial,
    and the scale of the crisis is staggering. Widespread feelings of
    helplessness also represent the failure of leadership from official
    climate movement leaders and politicians to offer an honest
    assessment of the crisis, advocate for solutions that actually
    stand a chance of working, and invite individuals to take part in
    that solution. The advocacy of obviously inadequate solutions
    worsens the despair and cynicism of the public.
    Massive dissatisfaction, anger, despair, and fear lie beneath the
    surface of the American electorate on the climate crisis. A recent
    poll by Randle and Eckersley investigated how people from the
    US, UK and Australia evaluate the current threats facing humanity
    with some staggering results:
    Overall, a majority (54%) rated the risk of our way of life ending
    within the next 100 years at 50% or greater, and a quarter (24%)
    rated the risk of humans being wiped out at 50% or greater. The
    responses were relatively uniform across countries, age groups,
    gender and education level, although statistically significant
    differences exist. Almost 80% agreed “we need to transform our
    worldview and way of life if we are to create a better future for
    the world.”
    A quarter of respondents think that humanity has a 50% chance
    of near-term-extinction, and almost all respondents agreed that
    transformative change is necessary — yet we are continuing
    with business as usual and daily life as usual! This suggests a
    paralyzing degree of helplessness across society.
    Rise of the Climate Emergency
    It’s clear our mainstream politicians and climate organizations
    are not up to the challenge of leading the public into emergency
    mode, and are therefore not capable of mounting and adequate
    response to the climate crisis. Fortunately, a new front is rapidly
    emerging on the global stage that is geared toward doing just
    that: The Climate Emergency Movement.
    The Climate Mobilization was a pioneer in this movement,
    spending years promoting maximal intensity mobilization in
    relative obscurity. In fact, at the beginning of 2018, we were the
    only national organization advocating for a 10-year transition
    to zero emissions plus drawdown. Our “Move the Movement”
    campaign focused on getting the broad climate movement to
    accept the climate truth — the fact that we face an extinction-level
    ecological breakdown and that we are massively behind schedule
    to address it — as a core principle and to use truth-telling as tactic
    for achieving the changes needed to restore a safe climate. We
    approached this goal with a variety of tactics, including thorough
    public and behind-the-scenes criticism of insufficient policy
    proposals, as well as our general messaging focused on the
    climate emergency.
    Up until recently, standing for this position was unpopular and
    made for a lonely reality, with the big nonprofits, foundations,
    and so-called “Climate Communicators,” all of whom urged
    organizations like TCM to avoid “fear tactics,” recommending
    that we instead communicate optimism in order to avoid
    scaring the public into paralysis or chaos. But today, the Climate
    Emergency Movement has captured the public imagination and
    is rapidly gaining power. As the reality of climate breakdown
    sets in, the old paternalistic strategy is dying off. Along with it,
    the fetishization of markets as some kind of mythic force that
    must not be disturbed by government action is also starting
    to dissolve. It is becoming clearer by the day that we must tell
    the truth, that we must act boldly, and that we must do so at
    incredible speed.
    The shift away from incrementalist goals and toward a real fight
    for the survival of our species has been so rapid that it is almost
    hard to conceptualize the change in tone and seriousness. In
    some assessments, it began in earnest in 2016 at Standing Rock,
    where the Indigenous Water Protectors showed the country what
    heroism looks like, as they withstood months of abuse from
    police and private security forces, and continued their nonviolent,
    highly spiritual direct action of blocking the Dakota Access
    Today, there is a militant movement of young people marching
    in the streets and occupying the offices of elected officials,
    embarrassing representatives who refuse to act with urgency.
    The street theater and direct action tactics of Extinction
    Rebellion have changed the consciousness of the United
    Kingdom and have helped achieve declarations of Climate
    Emergency in 53 local government jurisdictions, including
    London, the biggest city to date to declare and commit to a
    10-year transition to a zero-emissions economy. Overall, 500
    local governments, representing over 50 million people around
    the globe have joined the Climate Emergency Declaration
    Campaign. In the United States, the Green New Deal is shaping
    the Democratic Party platform around a 10-year national
    mobilization to achieve a carbon-neutral economy.
    The Climate Mobilization has played an integral role in
    shaping and supporting these efforts, both directly, through our
    organizing and influence network and our successful campaign
    to inform the Democratic Party primary and platform in 2016,
    and indirectly, through sector-leading publications like the Victory
    Plan, which describe the necessary goals of a serious climate
    Successful Social Movements
    Utilize and Spread Emergency
    Although The Climate Emergency Movement is relatively new,
    it is part of a proud, extremely effective tradition of social
    movements that have levered emergency mode to confront
    existential threats, and its leaders can draw inspiration and
    guidance from past movements that have achieved great
    success using this approach. For example, In the 1980s, HIV, the
    virus that causes AIDS, was decimating the gay communities
    in New York, San Francisco and other large cities, and it was
    spreading at a horrifying speed. The government was failing the
    victims — giving them virtually no help, and failing to research
    and treat this growing epidemic. The government’s failure to act
    swiftly and effectively, or even acknowledge the epidemic, was
    largely due to pervasive homophobia.
    Larry Kramer — the now iconic AIDS activist — founded
    ACT UP because existing AIDS groups had failed to enter
    emergency mode and were continuing to seek solutions through
    business-as-usual channels, such as holding meetings with
    government officials and asking for help — strategies that were
    not working. Kramer helped found and build the Gay Men’s
    Health Alliance — but broke with them over disagreements about
    strategy and tactics. Kramer criticized GMHA as wanting to
    be “the Red Cross” because they were focused on appearing
    mainstream and upstanding and “a morgue” because they
    were helping people die rather than fighting “for the living to go
    on living.”
    Emergency Communication
    Kramer knew that he was fighting for his own life and the
    life of his friends. He had no interest in “business as usual.”
    Kramer treated AIDS with deadly seriousness and encouraged
    as much (realistic) fear as possible. He told crowds of gay men
    that if they didn’t fight back, they would be dead in a few years.
    He was inviting others, especially other gay men, to join him in
    emergency mode, focused intensely on solving the crisis.
    ACT UP’s slogan, “Silence=Death” referred not only to
    governmental and media silence on AIDS, but the entire cultural
    silence around homosexuality. Many gay people were closeted,
    hoping to protect their careers and avoid discriminatory,
    dehumanizing reactions from a homophobic culture. The
    silence around gayness — with most people keeping their sexual
    orientation at least partially private — posed huge problems for
    the movement. Gay men, including gay doctors, were not able
    to work together with maximum impact, or communicate the
    emergency to the public, while still in the closet. Larry Kramer
    wrote in his prescient, biting, landmark essay 1,112 and counting:
    Why isn’t every gay man in this city so scared shitless that he
    is screaming for action? Does every gay man in New York want
    to die?… I am sick of closeted gay doctors who won’t come out
    to help us…. I am sick of closeted gays. It’s 1983 already, guys,
    when are you going to come out? … As more and more of my
    friends die, I have less and less sympathy for men who are afraid
    their mommies will find out or afraid their bosses will find out or
    afraid their fellow doctors or professional associates will find out.
    Unless we can generate, visibly, numbers, masses, we are going
    to die.
    The push to come out and live out of the shadows had a
    profound impact as the public learned that people they loved and
    respected were gay, and in danger.
    Education and Advocacy
    Because the government was failing to provide answers and
    effective treatment, ACT UP took on significant educational
    work as well. The Treatment + Data Committee took on the
    task of becoming experts in the biology of HIV/AIDS — seeking
    to understand the virus and various treatment options. A
    glossary of AIDS treatment terms was created and passed out at
    meetings. ACT UP also produced and advocated A National AIDS
    Treatment Research Agenda, which laid out ACT UP’s specific
    demands for what drugs should be developed and how the
    process should unfold.
    By demonstrating their courage and tenacity, ACT UP grew in
    size and power, drawing more people into emergency mode.
    New members contributed their skills, resources, and networks
    to the cause. By keeping their protests non-violent, ACT UP
    invited participation from a larger group. Erica Chenoweth has
    demonstrated that non-violent campaigns are much more
    likely to be successful at involving significant portions of the
    population, and more successful at accomplishing their overall
    (Partial) Success!
    With its combination of public protest, private acts of courage,
    and education & advocacy, ACT UP accomplished many of its
    aims. AIDS patients won the right to participate in every phase
    of the drug development process. They won major funding
    for research, which led to the discovery and deployment of
    antiretrovirals, a class of drugs that is very successful in
    treating HIV, potentially keeping the disease from ever becoming
    AIDS. ACT UP’s success laid the groundwork for mainstream
    acceptance of homosexuality, as well as the continuing struggles
    for gay rights and equality. It also forever changed the way
    pharmaceutical drugs are researched and developed.
    ACT UP’s work has not been completed, however. AIDS has
    become a global epidemic, with more than 36 million people
    currently infected, and 1 million people dying from AIDS every
    year. There is still no cure and no vaccine, something that Larry
    Kramer and many others continue to work on. But what ACT UP
    did accomplish was to get people and institutions, especially
    the Federal Government, and also local governments, hospitals,
    universities and more — to treat HIV/AIDS like the crisis it was.
    Implications for the Climate
    Movement: Lead the Public into
    Emergency Mode
    Like ACT UP, the climate movement is responding to a direct
    existential threat. Understanding that emergency mode allows
    individuals and groups to function in an enhanced, optimal way,
    delivering their peak performance, has critical implications for
    the climate movement.
    People who understand the climate emergency must exit
    normal mode and abandon the gradual policy advocacies and
    enervated emotional states that accompany it. Instead, we
    must seek to restore a safe climate at emergency speed. To
    accomplish this, the climate movement must lead the public
    into emergency mode. First we must go into emergency mode
    ourselves, and then communicate about the climate emergency
    and need for mobilization with clarity, dedication, and escalating
    Those of us who have entered emergency mode — who
    understand the mobilization imperative — need to get talkative
    and loud. We need to spread our message as far and wide as
    possible. We must not stay “closeted” and appear that we believe
    everything is fine, or that the the Democratic Party are well on
    their way to containing the crisis, once the Republicans and the
    Supreme Court get out of the way. Rather we need to “come out”
    as being in emergency mode and in favor of a WWII-scale climate
    mobilization that rapidly sweeps away business-as-usual — to our
    friends, family, neighbors, fellow climate activists, and the public.
    Like ACT UP we need to spread our message as clearly, loudly
    and in the most attention-grabbing ways we can.
    Big Green, with their hundreds of millions of dollars of funding,
    and other gradualist organizations, should follow the lead of
    Sunrise, Extinction Rebellion, and the School Strikers, or they will
    find themselves facing a different type of existential threat: total
    Seeking Consensus
    While we must seek to learn as much as we can from ACT UP
    and other successful social movements, we must also recognize
    that the climate crisis poses a challenge unlike anything
    humanity has ever faced. Full-scale emergency mobilization
    requires a higher degree of participation and consensus
    than treating AIDS, implementing civil rights legislation, or
    even toppling a dictator. In order to initiate the WWII Scale
    Climate Mobilization that we need, I believe we need a national
    consensus that we are directly threatened by the climate
    ACT UP didn’t bring the entire public into emergency mode,
    but because they entered emergency mode themselves they
    were able to apply pressure very strategically. ACT UP could
    be something of a gadfly — alienating many and still achieving
    their agenda. They were an oppressed minority that needed to
    move huge bureaucracies, and they did. The climate movement
    faces a larger task. We must effect change throughout our entire
    society. We want to “wake America up” to the scale of the threat,
    and the need for mobilization, as America woke up to the need
    to mobilize for WWII immediately following the attacks on Pearl
    Thus we must seek to be as inclusive as possible, while
    unwaveringly demanding WWII-scale climate mobilization.
    Our tone must balance emergency-mode, steadfastness,
    assertiveness, and inclusiveness. Pope Francis calls for people
    to have an “ecological conversion,” and we must adopt the
    attitude of understanding and forgiveness for individuals past
    denial or climate-damaging activity.
    Addressing Helplessness
    Many people who understand the scope of the climate crisis are
    paralyzed by fear and helplessness. Empowerment, the solution
    to helplessness, is a key element of all social movements.
    In the case of the climate crisis, we must educate, or remind
    people that:
  7. Social movements can cause immense, rapid change,
    and the Climate Emergency Movement has tremendous
  8. During WWII, America mobilized and achieved a transition
    more rapid and complete than anyone thought possible.
  9. We as citizens have the power to change the direction of
    this country, and if we successfully build political will for
    full-scale climate mobilization, the results will be staggering.
    The best thing that we can do to confront the pervasive sense
    of helplessness and despair is to rapidly build an effective and
    public Climate Emergency Movement.
    Truth Based Communication
    After decades of politicians and environmental organizations
    downplaying and soft-pedaling the threat, The Climate
    Mobilization and the Climate Emergency Movement proposes a
    corrective: tell the truth. Yes, it’s scary. Yes, the challenge before
    us is immense. But as James Baldwin wrote, “Not everything that
    is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is
    While considered “too hot to handle” by gradualists, the truth
    is actually our movement’s greatest strategic asset. The truth
    is that no human endeavor can succeed on a planet beset
    by catastrophic climate change. None of our values, joys, or
    relationships can prosper on an overheated planet. There will be
    no “winners” in a business-as-usual scenario: Even wealthy elites
    are reliant on stable ecosystems, agriculture, and a functioning
    global civilization. For that reason, among others, solving the
    climate crisis has the potential to be the most unifying endeavor
    in human history. I explore this concept in depth in my essay The
    Transformative Power of Climate Truth, and my forthcoming
    book Transform Yourself with Climate Truth will help readers
    emotionally process climate truth, and integrate it into their
    Indeed, Having candid conversations with our friends and
    family is something that everyone can and should do. If we
    are silent, our understanding does not become power. 2018
    Polling from Yale’s Climate Communication Center found that
    only 9% of Americans hear people they know talk about climate
    change at least once a week, and only 17% once a month! 74% of
    Americans hear about climate change from someone they know
    “several times a year” or less. And yet the same study shows that
    29% of Americans are “very worried” about climate change!
    Disrupt pluralistic ignorance! Break the silence! Come out of the
    “Climate closet” and let your friends and family know how you
    feel about the climate emergency. Many people worry about the
    social awkwardness of bringing up the climate emergency — but
    keep in mind, many of your friends and family are also worried,
    and will be relieved and appreciative when you do bring it up,
    especially if you can offer them support and guidance. Be
    personal, be emotional, be authentic and empathetic. Hear
    people out and make them feel listened to. Talk about the climate
    emergency and need for climate mobilization every day, multiple
    times a day if possible. Consider wearing T shirts, pins, etc from
    Climate Emergency organizations so that you can communicate
    your affiliation with the movement without saying anything.
    You can communicate climate truth in other ways, depending
    on your skills and networks. Everyone can and should talk about
    the climate emergency and need for mobilization on social
    media, and, depending on your access, I also encourage you to
    do so on email lists, on blogs, or in mainstream publications. If
    you make art, or music, you can incorporate these messages.
    Emergency Threat.
    The climate movement must fully adopt the language of
    immediate crisis and existential danger. We must talk about
    climate change as threatening to cause the collapse of
    civilization, killing billions of people, and causing the extinction
    of millions of species. These horrific outcomes await us during
    this century, possibly even in the first half of it if things truly slip
    out of control. This is not a matter of “protecting the planet for
    future generations” but protecting our own lives and those of the
    people we care about. We are in danger now and in coming years
    and decades. The climate crisis is, far and away, our top national
    security threat, top public health threat, and top threat to the
    global economy.
    Emergency Solution
    In order to lead people into emergency mode, and avoid panic
    mode, it is critical that the emergency threat is paired with an
    emergency solution.
    Climate groups must match their emergency rhetoric with an
    emergency advocacy. Suppose that someone told you, “Help!
    The house is on fire! Can you please pour a glass of water on
    it? One glass is all it needs!” You would be confused. If we are
    really dealing with a house on fire, how could a solution be so
    simple and easy? You would suspect that there was no crisis,
    just exaggeration. Likewise, when the scale of the necessary
    response to the climate crisis is minimized, it prevents people
    from entering emergency mode. We need to “come out” as being
    in emergency mode — climate “alarmists,” as horrified by the
    crisis, and as ready to make major changes in our life and the
    economy, for the duration of the emergency.
    I have had the disconcerting experience of advocating that a
    climate event adopt the ambitious “zero in ten years” timeline,
    to be told by others on the planning committee, “We agree with
    you! We totally agree that is what needs to happen. But we can’t
    say that — it will turn people off!” As the popularity of the Green
    New Deal shows, and the momentum it is generating, advocating
    a massive response to the Climate Emergency does not “turn
    people off.”
    We cannot be silent about the fact that emergency mobilization
    can only be coordinated by a “big” government that is granted
    the power to ban ecologically destructive practices and
    spend without limit to save as much life as possible. We must
    acknowledge that gradual approaches that prioritize political
    expediency and the alleged wisdom of the “free market” over the
    common good are doomed to failure.
    We need to eliminate net greenhouse gas emissions in years,
    not decades, and remove excess greenhouse gases from the
    atmosphere until a safe climate is restored. This will take a
    whole-society, all-out effort.
    Let go of False Narratives
    Representing the truth, and moving the public into emergency
    mode means letting go of false or misleading narratives that
    shield the public (and ourselves) from the frightening truth.
    Instead, we must fully accept and communicate the truth no
    matter how difficult it may be. Popular narratives that must
    be refuted include the idea that we have a significant carbon
    budget remaining, that 2°C or even 1.5°C of warming above preindustrial
    levels represent “safe limits”, or that climate change
    will be a problem only in other places or for future generations.
    We must replace these narratives with the truth that dangerous
    climate change is already here and presents an existential threat
    for all of us. However, we must be careful not to encourage an
    unwarranted sense of hopelessness. We still have an opportunity
    to change course on climate, though urgent action is needed in
    all sectors of human activity, including transportation, industry,
    agriculture and land use. We can and must transform our society,
    and each of us can help lead the change process. See more
    overcoming false narratives at the end of this essay.
    Overcome Affect Phobia and Welcome all Emotions
    Communicating with the required level of honesty will require
    an emotional shift in the climate movement. For decades the
    climate movement has emphasized facts and avoided feelings.
    This is probably in part because scientists report the unfolding
    climate crisis to us in their objective, often emotionally detached
    style. Also, because the emotions that the climate crisis inspires
    are so intense, the climate movement, it seems, has tried to avoid
    them as much as possible.
    My forthcoming book, Transform Yourself with Climate Truth
    is a radical self-help book for people struggling to come to
    terms and cope with the climate emergency. Yes, the feelings
    are intense and overwhelming, but we can use those feelings as
    fuel to create rapid and dramatic change. They are part of the
    Affect phobia is often official. For example, Columbia
    University’s popular CRED Guide to Climate Communications
    contains a section, “Beware the Overuse of Emotional Appeals,”
    in which they caution presenters to avoid telling the whole
    truth about the climate crisis, as this would cause “emotional
    numbing.” So presenters are given strategies including choosing
    a specific “portfolio of risk” to communicate — such as the link
    between climate and disease — rather than the whole, frightening
    Affect phobia can also be found in almost any discussion
    within the gradualist climate movement about what to say or
    what to advocate. “Fear doesn’t work as a motivator” so we
    shouldn’t “make” people afraid as it might “turn them off.”
    While it is accurate that climate truth overwhelms some
    people, the climate movement should be focused on turning
    people on — getting more people to enter emergency mode as
    activists. Further, some people will be “turned off” by climate
    truth temporarily, but will process it over time and then enter
    emergency mode later. With the truth, we give people the
    opportunity to face the facts and their feelings, and move
    forward productively. Without the truth, we deny them this
    Another critical reason for organizations and leaders to
    overcome affect phobia is to provide a safe space to discuss the
    crisis in the fellowship of others who understand. People who
    understand the climate crisis are often alienated, feeling that
    they must act “as if” things are OK in order to get along. Climate
    advocacy organizations should create a place where people
    can process the reality and implications of the climate crisis,
    together. This kind of supportive, generative atmosphere can only
    occur when the truth is embraced, and we are able to tolerate
    the emotions that the truth inspires. If the organizational culture
    is to stay perpetually cheerful and stay away from the horrifying
    truth of our situation, people will not feel free to express their true
    If you feel the urge to say, “But people can’t handle the truth,”
    question whether you may be reacting to your own anxiety and
    your own difficulty processing the climate crisis. Of course
    it’s difficult! Of course people will feel afraid, angry, and griefstricken.
    Those are rational, healthy reactions to the surreal and
    nightmarish reality we find ourselves in. The climate movement
    should encourage people to acknowledge these feelings and
    learn to see them as a call to action.
    State of The Climate Emergency
    Movement Ecosystem: May,
    The Climate Emergency Movement has gained so much
    momentum in the first few months of 2019 that it’s hard to
    keep up. Here are a few of the recent developments and the
    organizations behind them, though by the time this essay is
    published the list is sure to be out of date.
    The Green New Deal.
    In February, 2019, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Senator Ed
    Markey introduced a House Resolution 109, Recognizing the Duty
    of the Federal Government to create a Green New Deal calling for
    a 10-year “National, social, industrial, and economic mobilization
    on a scale not seen since World War II and the New Deal” that
    achieves zero emissions, 100% renewables, full employment, a
    just transition for workers and frontline communities. As of May,
    2019, 104 house representatives and 12 Senators co-sponsored
    this resolution, including most of the top Democrats contending
    for the presidency in 2020.
    While Ocasio-Cortez was a candidate, she signed The Climate
    Mobilization’s “Pledge to Mobilize”, committing to organize
    with others to spread the truth of the climate crisis and build
    the power necessary to start maximal intensity mobilization.
    Ocasio-Cortez has subsequently called for trillions of dollars in
    investments for that Green New Deal so that it can mobilize on
    the scale of WWII. Since their inception, The Justice Democrats,
    who recruited and supported Ocasio-Cortez’s election, have
    been interested in a 10 year mobilization to transform our
    energy sector. The Climate Mobilization and myself have been
    dialoguing about this program — which became the Green New
    Deal — for years. It contains many elements of our Victory Plan.
    The Justice Democrats
    The Justice Democrats is a grassroots Political Action Group
    that recruits and supports candidates who run a unified platform,
    featuring the Green New Deal. Current Justice Democrats in
    Congress include Alexandria Ocasio Cortez, Ilhan Omar, Ro
    Khanna, and Pramila Jayapal. The Justice Democrats are
    recruiting their 2020 candidates, many of whom will primary
    corporate, gradualist democrats.
    The Sunrise Movement
    The Sunrise Movement is a US based grassroots movement
    group led by millennials and targeting young people. It seeks
    to stop the climate crisis and create millions of new jobs in the
    process. Since the introduction of the Green New Deal, Sunrise
    has exploded in interest and popularity, and the organization is
    now shaping up to coordinate the grassroots social movement
    for comprehensive emergency and maximal climate mobilization
    in the United States. They are a major new political force and
    are poised to continue growing in size and influence. They have
    already succeeded in bringing the climate, and Green New Deal,
    to the forefront of the 2020 Presidential primaries.
    Extinction Rebellion
    Extinction Rebellion (XR for short), emerged in November 2018
    as a major force on “Rebellion Day One”, when thousands of
    rebels occupied five bridges in London. XR encourages its
    members and the broader public to accept the hard truths of
    the climate crisis, and this approach is proving to be remarkably
    successful. In the last six months XR has expanded globally,
    especially in Europe, and as of April 2019, it has initiated 2 weeks
    of rebellion. The nonviolent, open-affiliation group demands
    that the government “tell the truth about the climate and wider
    ecological emergency,” that the government “enact legally
    binding policy measures to reduce carbon emissions to net zero
    by 2025 and to reduce consumption levels,” and that a national
    citizen’s assembly is convened “to oversee the changes, as part
    of creating a democracy fit for purpose.”
    The principle of Climate Truth has been central to XR’s
    approach from the start. One of their slogans is, “Tell the truth
    and act like that truth is real.” XR emphasizes civil disobedience
    as its key tactic, and way of expressing that they are in
    Emergency Mode.
    XR also recognizes the importance of grief and mourning.
    Another slogan is “We welcome everyone and all parts of
    everyone.” Your fear, grief, anger, and despair are all welcome.
    XR supports organizers in acknowledging and responding to
    the climate crisis and offer seminars on brokenheartedness and
    grief. Their standard 1-hour talk, “Headed for Extinction and What
    to do about it” contains several breaks for silent grief.
    One important piece of this social movement history is that
    both Sunrise Movement and Extinction Rebellion were trained
    by the same person and organization — Carlos Saavedra, the
    founder of the Anyi Institute. Anyi teaches movements to
    “frontload their DNA” for rapid growth. In other words, to develop
    a clear set of goals, demands, and way of operating that can be
    picked up by anyone. If you want to organize an XR or a Sunrise
    movement event — you are empowered to do so, and do not
    need permission, as long as you act within the group’s stated
    guidelines and values.
    School Strikes
    The school strikes are a prime example of how transformative
    climate truth can be, as well as the power of 1 individual to wield
    it with maximum efficacy. Greta Thunberg, Swedish Teenager,
    began striking her school every Friday, going instead to Swedish
    parliament to stand on the stairs and demand an emergency
    response on climate. Greta has spoken at UN climate gatherings,
    at Davos, and at other official meetings, offering scorching
    rebukes and calls to arms, such as telling Business leaders at the
    World Economic Forum in Davos:
    At places like Davos, people like to tell success stories. But their
    financial success has come with an unthinkable price tag. And
    on climate change, we have to acknowledge we have failed. All
    political movements in their present form have done so, and the
    media has failed to create broad public awareness…Adults keep
    saying, “We owe it to the young people to give them hope.” But I
    don’t want your hope. I don’t want you to be hopeful. I want you to
    panic. I want you to feel the fear I feel every day. And then I want
    you to act.
    Greta’s fiercely truthful approach has proven enormously
    successful, spreading globally. In Belgium, after more than
    30,000 students struck, their environmental minister resigned
    in February, 2019. On March 15, 2019, 1.4 million students left
    schools around the world demanding, among other things, a
    Declaration of Climate Emergency and an emergency speed
    transition to zero emissions.
    Greta is firmly committed to spreading climate truth:
    I often talk to people who say, ‘No, we have to be hopeful and to
    inspire each other, and we can’t tell [people] too many negative
    things’ . . . But, no — we have to tell it like it is. Because if there
    are no positive things to tell, then what should we do, should we
    spread false hope? We can’t do that, we have to tell the truth.
    Indeed, Greta’s approach to communication is so aligned with
    my own, in terms of bluntly conveying the truth of the emergency
    and demanding transformative change, that certain conspiracyminded
    bloggers have claimed that I am somehow one of Greta’s
    puppet masters. I have never had a one-on-one conversation with
    Greta (tho I was on a panel with her over Skype, once), and, while
    I would be immensely honored if my writing has influenced her, I
    have no evidence that that is the case.
    The School Strikes have taken on much of the character of their
    truth telling initiator. The student-founded organization Youth
    Climate Strike US, which has brought the strikes to the United
    States, demands, among other things: a Green New Deal and a
    just transition to 100% clean energy by 2030, an immediate halt
    to new fossil fuel infrastructure, and a Declaration of Climate
    Emergency at the national level.
    Climate Emergency Declarations
    Climate Emergency Declarations are a powerful tool for
    spreading Climate Truth and leading the public, and the
    institutions of government, into emergency mode. The Climate
    Emergency Declaration Campaign officially started in the city
    of Darebin, Australia — whose city government passed the first
    declaration of climate emergency in December 2016. Because
    of our local Climate Mobilization chapter, Hoboken New Jersey
    became the first U.S. city to declare a Climate Emergency in
    November, 2017.
    Working in coalition with international allies and on-theground
    leaders, The Climate Mobilization has helped to spread
    this campaign to 500 local governments around the world,
    representing over 50 million people; it is now growing at a
    compounding rate. Because of Extinction Rebellion’s impact, as
    well as the work of the British Green Party, more than 50 UK cities
    have declared climate emergency and commit to emergency
    speed decarbonization. London declared a climate emergency in
    mid-December, committing to transform its economy to carbonneutral
    by 2030. Non-governmental organizations have also
    declared Climate Emergency. University of Bristol became the
    first university to declare a Climate Emergency. The XR-affiliated
    campaign Culture Declares a Climate Emergency has supported
    hundreds of British cultural institutions and artists in declaring
    a climate emergency. The Climate Mobilization plans to help
    spread this into the US as well.
    As of May 2019, The campaign is moving to higher levels of
    government: the United Kingdom, Ireland, Scotland, and Wales
    have all declared a Climate Emergency. The Climate Mobilization
    plans to continue supporting Climate Emergency Declarations on
    every level of government, looking to get one introduced into the
    House of Representatives in coming weeks.
    After a city has declared a Climate Emergency, we advise
    councilors to not just enact local policy but to become
    champions for Climate Mobilization — educating the public,
    working with other local governments to spread the campaign
    and collaborate on climate approaches, and pushing higher
    levels of government to declare Climate Emergency and commit
    to rapid decarbonization. Often, new government bodies must be
    created in order to complete that work.
    Local Chapters of National Groups and Local Climate Justice
    Local and state level chapters of some big green national
    organizations have joined the Climate Emergency Movement,
    through pursuing the Climate Emergency Declaration campaign,
    joining with the School Strikers, or in other ways.
    Further, many climate and environmental justice organizations
    that have been defending their neighborhoods, cities, and
    rural areas from fracking, oil extraction, mountaintop removal,
    and other toxic activities, are realizing that the larger climate
    emergency fight is aligned with their local fights. The LA Leap
    coalition is an example of how these groups achieve huge wins
    when they work together in the Climate Emergency frame.
    The Climate Mobilization was founded 5 years ago, on the
    principle of telling the truth and demanding a response that could
    protect humanity and the natural world: WWII scale mobilization.
    We have three major programs: Climate Emergency, Climate
    Truth, and Climate Mobilization.
    Our Climate Emergency campaign was described above — we
    support local TCM chapters, and partner organizations such as
    chapters of and the Sierra Club — in winning Declarations
    of Climate Emergency and making them as effective as possible.
    Our Climate Truth campaign is based around my psychological
    work. My forthcoming book, Transform Yourself with Climate
    Truth is about helping people work through the emotional and
    psychological blockers to entering emergency mode personally,
    turning their terror and grief into action, and joining the
    movement. I am piloting small group conversation formats with
    the goal of welcoming pain and turning it into action.
    Our Climate Mobilization thought leadership team focuses on
    intellectual production for the Climate Emergency Movement.
    This work ranges from political and economic analysis to
    determine optimal pathways to a fully renewable energy system;
    policy development designed to move governments of any
    size into an emergency mode of response to climate change;
    and research into the industrial strategy development and
    bureaucratic restructuring required to fully mobilize America’s
    economy as we entered World War II. At times this work felt like
    a thought experiment; it has recently become an essential and
    influential body of knowledge. We now have an opportunity to
    directly support serious candidates and influence climate policy
    at the highest levels.
    Join the Movement to
    Protect Humanity and All
    I hope that this essay has convinced you that: 1) the
    Climate Movement’s job is to lead the public into
    emergency mode 2) that the Climate Emergency
    Movement is doing that by entering emergency mode
    themselves and that 3) This young movement has
    tremendous momentum and is growing all the time.
    However, relative to the epic nature of the challenge,
    the Climate Emergency Movement is still small, and
    broke. We need all the support we can get. We need
    The forces arrayed against us are mighty. But on our
    side is the extremely potent truth — what science tells
    us and is becoming more apparent all the time — as
    well as the human desire to survive and protect other
    people and species. Another important strategic
    advantage is the WWII experience with the home front
    economic and social mobilization, which provides a
    recent historical example of extraordinary, improbable
    American success through mobilization. It’s hard for
    most people to imagine how we could possibly tackle
    the climate crisis because of the scale and urgency of
    what must be done, but the WWII-scale mobilization
    concept makes it much easier.
    We are now in a time of tremendous consequence.
    Incredibly, the choices we make now and in the near
    future matter a great deal to the future of humanity
    and all life on earth. It’s time to leave gradualism,
    business as usual, and normal mode behind until we
    have solved the climate problem. The time has come
    to enter emergency mode, both as a society and as
    individuals. The stakes could not be higher.
    Next Steps
  10. Volunteer with a Climate Emergency Organization! Extinction
    Rebellion, Sunrise, the Justice Democrats, the School Strikers, or The
    Climate Mobilization. Or work to bring your current organization into
    “Emergency Mode”
  11. Have frank conversations with people you care about and respect
    about the climate emergency.
  12. Support The Climate Mobilization’s work with a Donation.
    About the Author
    Margaret Klein Salamon, PhD
    Margaret is the Founder and Director of The Climate
    Mobilization. She was born and raised in Ann Arbor,
    Michigan and she lives with her husband in Park Slope,
    Brooklyn. She earned her BA in Social Anthropology from
    Harvard and her PhD in clinical psychology from Adelphi
    University. Her life plan was to be a psychoanalyst
    in private practice, a writer, and have a family. Those
    plans began to feel less appealing as the reality of the
    climate crisis increasingly broke through her defenses.
    She entered emergency mode, and began writing about
    psychology and climate change on her blog The Climate
    Psychologist. From that writing, she found Ezra Silk and
    others, and the rest is history! Margaret’s forthcoming
    book, Transform Yourself with Climate Truth is available
    on Kickstarter.
    Thank you to Jim Streit for editing this version of Leading
    the Public into Emergency Mode.
    False narrative Truth
    2°C or 1.5°C of warming above pre-industrial levels
    represent “safe limits” to global warming
    1°C of warming is already dangerous. The climate is warmer
    now than at any time since human civilization began, and
    life threatening effects are already here
    Our grandchildren may be in a “climate emergency”
    sometime in the future if we don’t change
    We are in a climate emergency right now
    We still have a sizable global “carbon budget” left to
    safely burn before things really get out of control
    There is no carbon budget left to guarantee a high
    probability of remaining below 1.5°C, a level of warming
    that would itself cause devastating impacts
    The transition to net zero greenhouse gas emissions can
    be a multi-decade effort (i.e., we can continue emitting
    greenhouse gases for decades longer!)
    There is no carbon budget left. We must stop emission as
    quickly as possible and begin drawing down greenhouse
    gasses from the atmosphere in order to ensure the survival
    of human civilization
    Climate justice and other social justice objectives are
    compatible with carbon gradualism
    The world’s poor are already suffering climate change
    impacts such as displacement and food insecurity, and
    it will get much, much worse if we allow emissions to
    It’s not worth solving the climate crisis and saving
    billions of lives unless we simultaneously create a
    utopian society
    There is no hope of achieving a better society if human
    civilization fails. Survival is the top priority
    Ending emissions will be “cheap,” “easy” or “painless”
    and can be accomplished smoothly but slowly via
    market-based policy instruments alone (such as an
    emissions trading system or a carbon tax)
    It is too late for a gradual, free-market approach.
    Sufficiently rapid transition can only be achieved with
    government coordination
    If we only reduce the fossil fuel industry’s stranglehold
    on politicians, the problem will solve itself
    Our entire society must mobilize to implement a solution
    The climate crisis is only a dirty energy or electricity
    issue that can be solved without massive ecosystem
    restoration, the transformation of industrial and animal
    agriculture, and a revolution in land use and soil
    Agriculture and land use are responsible for a large fraction
    of global greenhouse gas emissions. These sectors must
    be transformed to draw down excess carbon from the
    Overcoming False Narratives
    False narrative Truth
    A zero emissions-only strategy (without drawdown and
    possible cooling) is all that is needed to protect us from
    climate catastrophe
    Current atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gasses
    are already unsafe and must be reduced
    Carbon drawdown approaches and solar radiation
    management should not be discussed as legitimate
    options or studied since they will only distract from
    emissions reduction and societal transformation
    All solutions must be considered, including temporary
    measures such as solar radiation management that can
    serve as a bridge to a sustainably safe climate
    The broader overshoot, sustainability, and mass
    extinction emergencies relating to over-consumption and
    economic growth are not worth mentioning or factoring
    into our policies as we respond to the climate crisis
    since they are overwhelming, not widely accepted by the
    public, and seem far away
    The effects of climate and environmental breakdown are
    already being felt globally. The public largely recognizes
    this, and is beginning to demand transformative change
    We are”fucked”—absolutely nothing we can do will help
    the situation. Science shows humanity will definitely go
    extinct by 2030 and all those calling for actions to avert
    catastrophe are spreading delusional “hopium.”
    The vast majority of scientists believe there is still a
    window of opportunity to address the crisis, but we must
    act as quickly as humanly possible
    Overcoming False Narratives (continued)
    Social Movements
    This is an Uprising
    by Mark and Paul Engler
    The Power of the Powerless
    by Vaclav Havel
    From Dictatorship to Democracy
    by Gene Sharp
    ACT UP and Larry Kramer
    1,112 and Counting, Larry Kramer
    How to Survive a Plague
    Larry Kramer: In Love and Anger.
    The Normal Heart
    (This is a play that Kramer wrote
    about his break from the Gay
    Men’s Health Alliance, recently,
    adapted into a film.)
    Flow States
    Flow by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi
    Flow Genome Project
    The Rise of Superman: Decoding
    the Science of Ultimate Human
    by Kotler, Steven.
    Further Reading
    The Climate Crisis
    Climate Reality Check and Recount
    by David Spratt
    The Uninhabitable Earth by David
    Wallace Wells
    WWII Homefront mobilization
    No Ordinary Time by Doris Kearns
    Freedom’s Forge by Arthur Herman
    WWII Scale Climate Mobilization
    The Case for Climate Mobilization
    by Ezra Silk and Margaret Klein
    Unprecedented by David Griffin
    The Great Disruption by Paul Gilding
    Striking Targets, Philip Sutton
    Climate Emergency
    Road to Cop 21 and Beyond: the Missing
    Lessons of Paris by Michael Hoexter
    Climate Code Red
    by Philip Sutton and David Spratt