It is almost a quarter of a century since Carl Sagan, reflecting on the few precious pixels that were the image of Earth, photographed by Voyager 1 from a distance of 6 billion kilometers, implored us to …

“preserve and cherish the pale blue dot, the only home we’ve ever known.” 

In the intervening years a trillion tonnes of CO2 equivalent have been added to the growing tally of pollutants with which we have burdened the Earth’s natural systems, the CO2 content of the atmosphere has increased from 360 to 410 ppm, and we have concluded [1] that …

“Warming of the climate system is unequivocal and, since the 1950s, many of the observed changes are unprecedented over decades to millennia. The atmosphere and oceans have warmed, the amount of snow and ice has diminished, sea level has risen and … the atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide have increased to levels unprecedented in at least the last 800,000 years.”

Over two decades have slipped by since the first UNFCCC Conference of Parties (COP1, Bonn, 1995), yet the current (Rev 21.0?) “global climate change treaty” (COP21, Paris, 2015) still falls significantly short of achieving the supposedly shared goal of limiting the global average temperature rise to at most 2°C, compared to pre-industrial levels.

There is a real risk that current governance systems at the global level will prove incapable of mobilizing the resources at the scale and pace necessary to address this challenge. As the Nobel prize winning economist Elinor Ostrom observed [2] …

“The likelihood of developing an effective, efficient, and fair system to reduce greenhouse gas emissions that can be rapidly initiated at the global level appears to be very low. Given the severity of the threat, simply waiting for resolution of these issues at a global level, without trying out policies at multiple scales because they lack a global scale, is not a reasonable stance.”

It is not scientific understanding that is lacking, nor technical solutions that can be matured for deployment at scale, but rather [3] …

“humanity is challenged to develop and deploy understanding of large-scale commons governance quickly enough to avoid the large-scale tragedies that will otherwise ensue.”

Thinking about the various ways in which people and organizations are working on the climate change challenge led to the recognition that one area, with potentially large scale impact, seemed to be under utilized for want of a novel form of governance.

Thus was born the idea of a global network, strengthening the motivation for collective action on carbon footprint reduction, and leveraging individual and group achievement through additional offsetting – CarbonActionNow!


[1] Stocker, T. F., et al. (2013). Climate Change 2013: The Physical Science Basis. Working Group 1 (WG1) Contribution to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) 5th Assessment Report (AR5). (This link will download the pdf of this report in a new tab).

[2] Ostrom, E. (2009). A polycentric approach for coping with climate change.  World Bank Policy Research Working Paper No. 5095. (This link will download the pdf of this paper in a new tab).

[3] Dietz, T., Ostrom, E., & Stern, P. C. (2003). The struggle to govern the commons. science302(5652), 1907-1912. (This link will download the pdf of this paper in a new tab).

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