The Citizen's Guide to Climate Success

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free PDF version of this book is available as Open Access on Cambridge

Humanity has failed for three decades to decarbonize our energy system to address the climate threat, yet average citizens still don’t know what to do personally or what to demand from their politicians. For climate success, we need to understand the combined role of self-interested and wishful thinking biases that prevent us from acting effectively and strategically. Fossil fuel and other interests delude us about climate science or try to convince us that every new fossil fuel investment is beneficial. But even climate-concerned people propagate myths that hinder progress, holding to beliefs that all countries will agree voluntarily on sharing the cost of global decarbonization; that carbon offsets are effective; that behavioral change is critical; that energy efficiency and renewable energy are cheap; and that carbon taxes are absolutely essential. For success with the climate-energy challenge, we must strategically focus our efforts as citizens on a few key domestic sectors (especially electricity and transportation), a few key policies (regulations and/or carbon pricing); and the identification and election of climate-sincere politicians. As leading countries decarbonize their domestic electricity and transportation sectors, they must use various measures, including carbon tariffs, to ensure that their efforts spill over to affect the efforts of all countries. And although wealthier countries are unlikely to provide the support that developing countries desire to forego dependence on coal and oil, the combination of tariff threats and the local air pollution and climate benefits from decarbonization will motivate efforts even in these poorer countries. This book offers a clear and simple strategic path for climate-concerned citizens to drive climate success by acting locally while thinking globally.


  1. tried to access for online copy but it has not been activated. Is this an error?
    MJ is coming to Hamilton ON in Feb 2020 and we're trying to get a good turnout for his lecture at the Bay Area Climate Change Forum.

  2. The online version will become available sometime after the publication date. I will let folks know when that happens. Book is available on February 6, 2020 and can be pre-ordered now.

  3. Online link is live and book can be downloaded

    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  4. I have read several chapters, particularly on carbon tax (ch 6). Why are quota based systems not considered? Significant changes to energy supply infrastructure are not possible on the very short timescale remaining to us, so dramatic energy demand reductions are now the only option, allowing time for low-carbon energy supply to come on stream.
    Politics, as you thoroughly point out from direct close up first hand experience, is not reflecting the urgency of climate science findings. Interdisciplinary analysis shows that carbon pricing is an unsuitable policy framework to guide the unprecedented emissions trajectory required because carbon pricing cannot deliver four essential features of an effective climate policy framework
    - Ensuring real and radical emissions reductions in practice.
    - Facilitating public/political acceptability for the implementation of such cuts.
    - Embedding a longer term perspective into societal decision making.
    - Integrating cross-sector engagement with intrinsic motivation and society wide co-operation.

    Have you looked at the alternative policy framework of tradable energy quotas? One of these called TEQs is similar to a national electronic rationing scheme for energy, but with legally tradable allowances. It could meet the four criteria outlined above. It combines downstream engagement with upstream enforcement
    and would cover all sectors of a national economy, including households. It would act as an umbrella framework, ensuring a hard cap on emissions and supporting other climate policy.
    Research into the scheme suggests that it may be expected to meet with greater public acceptability than carbon pricing frameworks, as it is a progressive scheme that would safeguard entitlements to energy while leaving households to manage their consumption as they see fit.

    TEQs draws on principles from social psychology in engaging a nation’s ingenuity in reducing energy demand. It attempts to define new norms of acceptable carbon consumption and create a clear shared goal, generating
    common purpose around intrinsic shared desires to overcome climate change and retain secure access to essential energy services.

    TEQs was first developed in 1996. A UK government feasibility study in 2008 declared it “ahead of its time” on grounds of cost and public acceptability, and so the government withdrew from funding further research at that time, although expressing continued interest. Substantial research since, including
    2011’s UK cross-party parliamentary report, has challenged these negative conclusions. You Dr Jaccard have frankly recognized the shortcomings of carbon pricing frameworks. Hard cap-based schemes are called for, and TEQs may well be the best placed to reconcile the rift between science and politics. Governments must be challenged on their failure to implement their own carbon targets, and why they do not implement frameworks suited to do so.

  5. Thanks for your comment. Unfortunately, I cannot agree. The issue is not energy use. It is emissions. The human global energy system is 12 times greater than 100 years ago and surely will be at least 4 times greater 100 years from now. We should not be rationing energy, especially if we can get it in benign ways. We should ration GHG emissions down to zero. As we do that, energy use could end up the same as now or maybe still 4 times greater.

  6. I appreciate you keeping this thread going for us on your blog. Could you expand your opinion with reasons why should not ration energy? And consider that if indeed we did magically have 100% carbon free energy, unlimited, would we not quickly exhaust non-renewable resources, eg metals and renewables too, eg water. At 2% p.a. population growth we double in 35 years, and we're already up against multiple earth systems limits (viz Rockstrom et al at Stockholm Resilience Institute).
    What are your rebuttals to the four conditions I quote that cannot be met by limiting carbon through price?
    Consider the physics proposed by Tim Garrett, cloud physicist (PhD, U Waterloo, canuck from NS) at U Utah:

    Also, an FAQ in response to various confusions out there:

    Plus a blog called nephologue.

    "collective wealth has had a fixed relationship to added atmospheric CO2 concentrations. Expressed quantitatively, 2.42 +/- 0.02 ppmv CO2 is added every year for every one thousand trillion inflation-adjusted 1990 US dollars of current global wealth."
    and "7.1 ± 0.1 milliwatts of continuous power consumption are required to sustain the worth associated with every inflation-adjusted 2005 dollar."

  7. "especially if we can get [energy] in benign ways" implies that we should not ration energy even if we CAN'T get it without carbon or other pollution (ozone, particulate, SOx.
    There is a version of TEQs that issues quotas of CO2e but is more difficult to administer.

    1. Sorry, cannot keep the exchange going. Only so many hours in the day.