The Story of Cap & Trade

Cap and trade is one of the main climate change "solutions" under discussion. In a new nine-minute film, Annie Leonard, creator of The Story of Stuff, offers a warning about what she considers the dangers of cap and trade.
The Story of Cap And Trade screenshot

The Story of Cap & Trade


If you’re like me, an increasing amount of your worries these days focus on the rising levels of CO2 in the atmosphere and the resulting potential for devastating climate chaos.

Years ago, when I first heard about climate change, I figured someone else would work all that out while I kept plodding away with my work on consumption, pollution and waste. Well, guess what? They didn’t work it out; in fact, the climate situation is far worse today than even recent scientific predictions. And guess what else? It turns out that climate and consumption are actually the same issue.

You see, most of the greenhouse gases countries emit come from our materials economy: the way we make, use, transport, and throw away all the stuff in our lives. As Boston College professor (and one of my favorite authors) Juliet Schor said, “Global consumerism devours resources like there’s no tomorrow. And unless we address how much we consume, we won’t succeed in averting disastrous climate change.”

A majority of scientists now say we need to significantly reduce carbon levels in the atmosphere if we want the planet to resemble something close to what it is like today, supporting the kind of life that it does today. To do this, we simply have to use less Stuff—especially oil and coal. We have to rethink, redesign, and rebuild a lot of things. We have to figure out different modes of transportation, growing food, building buildings, and having fun that don’t require endless new Stuff. It’s very possible to make these changes, but they won’t happen on their own. We need to get started.

Unfortunately, most of the world’s leaders and big businesses are instead promoting policy approaches that don’t bring us anywhere near the level of change that climate scientists say is needed—let’s call these “false solutions.” And there’s another problem with these policy approaches: the details are so technical and policy wonkish that it’s often hard to figure out what they are even talking about.

I wondered if it would be possible to explain the leading false solution, Cap and Trade, in a clear compelling way so that more of us are inspired to join the conversation. Working with Climate Justice Now!, the Durban Group for Climate Justice and Free Range Studios, we produced our new short film, The Story of Cap & Trade, to do just that.

We hope you like it. And more importantly, we hope it inspires you to get involved in the most important conversation of our lives.

Annie Leonard

The Story of Cap & Trade was made by and , in partnership with and the .

:: Annie Leonard reveals what gives her strength, even as she and her popular film, , are attacked as un-American.

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