The Dark Prize

What if no one wins the race to zero carbon?
What if only one state gets to zero?

chat Posted Jul 07, 2016 by Rezwan | Category : Prizes
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Broadly put, the rules of “The Race to Be the First Net Zero Carbon State” are simple. The first state to achieve a net zero carbon economy, with the best quality of life, wins. 

What do they win? Besides sustainability? The “Carbon Cup” and other state scale prizes to be determined by the Prize Committee.

Isn’t that exciting! Aren’t you ready to race to zero right NOW! 

It turns out, despite the vision of sustainability and a host of other awesome prizes, not everyone is ready to race. Indeed, when we pitch the race, there is a dark side that comes up a lot. We have been asked, “What if no one wins? What if one state wins, but everyone else keeps emitting greenhouse gases and the climate tips into catastrophe anyway?”

This is a sobering thought. 

We hold to the win-win idea that everyone will to get to zero, but one state will get there FIRST. We’re ALL going to achieve sustainability.

But what if it doesn’t work out that way? Sustainability only occurs when we ALL (or at least a critical mass) of us go the distance. If only a few play the game, then we all still lose. If just one or a handful of states get to zero carbon, it won’t be enough to avert catastrophe.

This is a “lose-irrelevant win” scenario.

Leveraging the Dark Prize as Motivation

We were feeling depressed about this, but then we thought it may be possible to use this to motivate people who would not otherwise be motivated. Think of it. This scenario is actually a manifestation of paralysis. An excuse to give up. It is: “why should I bother racing to zero, not enough other people will do it. It won’t make a difference.”

Folks who feel this way may not be able to imagine that all states can get to zero quickly. Rather than try to argue the point, it may be easier to follow the train of thought and consider a dark consolation prize to the state that wins in the context of the whole world losing.

This “winning” State will have shown that it was game to do everything it could to avert climate catastrophe. That makes it special. Deserving. Responsible. However, due to no fault of its own, and very much to the fault of the other states that did not act or acted too slowly, it is living in…insert your favorite post-apocalyptic scenario here.

This State has won our competition. What prize do they get? Some suggestions have come up: extra post-apocalyptic privileges. Rations, arms, nuclear launch codes.

It’s not pretty.

Obviously, we have no intention of letting the world lose the game. That’s why we are gathering the finest Zero Carbon Coaches, writing the ultimate Zero Carbon Playbook and setting up the game as we are. To make sure everyone wins.

Nevertheless, it may be useful to have the Prize Committee discuss the “Lose-irrelevant win” scenario and how they would go about getting nuclear launch codes to motivate the cynical. This conversation seems pointless, but perhaps it can add to the spectacle and buzz of the race. 


Test if the Dark Prize is motivating or de-motivating.

What do we know about human nature? Do you think people will be more motivated to get to zero for the chance of being the lone survivors with the nuclear launch codes, or to be the first in a broader race to sustainability and an excellent quality of life for everyone?

Notes & Related:

Ras Tanura Oil Burn Off-1959

The Proclamation Challenge
First Ever Race to Zero Carbon 5K & 10K Recap

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