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In a bold new strategy unveiled on Monday in the Guardian, the U.S. Department of Agriculture—guardians of the planet's richest farmlands—has decided to combat the threat of global warming by forbidding the use of the words.

Under guidance from the agency's director of soil health, Bianca Moebius-Clune, a list of phrases to be avoided includes "climate change" and "climate change adaptation," to be replaced by "weather extremes" and "resilience to weather extremes."

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We're at one of those moments in the climate fight when things could go either way. In DC, of course, it's going badly: Trump and his crew are wrecking every federal effort to help reduce emissions—heck, they're even making sure we have no satellites to monitor the destruction.

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10 Best Solar Companies in New York (2022)

We narrow down the best installers in the Empire State.

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FernandoAH / Getty Images

When you think of New York, it's doubtful you'd picture solar panels lining the tops of urban buildings, but the Empire State is actually a top state for solar energy in the U.S. If you're thinking about going solar, the best first step to make is to find the best solar companies in New York and compare quotes.

It may surprise you to learn that the state of New York actually has more solar companies than Texas, the number two state for solar. Progressive leadership has laid the foundation for a market very encouraging of solar's growth, and a large number of top solar companies are looking to capitalize on it.

For most home or business owners considering solar power, the choice of which company to choose often comes down to costs. To start getting quotes from the best solar companies in New York, you can use this tool or fill out the form below.

Our Picks for Top New York Solar Installers

  1. SunPower
  2. SUNation Solar Systems
  3. EmPower Solar
  4. Tesla
  5. Kasselman Solar
  6. Momentum Solar
  7. Harvest Power Solar
  8. Brooklyn SolarWorks
  9. SunCommon
  10. Plug PV

Comparing the 10 Best Solar Companies in New York

SunPower

SunPower logo

SunPower

Service Area: State of New York

What We Like: SunPower has been a leading top solar company since 1985, manufacturing, selling and installing its own modules, which routinely rank as the industry's most efficient solar panels. SunPower provides national coverage, some of the highest-quality all-in-one solar systems and the best warranty in the business.

What We Don't Like: SunPower is able to service the entire nation through partnerships with local certified dealers throughout the nation. SunPower still maintains a standard of excellence, but your experience can be dependent on which dealer you live nearest.

What Customers Are Saying: "After doing my research and getting bids from four different companies, SunPower won hands down for us in meeting our overall needs. [Our consultant] was a real pleasure to work with… I'd recommend SunPower as the solar company of choice to anyone." — KG via Better Business Bureau (BBB)

SunPower at a Glance:

SUNation Solar Systems

SUNation Solar logo

SUNation Solar

Service Area: Suffolk County, Nassau County, Queens, Brooklyn and Staten Island

What We Like: SUNation Solar systems is a local leader trusted by over 7,000 homeowners in New York and has been voted the "Best Solar Business of Long Island" for 12 years running. Certified to install products from Tesla, Panasonic, LG and Solaria, SUNation delivers high-quality solar solutions with a local approach.

What We Don't Like: Though SUNation's local approach is what allows for such a personalized and smooth experience, its service area is smaller than some of its competitors.

What Customers Are Saying: "Very positive experience working with SUNation. From the sales process to the various logistical efforts (local permissions, array layout, frequent communication, installation), it was really a first-class effort. Really excited to be joining the 21st century thanks to SUNation!" — Daniel via BBB

SUNation at a Glance:

  • Year Founded: 2003
  • Services Provided: Solar panels, community solar, EV chargers, electrical upgrades, maintenance and backup batteries
  • Warranty: 25-year workmanship warranty
  • Financing Options: Cash purchase, solar loan

EmPower Solar

Service Area: Nassau, Suffolk, Queens, Brooklyn, Manhattan, Bronx and Staten Island

What We Like: With a vision of creating a new energy paradigm powered by clean, renewable power, EmPower Solar strives to provide its customers with the latest solar technology and the highest quality workmanship. EmPower Solar works in both residential and commercial solar markets installing eco-friendly energy solutions throughout greater NYC. EmPower is a certified dealer of SunPower solar panels, which are some of the best solar panels in the business.

What We Don't Like: We'd like to see EmPower Solar emphasize energy efficiency and electrical system upgrades in their services to accompany solar and storage. It was also difficult to find information on EmPower's solar financing options.

What Customers Are Saying: "EmPower installed our solar system in May 2018. After the site inspection and design were all completed and the contract signed, the installation was completed in one day. It has performed flawlessly since that time and delivered 107% of our energy usage! We couldn't be more pleased." — Michael via Google Reviews

EmPower Solar at a Glance:

  • Year Founded: 2003
  • Services Provided: Solar panels, community solar, EV chargers and backup batteries
  • Warranty: SunPower 25-year warranty
  • Financing Options: Cash purchase, solar loan

Tesla

Tesla logo

Tesla

Service Area: State of New York; solar facility in Buffalo

What We Like: Known primarily for its electric cars, Tesla is also one of the top national solar companies. Tesla provides premium, designer solar technology meant to fit in seamlessly with a house's roof. Though not a solar installer like the other names on this list, Tesla will match you with a solar technician near you that is certified to install its products.

What We Don't Like: Tesla is much better known for its technology than its customer service, and it shows in a few negative reviews.

What Customers Are Saying: "From beginning to end, the process went perfectly. I liked that all the documents could be signed online. No back-and-forth paperwork. They showed up on time on the day of installation. They installed the whole system in one day. My solar has been running now for 4 months without any issues." — Victoria via BBB

Tesla Solar at a Glance:

  • Year Founded: 2003
  • Services Provided: Solar panels, EV chargers and Tesla Powerwall batteries
  • Warranty: 10-year comprehensive warranty
  • Financing Options: Cash purchase, solar loan

Kasselman Solar

Service Area: State of New York; Based in Menands

What We Like: Kasselman Solar specializes in powerful, affordable and aesthetically attractive solar panel installations. Installing LG and LONGi solar panels, Kasselman provides both quality and performance with a generous warranty and solar panels reaching a power of 445 watts.

What We Don't Like: Kasselman specializes in solar projects, period. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, but if you need electrical upgrades or other special services, Kasselman may not have as many options.

What Customers Are Saying: "Kasselman Solar is a top-notch organization and a leader in its respective markets. Its ability to navigate challenges with ease and deliver on commitments is unrivaled. For homeowners out there considering Kasselman as a solar provider, this is exactly the type of installer that you want to work with. They are honest and trustworthy, deliver a quality product, and provide a top-notch customer experience." — Victoria via BBB

Kasselman Solar at a Glance:

  • Year Founded: 1948 (as Kasselman Electric)
  • Services Provided: Solar panels, backup batteries and EV chargers
  • Warranty: 25-year full warranty
  • Financing Options: Cash purchase, solar loan

Momentum Solar

Momentum Solar logo

Momentum Solar

Service Area: State of New York

What We Like: One of our top solar companies of 2022, Momentum Solar and its leadership are highly respected in the industry for providing affordable, effective solar energy solutions. Momentum Solar focuses on flexible financing options to appeal to a wide range of customers.

What We Don't Like: Momentum Solar is young and growing quickly, and a few customer experiences have suffered from those growing pains.

What Customers Are Saying: "I appreciated my experience with Momentum Solar. They truly want what is in the best interest of the customer. We are very pleased with our system, which was installed 9 months ago. Our all-electric house now has an electric bill that is practically nothing. Thanks for a great solar system at a fair price" — Nina via Google Reviews

Momentum Solar at a Glance:

  • Year Founded: 2009
  • Services Provided: Solar panels, backup batteries and EV chargers
  • Warranty: 25-year solar panel warranty
  • Financing Options: Cash purchase, solar loan, solar leases/PPA

Harvest Power Solar

Harvest Power Solar logo

Harvest Power Solar

Service Area: Greater NYC area and Long Island

What We Like: Established in 2008 as a branch of Friendly Construction, Harvest Power has grown into one of the biggest solar providers in New York. With roots in construction and access to cutting-edge solar technology, Harvest Power Solar provides some of the most reliable and high-quality solar installations in the state.

What We Don't Like: A limited service area means most of its installations are tied to Long Island. Harvest Power's warranties are also nothing to write home about.

What Customers Are Saying: "A little over a year ago, [I] went live with a 28-panel solar system. Very happy with the job overall and its power generation. Should pay back in 7 to 10 years. The salesman was very knowledgeable and seemed honest. I've dealt with a lot of salesmen in my business that I wouldn't say that about. The job was completed very cleanly and generally timely." — Robert via Google Reviews

Harvest Power Solar at a Glance:

  • Year Founded: 2008
  • Services Provided: Solar panels, backup batteries and EV chargers
  • Warranty: 25-year solar panel warranty
  • Financing Options: Cash purchase, solar loan

Brooklyn SolarWorks

Service Area: Greater NYC area

What We Like: Brooklyn SolarWorks has a simple mission to make solar appealing, easy and available for Brooklyn's urban homeowners. Solar is probably not the first thing you think about when you think of Brooklyn — but Brooklyn SolarWorks has embraced its expertise in making clean energy as practical as possible for the unique needs of urban and suburban solar customers of New York City. It specializes in providing solar for challenging roofs, landmarked homes and the many co-ops and condos of NYC.

What We Don't Like: Let us lead by saying we love that Brooklyn SolarWorks has focused on such hyper-local, specific needs. However, this sets the company up for an easy negative: a very small service area.

What Customers Are Saying: "Brooklyn SolarWorks installed our solar system in 2019. The entire process from permitting through installation was easy and painless. I cannot emphasize enough the value and comfort of using a local Brooklyn-based company. I can honestly say it has been one of the best things we have ever done, and the savings are very impressive." — Mike via Google Reviews

Brooklyn SolarWorks at a Glance:

  • Year Founded: 2015
  • Services Provided: Solar panels, electrical work
  • Warranty: 30-year complete system warranty (we also love this!)
  • Financing Options: Cash purchase, solar loan

SunCommon

SunCommon logo

SunCommon

Service Area: Albany, Rensselaer, Greene, Columbia, Ulster, Dutchess, Orange, Putnam and Rockland counties

What We Like: SunCommon is built on pillars of community activism, transparency and care for the people and places that surround it. A certified B-Corporation, SunCommon has proven its commitment to responsible business practices, focusing on tenants of people, planet and profit. If keeping money local, investing in shared values and supporting your community is of utmost importance to you, we recommend reaching out to SunCommon.

What We Don't Like: Is it possible to be too committed to activism and education? We'd almost like to see SunCommon focus more on also highlighting its exceptional workmanship in both residential and commercial installations, affordable solar financing and technology.

What Customers Are Saying: "We evaluated a few different solar companies. We chose SunCommon because they have a great reputation. The team was excellent to work with, had the best technology, and financing with a 0.9% interest rate. The install team was friendly and professional, and the install went perfectly… I highly recommend SunCommon. You won't be disappointed." — Jeffrey via Google Reviews

SunCommon at a Glance:

  • Year Founded: 2011
  • Services Provided: Solar panels, solar canopies, backup batteries and solar farms
  • Warranty: 25-year warranty on power, parts and labor; 10-year workmanship warranty
  • Financing Options: Cash purchase, solar loans

PlugPV

PlugPV logo

PlugPV

Service Area: State of New York, based in Albany

What We Like: Built on high-quality workmanship, PlugPV solar is a small but experienced team of world-class solar contractors in the Northeast. PlugPV offers an impressive product portfolio including solar PV, backup solar batteries and EV chargers.

What We Don't Like: PlugPV has only been in business for five years as of 2022. Given the long-term nature of solar investments, it can be wise to choose an established company with a longer history of success.

What Customers Are Saying: "I'm almost 5 months with the system now, and things are running perfectly so far. At this point, I'm a fairly low electricity consumer, and my meter spins in reverse most of the time, generating credits with my utility. Everything went according to our plan, and I'm very happy with the results all around. There has not been a moment of regret working with them, and that's fairly unusual for me." — Adam via Google Reviews

PlugPV at a Glance:

  • Year Founded: 2017
  • Services Provided: Solar panels, backup batteries and EV chargers
  • Warranty: Product-specific warranty
  • Financing Options: Cash purchase, solar loans

How We Chose the Best Solar Companies in New York

We researched the product portfolios, solar services, financing options, customer feedback and industry reputations of every major New York solar installer. Using this methodology, we rated and ranked each company to narrow down and rank our picks for the top solar companies in New York.

Choosing the Best Solar Installer for Your Home

Everyone's needs are different when it comes to solar, so what may be the best solar company for your neighbor might not be right for you. Give these factors some thought and place more emphasis on what will meet your home's needs when choosing the best company for your installation:

Services Offered

To start, due to the unique range of needs of home and business owners in New York, a variety of solar installers focus on different services. For instance, Brooklyn SolarWorks focuses more exclusively on downtown roofs, which are typically flat and have needs different than a larger home in Long Island. Think about what makes your home or business unique — and find a company that prioritizes those needs. Other things to consider might be whether you need electrical upgrades, EV chargers or backup power.

Installation Process

Before you sign any paperwork, make sure you're confident in knowing how the installation process will look. How long before the installation day will happen? How many days will it take? What is my utility company's net metering policy? Permitting and interconnection can vary from city to city, so it's best to be sure you're familiar with the process.

Solar Pricing and Financing

Solar energy systems are a great investment — one that takes planning and time to mature. Think about whether you might need special financing options if your budget is tight. Any of the best solar companies in New York should be able to assist you in applying for the federal solar tax credit, but specific financing options and flexibility will vary from provider to provider.

Industry Affiliations

We generally recommend hiring a company that maintains industry credentials, such as membership in the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), a B Corp certification or affiliation with other professional associations. Memberships and certifications are a great indicator of the company's professionalism, workmanship, reputation and reliability.

Types of Panels

Some types of solar panels are better than others, and each company will offer a slightly different product portfolio. Small homes in more dense cities will likely need high-efficiency solar panels, while homes with more space might opt for a sleek design. It can't hurt to ask what brands of panels your company has available, and why they might recommend each. Certifications from some of the best solar panel brands like Panasonic, LG or SunPower might also be a good indicator of legitimacy.

Incentives, Rebates and Tax Credits

New York State has a variety of solar incentives that can vary by city, county and utility. Though effective, these incentives can be complex, and finding a solar installer that knows the ins and outs of local policy may provide the best overall value in the long run. It's best to think locally here. Does the company you're looking at have plenty of experience in your community? This will be important.

Warranty

Finally, we recommend finding an installer that offers a good warranty. Solar panels are incredibly tough, but things happen. The best warranties will last 25 years and cover the equipment, workmanship and performance of your installation.

Cost of Solar in New York

As of 2022, our market research and data from top brands show the average cost of solar panels in New York is around $2.95 per watt. This means a 5-kW system would cost around $10,927 after the federal solar tax credit is applied. Keep in mind that a 5-kW system is about the minimum size for most homes.

New York State also offers a variety of solar incentives to help offset the cost of your system. These incentives have spurred the growth of solar in New York to new highs in 2021, pushing to over $7 billion of total investment. Under the right circumstances, New York's solar incentives are capable of offsetting nearly half of the aggregate system installation costs.

New York Solar Incentive

Incentive Description

NY-Sun Megawatt Block Incentive

This statewide incentive provides direct financial incentives for solar installations on a per-watt basis, meaning the larger your installation, the more financial support you'll receive.

Solar Energy System Equipment Credit

New York residents are entitled to claim a tax credit equal to 25% of your qualified solar energy system equipment expenditure (limited to $5,000).

Sales Tax Exemption

New York residents don't have to pay the state's 4% sales tax on qualified solar equipment.

Net Metering

Standard net metering is available to most New York residents through 2022. Throughout 2022, New York will begin enrolling its solar customers in a net metering alternative aimed at easing utility costs.

How to Find the Best Solar Installer in New York

Sorting through the large number of New York solar installers can seem challenging, but this actually presents a great opportunity for New York home and business owners. Unlike a number of other states, solar customers are far more likely to find a company that tailors to their local needs.

The large number of solar companies in New York also gives solar customers the opportunity to shop competing offers against each other, sometimes securing thousands of dollars during the process. Remember, these companies are competing for you.

To start getting free quotes from the best solar companies in New York, use this tool or fill out the form below.

Best Solar Companies New York: FAQs

Who is the most reputable solar company in New York?

The most reputable solar company in New York will depend heavily on your individual needs. New York may be the toughest state to answer this question in due to the wide variety of unique needs stemming from metropolitan, suburban and rural areas of the state.

Is solar in New York worth it?

As long as you have the right roof, solar in New York is typically well worth it. Rather than the sunshine being the main factor behind solar's value, in New York, solar incentives are what make the switch worth it. Between the Megawatt Block incentive, federal tax credit and solar energy system equipment credit, New York homeowners can offset nearly 50% of their project costs.

How do I find a reputable solar company in New York?

One of the best ways to find a reputable solar company in New York is to compare free quotes from a number of installers. When comparing these quotes, or getting on-site consultations, you can find the best offer for your needs. Refer to our guide on finding local solar installers near you to learn more about reading and interpreting solar proposals.

Karsten Neumeister is a writer and renewable energy specialist with a background in writing and the humanities. Before joining EcoWatch, Karsten worked in the energy sector of New Orleans, focusing on renewable energy policy and technology. A lover of music and the outdoors, Karsten might be found rock climbing, canoeing or writing songs when away from the workplace.

Donald Trump is so spectacularly horrible that it's hard to look away (especially now that he's discovered bombs). But precisely because everyone's staring gape-mouthed in his direction, other world leaders are able to get away with almost anything. Don't believe me? Look one nation north, at Justin Trudeau.

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We're going to be dealing with an onslaught of daily emergencies during the Donald Trump years. Already it's begun—if there's nothing going on (or in some cases when there is), our leader often begins the day with a tweet to stir the pot and suddenly we're debating whether burning the flag should lose you your citizenship.

These crises will get worse once he has power—from day to day we'll have to try and protect vulnerable immigrants or deal with the latest outrage from the white supremacist "alt-reich" or confront the latest self-dealing scandal in the upper reaches of the Tower. It will be a game (though not a fun one), for 48 months, of trying to preserve as many people and as much of the Constitution as possible.

Apollo 17's Blue Marble.NASA

And if we're very lucky, at the end of those four years, we might be able to go back to something that resembles normal life. Much damage will have been done in the meantime, but perhaps not irreparable damage. Obamacare will be gone, but something like it—maybe even something better—will be resurrectable. The suffering in the meantime will be real, but it won't make the problem harder to solve, assuming reason someday returns. That's, I guess, the good news: that someday normal life may resume.

But even that slight good news doesn't apply to the question of climate change. It's very likely that by the time Trump is done we'll have missed whatever opening still remains for slowing down the trajectory of global warming—we'll have crossed thresholds from which there's no return. In this case, the damage he's promising will be permanent, for two reasons.

The first is the most obvious: The adversary here is ultimately physics, which plays by its own rules. As we continue to heat the planet, we see that planet changing in ways that turn into feedback loops. If you make it hot enough to melt Arctic ice (and so far we've lost about half of our supply) then one of the side effects is removing a nice white mirror from the top of the planet. Instead of that mirror reflecting 80 percent of the sun's rays out to space, you've now got blue water that absorbs most of the incoming rays of the sun, amping up the heat. Oh, and as that water warms, the methane frozen in its depths eventually begins to melt—and methane is a potent greenhouse gas. Even if, someday, we get a president back in power who's willing to try and turn down the coal, gas and oil burning, there will be nothing we can do about that melting methane. Some things are forever, or at least for geologic time.

There's another reason too, however, and that's that the international political mechanisms Trump wants to smash can't easily be assembled again, even with lots of future good will. It took immense diplomatic efforts to reach the Paris climate accords—25 years of negotiating with endless setbacks. The agreement itself is a jury-rigged kludge, but at least it provides a mechanism for action. It depends on each country voluntarily doing its part, though, and if the biggest historic source of the planet's carbon decides not to play, it's easy to guess that an awful lot of other leaders will decide that they'd just as soon give in to their fossil fuel interests too.

So Trump is preparing to make a massive bet: a bet that the scientific consensus about climate change is wrong, and that the other 191 nations of the world are wrong as well. It's a bet based on literally nothing—when The New York Times asked him about global warming, he started mumbling about a physicist uncle of his who died in 1985. The job—and it may not be a possible job—is for the rest of us to figure out how to make the inevitable loss of this bet as painless as possible.

It demands fierce resistance to his silliness—clearly his people are going to kill Obama's Clean Power Plan, but perhaps they can be shamed into simply ignoring but not formally abrogating the Paris accords. This is work not just for activists, but for the elites that Trump actually listens to. Here's where we need what's left of the establishment to be weighing in: Fortune 500 executives, Wall Streeters—anyone who knows how stupid a bet this is.

But we also need to be working hard on other levels. The fossil fuel industry is celebrating Trump's election, and rightly so—but we can continue to make their lives at least a little difficult, through campaigns like fossil fuel divestment and through fighting every pipeline and every coal port. The federal battles will obviously be harder, and we may lose even victories like Keystone. But there are many levers of power, and the ones closer to home are often easier to pull.

We also have to work at state and local levels to support what we want. The last election, terrible as it was, showed that renewable energy is popular even in red states—Florida utilities lost their bid to sideline solar energy, for instance. The hope is that we can keep the buildout of sun and wind, which is beginning to acquire real momentum, on track; if so, costs will keep falling to the point where simple economics may overrule even Trumpish ideology.

And of course we have to keep communicating, all the time, about the crisis—using the constant stream of signals from the natural world to help people understand the folly of our stance. As I write this, the Smoky Mountain town of Gatlinburg is on fire, with big hotels turned to ash at the end of a devastating drought. Mother Nature will provide us an endless string of teachable moments, and some of them will break through—it's worth remembering that the Bush administration fell from favor as much because of Katrina as Iraq.

None of these efforts will prevent massive, and perhaps fatal, damage to the effort to constrain climate change. It's quite possible, as many scientists said the day after the election, that we've lost our best chance. But we don't know precisely how the physics will play out, and every ton of carbon we keep out of the atmosphere will help.

And amidst this long ongoing emergency, as I said at the beginning, we've got to help with all the daily crises. This winter may find climate activists spending as much time trying to block deportations as pipelines; we may have to live in a hot world, but we don't have to live in a jackbooted one, and the more community we can preserve, the more resilient our communities will be. It's hard not to despair—but then, it wasn't all that easy to be realistically hopeful about our climate even before Trump. This has always been a battle against great odds. They're just steeper now.

Reposted with permission from our media associate Moyers & Company.

So, the question everyone's asking me this week is: What now?

I don't have a great answer—the Trump saga will play out over time, and we'll be learning how to resist as we go along. But resist we will.

I do know that the election last Tuesday made this Tuesday's demonstrations in support of Standing Rock even more important. We'll be gathering in nearly 200 cities worldwide to demand that the Army Corps of Engineers, and the Obama Administration, do their jobs and reject the Dakota Access Pipeline's final permit.

We don't know if we can make President Obama act—so far he's been noncommittal and vague. And we don't know if Trump would simply overturn his actions if he took them. But we do know that now more than ever we have to stand by our allies, and make our battles loud and public.

The ugly side of the American psyche that's propelled Trump to the presidency is nothing new to Indigenous people. It's nothing new to people of color, to immigrants, to the vulnerable and the marginalized. This is a time for drawing together the many threads of our resistance—to fossil fuels, yes, but also and just as importantly to widespread hatred.

Solidarity with Indigenous leadership—in Standing Rock and beyond—is more important today, not less. The original inhabitants of this continent have been pepper-sprayed and shot with rubber bullets, maced and attacked by guard dogs, all for peacefully standing up for their sovereign rights, and for the world around us. If we can't rally in support of them—well, that would be shameful.

I wish I had some magic words to make the gobsmacked feeling go away. But I can tell you from experience that taking action, joining with others to protest, heals some of the sting.

And throughout history, movements like ours have been the ones to create lasting change—not a single individual or president. That's the work we'll get back to, together.

So, what's next? Showing our solidarity with Standing Rock. Please join me and thousands of others across the world Nov. 15.

The questions come after talks, on twitter, in the days' incoming tide of email—sometimes even in old-fashioned letters that arrive in envelopes. The most common one by far is also the simplest: What can I do? I bet I've been asked it 10,000 times by now and—like a climate scientist predicting the temperature—I'm pretty sure I'm erring on the low side.

"What can we do to make a difference?"The Thinker

It's the right question or almost: It implies an eagerness to act and action is what we need. But my answer to it has changed over the years, as the science of global warming has shifted. I find, in fact, that I'm now saying almost the opposite of what I said three decades ago.

Then—when I was 27 and writing the first book on climate change—I was fairly self-obsessed (perhaps age appropriately). And it looked like we had some time: No climate scientist in the late 1980s thought that by 2016 we'd already be seeing massive Arctic ice melt. So it made sense for everyone to think about the changes they could make in their own lives that, over time, would add up to significant change. In The End of Nature, I described how my wife and I had tried to "prune and snip our desires," how instead of taking long vacation trips by car we rode our bikes in the road, how we grew more of our own food, how we "tried not to think about how much we'd like a baby."

Some of these changes we've maintained—we still ride our bikes, and I haven't been on a vacation in a very long time. Some we modified—thank God we decided to have a child, who turned out to be the joy of our life. And some I've abandoned: I've spent much of the last decade in frenetic travel, much of it on airplanes. That's because, over time, it became clear to me that there's a problem with the question "What can I do."

The problem is the word "I." By ourselves, there's not much we can do. Yes, my roof is covered with solar panels and I drive a plug-in car that draws its power from those panels, and yes our hot water is heated by the sun, and yes we eat low on the food chain and close to home. I'm glad we do all those things, and I think everyone should do them, and I no longer try to fool myself that they will solve climate change.

Because the science has changed and with it our understanding of the necessary politics and economics of survival. Climate change is coming far faster than people anticipated even a couple of decades ago. 2016 is smashing the temperature records set in 2015 which smashed the records set in 2014; some of the world's largest physical features (giant coral reefs, vast river deltas) are starting to die off or disappear. Drought does damage daily; hundred-year floods come every other spring. In the last 18 months we've seen the highest wind speeds ever recorded in many of the world's ocean basins. In Basra Iraq—not far from the Garden of Eden—the temperature hit 129 Fahrenheit this summer, the highest reliably recorded temperature ever and right at the limit of human tolerance. July and August were not just the hottest months ever recorded, they were, according to most climatologists, the hottest months in the entire history of human civilization. The most common phrase I hear from scientists is "faster than anticipated." Sometime in the last few years we left behind the Holocene, the 10,000 year period of benign climatic stability that marked the rise of human civilization. We're in something new now—something new and frightening.

Against all that, one's Prius is a gesture. A lovely gesture and one that everyone should emulate, but a gesture. Ditto riding the bike or eating vegan or whatever one's particular point of pride. North Americans are very used to thinking of themselves as individuals, but as individuals we are powerless to alter the trajectory of climate change in a meaningful manner. The five or ten percent of us who will be moved to really act (and that's all who ever act on any subject) can't cut the carbon in the atmosphere by more than five or ten percent by those actions.

No, the right question is "What can we do to make a difference?"

Because if individual action can't alter the momentum of global warming, movements may still do the trick. Movements are how people organize themselves to gain power—enough power, in this case, to perhaps overcome the financial might of the fossil fuel industry. Movements are what can put a price on carbon, force politicians to keep fossil fuel in the ground, demand subsidies so that solar panels go up on almost every roof, not just yours. Movements are what take 5 or 10 percent of people and make them decisive—because in a world where apathy rules, five or ten percent is an enormous number. Ask the Tea Party. Ask the civil rights movement.

The other side knows this, which is why it ridicules our movements at all times. When, for instance, 400,000 people march on New York City, I know that I will get a stream of ugly tweets and emails about how—saints preserve us—it takes gasoline to get to New York City. Indeed it does. If you live in a society that has dismantled its train system, then lots of people will need to drive and take the bus, and it will be the most useful gallons they burn in the course of the year. Because that's what pushes systems to change.

When brave people go to jail, cynics email me to ask how much gas the paddywagon requires. When brave people head out in kayaks to block the biggest drilling rigs on earth, I always know I'll be reading dozens of tweets from clever and deadened souls asking "don't you know the plastic for those kayaks require oil?" Yes, we know—and we've decided it's well worth it. We're not trying to be saints; we're trying to be effective.

We're not going to be forced into a monkish retreat from society—we need to engage this fight with all the tools of the moment. We're trying to change the world we live in and if we succeed then those who come after will have plenty of time to figure out other ways to inhabit it. Along the way those who have shifted their lives can provide inspiration, which is crucial. But they don't by themselves provide a solution. Naomi Klein once described visiting an "amazing" community farm in Brooklyn's Red Hook that had been flooded by Hurricane Sandy. "They were doing everything right, when it comes to climate," she said. "Growing organic, localizing their food system, sequestering carbon, not using fossil-fuel inputs—all the good stuff." Then came the storm. "They lost their entire fall harvest and they're pretty sure their soil is now contaminated, because the water that flooded them was so polluted. It's important to build local alternatives, we have to do it, but unless we are really going after the source of the problem"—namely, the fossil-fuel industry and its lock on Washington—"we are going to get inundated."

Like Klein, I find that the people who have made some of those personal changes are usually also deeply involved in movement-building. Local farmers, even after a long day pulling weeds, find the energy to make it to the demonstration, often because they know their efforts out in the field aren't enough, even to guarantee a climate that will allow them to continue their efforts. No, the people calling environmentalists hypocrites for living in the real world are people who want no change at all. Their goal is simply to shame us and hence to quiet us. So we won't make them feel bad or disrupt the powers that be.

It won't work, unless we let it. Movements take care of their own: They provide bail money and they push each other's ideas around the web. They join forces across issues: BlackLivesMatter endorsing fossil fuel divestment, climate justice activists fighting deportations. They recognize that together we might just have enough strength to get it done. So when people ask me what can I do, I know say the same thing every time: "The most important thing an individual can do is not be an individual. Join together—that's why we have movements like 350.org or Green for All, like BlackLivesMatter or Occupy. If there's not a fight where you live, find people to support, from Standing Rock to the Pacific islands. Job one is to organize and jobs two and three."

And if you have some time left over after that, then by all means make sure your lightbulbs are all LEDs and your kale comes from close to home.

Most Americans live far from the path of the Dakota Access Pipeline—they won't be able to visit the encampments on the Standing Rock Sioux reservation where representatives of more than 200 tribes have come together in the most dramatic show of force of this environmental moment. They won't be able to participate in the daily nonviolent battle along the Missouri River against a $3.7 billion infrastructure project that threatens precious water and myriad sacred sites, not to mention the planet's unraveling climate.

TD Bank in Providence, Rhode Island, became the target of environmental and Native American rights activists.Steve Ahlquist / RIFuture.org

But most of us live near a bank.

Maybe there's a Citibank branch in your neighborhood. Or Wells Fargo or Bank of America or HSBC. Maybe you even keep your money in one—if so, you inadvertently helped pay for the guard dogs that attacked Native Americans as they tried to keep bulldozers from mowing down ancestral grave sites.

Maybe you have a retirement plan invested with Goldman Sachs or Morgan Stanley—if so, you helped buy the pepper spray that the company used to clear the way for its crews as they cleared the right of way straight to the Missouri River.

Perhaps you bank overseas. Credit Agricole? Deutsche Bank? Sumitomo? Royal Bank of Scotland? Barclays? Yeah, them too.

In fact, virtually every name in the financial pantheon has extended credit in some form to the Dakota Access Pipeline project, according to a remarkable dossier assembled by the organization Food & Water Watch. It shows a credit line of $10.25 billion (that's a b) for the companies directly involved in building the project—from 38 banks—a list of names that, the group adds, "might give you flashbacks to the 2007 financial crisis."

Sporadic protests have begun at some of the banks—activists occupied a Vancouver branch of TD Bank and across the continent in Philadelphia held a protest outside another of the giant's outlets. The same thing happened at a Citibank in downtown Chicago.

"It's unlikely that Citibank customers support poisoning indigenous peoples' water, desecrating sacred burial sites, or contributing to global climate change," said Gloria Fallon of Rising Tide Chicago. Which is true.

But banks love these kinds of deals precisely because they're so capital-intensive. (And because they're financially stacked in favor of the developers: Federal tax breaks worth more than $600 million helped make the balance sheet for Dakota Access Pipeline.)

The key Dakota Access Pipeline loan, said Rainforest Action Network's Amanda Starbuck, is still pending. It's a multibillion-dollar line of credit, but only $1.1 billion of the loan can be doled out until the company "resolves certain governmental permits." Citi, Mizuho, Bank of Tokyo MUFJ, and Mizuho Bank are leaders on that loan.

Many of these banks may be vulnerable to pressure. For one thing, they're eager to appear green: Bank of America, for instance, recently announced plans to make all its bank branches "carbon-neutral" by 2020. Which is nice—solar panels on the roof of the drive-thru tellers are better than no solar panels. But as Starbuck said, it's basically meaningless stacked up against Bank of America's lending portfolio, chock full of loans to develop "extreme fossil fuels, which are simply incompatible with a climate-stable world."

Put another way: They're going to be the vegan owners of a global chain of slaughterhouses.

Rainforest Action Network's numbers make clear just how mammoth this problem is for those of us fighting to keep fossil fuels in the ground: In June, it reported that just 25 banks have invested "$784 billion in coal mining, coal power, 'extreme oil' and liquefied natural gas facilities between 2013 and 2015."

But there are success stories: Australian campaigners, led by indigenous groups downunder and working with campaigners across three continents, persuaded most of the world's banks to stop bankrolling plans for what would have been the world's largest coal mine and port, and in turn, that has helped bring the project to a standstill.

The pressure will increase after this week's release of a new report from Oil Change International, which makes clear that the oil fields, gas wells, and coal mines already in operation have enough carbon to carry us past the 2-degree target the world set in Paris a year ago (and to absolutely annihilate the stretch goal of 1.5 degrees).

That is to say: At this point, anyone who finances any fossil fuel infrastructure is attempting to make money on the guaranteed destruction of the planet.

So those Dakota Access Pipeline loans should come under new scrutiny—moral, as well as financial—since they assume that governments won't enforce their Paris promises. That's a gamble accountants might want to think twice about, especially after this week's news that the SEC was investigating Exxon for its refusal to write down the value of its reserves in light of the global accords.

And at least one bank is waking up. Amalgamated—the New York-based, labor-affiliated bank—announced jointly with Bank of America that it would make its branches carbon neutral. More significantly, it also announced it was divesting from the fossil fuel business.

"We need to be honest, we have a growing environmental crisis unfolding and Amalgamated Bank will no longer sit on the sideline," said Keith Mestrich, President and CEO of Amalgamated Bank. "As an industry that prides itself on innovation and bold action, we must all be leaders and take real action to change our course."

Put another way: They're vegans who will now be lending to tofu makers.

But it's probably sustained public pressure that will do the most good.

"Oil companies are always going to drill for oil and build pipelines—it's why they exist," Rainforest Action Network's Scott Parkin. "But the banks funding this pipeline have a choice as to where they put their money. Right now, Citibank, TD Bank and others have chosen to invest in a project that violates indigenous rights and destroys the climate."

Parkin points to the protests that have already sprung up at dozens of banks from DC to New Orleans to Tucson to Long Beach to the Bronx.

"We have the power to derail that loan with a different kind of currency," he said. "Putting our bodies on the line at any financial institution that says 'Dakota Access Pipeline, we're open for business.'"

And if anyone has any doubts that civil disobedience can be useful, remember how the amazing activists at Standing Rock forced the federal government to blink, pausing construction earlier this month. Their nonviolent leadership has inspired all of us—and it should have sent a shiver down the spine of a few bankers.

Reposted with permission from our media associate Yes! Magazine.

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The Democratic and Republican conventions are history and the epochal 2016 election is now before us. My general theory is less talk and more action, so I hope you'll join me in taking this climate pledge, one that will power our efforts into the fall.

People's Climate March in New York City, Sept. 21, 2014.

But since I've got the microphone, maybe I'll say a few more words.

One is, Trump is truly bad news. His insistence that global warming is a Chinese manufactured hoax and his declaration that he will abrogate the Paris treaty mean that he's as much a nihilist on climate change as he is on anything else. In fact, no major party candidate since the start of the global warming era has been as bad on this issue, not even close. He's also terrifying for many other obvious reasons.

Second is, it was a little hard for me to watch Bernie's bittersweet speech to the Democratic convention. He's my Vermont neighbor (where 350.org was born) and he was my candidate and he talked about climate change as no presidential candidate ever has before, declaring forthrightly that it was the greatest problem the planet faced. I wish he'd won.

But his powerful showing meant, among other things, that he had a significant hand in writing the Democratic party platform for 2016. (In fact, he named me as one of 15 platform writers. Did I say we were neighbors?) And though it's far from perfect it is by far the strongest party platform on climate issues Americans have ever seen.

This is my third thought. In four years we've gone from an "all of the above" energy strategy to one that explicitly favors sun and wind over natural gas. The platform promises a Keystone-style test for all federal policy: If it makes global warming worse, it won't be built. And it calls for an emergency climate summit in the first hundred days of the new administration. All those changes are the direct result of your work, showing up to demand action over many months and years.

Thursday night Hillary Clinton pledged to enact that platform and she said "we have to hold every country accountable to their commitments, including ourselves."

"Accountability" is the right word. Will this platform mean anything more than words? That actually depends on you. If we vote as climate voters this fall—and if we then show up to demand that those promises are kept—this could turn out to be a ground-breaking political season. That's why we need you signed on to this pledge and lined up to get out the vote and do the other chores of an election.

But remember: election day is just one day in the political calendar. The other 364 count just as much.

Our job is not to elect a savior. Our job is to elect someone we can effectively pressure. And as tough as the work of this election will be—the real work starts on Wednesday, Nov. 9.

That's how it seems to me, anyway. There's plenty to be scared of this election season and plenty to hope for. And most of all there's plenty of work to be done.

Bill McKibben
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