Be the Change (in the Era of Climate Change)
I’ve been inspired this year by people and communities taking action to combat the existential threat of climate change. This post is dedicated to the youth, parents, cities, counties and others leading this action. First, the brutal facts.
Accelerating Climate Change
In late 2018, two authoritative reports sounded an alarm about the current state of climate change and what lies ahead in the near future. At the international level, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), issued its Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5 degrees Celsius (the target approved by 195 nations in the Paris Agreement in order to avert long-lasting, irreversible climate change impacts). We’ve already increased the global mean temperature by one degree. The report’s main conclusion is that limiting global warming to this threshold “would require rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society.” At the national level, the Fourth National Climate Assessment was issued validating that the impacts and costs of climate change are already being felt and with dire warnings about future impacts on communities, the economy, water availability, health, ecosystems, agriculture and infrastructure.
It’s no exaggeration to say that the future of our world is truly at stake. What we do in the next 11 years is of enormous consequence. To limit warming to 1.5 degrees, we need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 45% from 2010 levels by 2030 and be on a path to reach net-zero emissions by 2050.
Change is happening and more is needed. I hope you are inspired by some of the examples below to take further action in your own lives.
Greta Thunberg, a 16-year old Swedish activist, has catalyzed a youth climate movement. Following Greta’s example, 1.4 million students in 112 countries participated in school strikes on March 15th. Greta speaks truth to power with a passionate, appropriately serious tone and wisdom beyond her years. Check out her latest speech (at the Brilliant Minds Conference), 8 minutes in length and well worth a listen.
Here in the Bay Area, youth are also taking action. The San Mateo County Office of Education’s Environmental Literacy Initiative supports an Environmental Youth Leadership Network. Students from over 30 middle and high schools have been participating and developing community impact projects.
Jim and Sara Soland have started the Parent Climate Pledge after asking themselves what they can do to be effective parents in this age of anthropogenic climate change. They are leading by example by becoming politically active, reducing their own carbon footprint and helping raise their children to be politically and environmentally active. If you are a parent, I encourage you to sign up for their updates and make your own pledge.
Cities and Counties
Cities and counties are also stepping up to be the change. Many cities have adopted Climate Action Plans and some are updating them to reflect the current need for increased climate mitigation. In this opinion piece, A Green New Deal for every Peninsula City, Doug Silverstein challenges cities to adopt expanded green building codes and become climate leaders. Doug is also working with stakeholders in San Mateo County to build a coalition of county-wide organizations to form Green County San Mateo.
In Marin County, Drawdown: Marin is bringing together leaders and stakeholders across the county to develop and implement bold climate solutions in 6 Focus Areas: Renewable Energy, Transportation, Buildings and Infrastructure, Local Food and Waste, Carbon Sequestration and Climate Resilient Communities.
There is plenty we can all do to lower our carbon footprint and get politically involved. Everyone is needed. If you’re ready to be further challenged and inspired, Greta Thunberg lays out what we can do.”If you regularly fly around the world, eat meat and dairy, and are living a high-carbon lifestyle, that means you have used up countless people’s remaining carbon budgets. Carbon budgets that they will need in their everyday life for generations to come. And if that wasn’t enough, those whose carbon budgets we are stealing are the ones least responsible and the ones who are going to be affected the most by this crisis. Everyone and everything needs to change. But the bigger your platform, the bigger your responsibility. The bigger your carbon footprint, the bigger your moral duty. To make the change required, we need role models and leaders—people like you.”
In hope and partnership,
P.S. For some levity and celebrity voices, check out this 7-minute video (clean version) on loving our planet.