Last year, I trained to be part of the Climate Reality Leadership Corps and it was, without much exaggeration, a life-changing experience. The knowledge I gained, the connections I made, and the people I met during those three days in Pittsburgh were invaluable.
Here are some of the key takeaways from my time there.
Environmental justice & inclusive action
As we plan and implement strategies for mitigation and adaptation, we need to account for all voices and viewpoints. People who are most at risk are often least likely to wield power and influence. It’s vital that we provide a platform to amplify their voices and ensure that new solutions benefit everyone equitably.
The good news is that there are many national, regional, and local groups focused on the environment. The bad news is that this can lead to overlapping or counterproductive efforts. We have to create and maintain communication channels and build long-term relationships between organizations, teams, and individual stakeholders. Conversations, connections, and common ground should be the foundation of our success.
The science is settled
The consensus on climate change is as strong as for any commonly accepted scientific principle. We need to focus on minimizing and discrediting misinformation rather than engaging in arguments about the validity of climate science.
It’s all about the story
Communicating effectively about the climate crisis is challenging and it’s easy to lose people when discussing a complex topic. The science is very interesting. The statistics can be impressive. But for most people, those are abstractions. To be effective, we need to tell a story that matters to our audience. We need to focus on concrete impacts and outcomes, find personal connections with our audience, take a genuine interest in their concerns, and help them to understand how taking action benefits them.
Skip the grid. Bring power to the people (literally)!
Using cell phone service as a model, how might we skip the electrical grid entirely, particularly in the developing world? It’s often cheaper--both in short-term fixed costs and long-term variable costs--to power homes and commercial buildings directly using solar power and other renewables. Depending on energy production and usage, there could even be opportunities for P2P electricity trading among individuals (think of it as “Uber for electricity”).
Economics, employment, environment, ethics, and national security. These are all part of the system that impacts climate change. We can’t address the climate without thinking about jobs, energy policy, climate refugees, and environmental justice. To do so is to ignore the reality that this is a global problem that no one actor can solve in isolation. The good news is that the UNFCCC, IPCC, and other international bodies are structured to take into account the deep dependencies that affect how we’re able to tackle climate change.
Implementation is key
As we’ve seen with past climate agreements, like the Kyoto Protocol and the Paris Agreement, internationally agreed upon commitments, standards, regulations, and laws are hugely important drivers of change. Though such agreements are always hard-won, the real challenge is in the implementation. Having a big idea is important, but putting it into practice can be an arduous and time-consuming process. Harder still is ensuring measures are in place for long-term success, including adequate funding, reporting, governance, and a willingness to change course if necessary.
Making progress in the age of Trump
Despite seemingly endless bad news for the environment coming out of Washington, there is no excuse not to continue working for change. We can, and should, resist rollbacks of environmental protections at the federal level, and double down on advocacy at the state, county, city, and neighborhood levels. Every positive, lasting change is important, no matter how small it might seem.
The climate crisis is a public health crisis
The negative health impacts of climate change already affect hundreds of millions of people worldwide via increased air and water pollution, longer allergy seasons, the proliferation of infectious diseases, food shortages, extreme storms, and repercussions on mental health. Both the CDC and the American Public Health Association are great sources to learn more about climate change and health.
Create the future
To solve the climate crisis, we can only work from the present moment forward. We need to focus on solutions that lie at the intersection of ambition and feasibility. We need to assess what works well and adopt, replicate, and scale those efforts. We need to engage a wide range of people, listen to them, and understand how they’re affected. We need to come together and continue working to create a future that is equitable and sustainable for all of us.
Looking to get involved? Learn more about the Climate Reality Leadership Corps, locate an upcoming training, and apply today.