Solar Tribune

Combating Climate Change

Climate change is, put simply, one of the greatest challenges our modern society has ever faced. And it’s a problem that needs to be addressed now. After many years of shining a light on this crisis, the urgency of tackling the climate change crisis head-on has finally gained consensus and is a recognized goal across the world. But that success doesn’t mean success is guaranteed, as now the challenge is creating agreement and momentum towards successfully implementing necessary actions to mitigate climate change.

Many people will argue that putting the onus on the individual to make personal changes (even sacrifices) is letting off the hook the large corporations and governments who are responsible for the bulk of climate-changing carbon emissions, while others still will advocate for personal responsibility and note that it starts with individual action to make a true difference. The truth lies somewhere in the middle. Promoting education and action from a bottom-up and top-down approach is so critical, and each is a vital piece of the puzzle should we collectively hope to succeed in mobilizing towards successful action in the face of climate change.

stop global warming climate change policy action

Based on conversations we’ve engaged in with over 100 thought leaders across all industries, sectors, and organizations related to climate and sustainability, we’ve synthesized the potential solutions that we should be focusing on, both in terms of individual actions and public policies to prioritize. These conversations with experts and advocacy organizations are actively ongoing (so be sure to reach out to us if you would like to participate), and we’ve gathered perspectives from these 100+ experts, as well as additional information and educational resources, to share with you as you look to educate yourself and take action in climate change. The main areas of focus that continue to come up in these conversations are:

 

Advocacy and Education

eco not ego climate change advocacy

When it comes to taking individual action on climate change, many people may seek to jump straight into commonly thought solutions: installing solar panels, reducing energy use, etc. While those tangible actions are critical to reducing emissions associated with climate change, many experts have noted that the most important action of anyone looking to make a difference has to start with the higher-level topics related to advocacy and education. Under that umbrella are the ideas of getting involved and then advocating for the larger, systemic level changes in a smart and informed way:

Getting Involved

When you realize the seriousness and the wide-scale of action needed to try to address climate change, you’ll have a natural inclination to want to get involved. Among the most important ways to do so, according to the thought leaders we talked to, is simply in the form of education, both educating yourself and educating others. Taking this involvement to the next step would involve moving to tangible advocacy, such as joining climate advocacy groups that are putting the collective passion of individuals together into group action to create change, pressure public leaders, and spread the movement further. Then, whether through individual decisionmaking or as a part of these advocacy groups, a critical area of involvement is to vote for climate positive candidates and, once they’re in office, to then hold them accountable.

Advocating for the Right Public Policies

A huge area of the involvement comes via the political process and advocating for climate change policies. One of the most challenging aspects of pushing for climate policies these days, though, is determining what the most effective climate policies are. Too often, a voting bloc may have well more than a majority who wants policies to pass to curb climate change, but in-fighting results from that group disagreeing on the best approach and segmenting their collective power to less than what is needed to pass any of those policies. The experts we talked to spanned across many different fields of expertise and topic issues of concern, and as a result, many different policy priorities were identified as critical. Some of the most common climate policy mechanisms include the economic approaches, looking to make emissions in some way more expensive and thus allow the free market to then weed out the climate-negative activity. Others note that the way that the U.S. energy sector is set up in its most basic form does not allow for effective action against climate change, so advocates should push for policies that adjust those energy markets. Another approach recognizes that, despite all the discussion of the free market, the government tends to have its thumb on the scale in one way or another, meaning that shifting that government support more towards clean energy sources would be the most effective policy mechanism to fight climate change. A more direct policy approach, argue other experts, would be to implement policies that directly mandate renewable energy generation. Stepping back further, it’s important to note that the energy generation sector is not the only area where emissions are an issue, which is why certain experts shared their policy priorities to clean up transportation, reduce emissions associated with the built environment, or even how we utilize natural resources. While much of the action that would make the greatest difference is indeed in these types of policies, another consideration is for public policy to do more to support enhanced and innovative technological solutions. Throughout all of these potential climate policy planks, the last area of focus that can’t be overlooked is to ensure that unintended consequences don’t result, and thus bigger picture policies are important to consider (such as a just transition and harnessing smart growth).

 

Investment Decisions

green bank climate action investment

For many years, people across the world have recognized that, while voices and votes were important, some of the most effective strategies for influencing change came via their wallets. Recognizing the importance that companies, organizations, and even governments will place on where people choose to spend their money (or willingly avoid spending their money), speaking with dollars is an important strategy for any fight, and that rings particularly true for climate action. Advocates for a more sustainable future can send a message by being sure to invest their hard-earned money in companies, investment funds, and other financial vehicles that are taking action on climate change today. Just as powerful, individuals can choose to actively divest their financials from organizations that support environmentally dangerous practices and recklessly emit carbon dioxide.

 

Choices Related to Energy Providers

green energy providers climate change

A household’s daily energy consumption, whether from an electric utility or a gas provider, is among the most visible and tangible ways in which everyday people interact with emissions and climate change. By ensuring a greater portion of the energy used is coming from carbon-neutral sources, individuals can actively address their carbon footprint. Such action can include installing solar power on your own home to reduce the amount of energy you’re pulling from fossil fuel generation on the grid, or it can even come from utility-sponsored programs like opting for green energy providers.

 

Transportation Actions

public transportation transit climate change policy

In an increasingly spread out and interconnected world, finding a way to get from Point A to Point B is a daily task that we may not think too much about. But considering the emissions associated with many of the most common forms of transportation, making climate-conscious decisions with our transportation decisions is one of the most consequential green acts one can take. Households can consider trading in their gas guzzler for an electric vehicle, forgoing personal transportation for mass public transportation whenever possible, or even finding creating ways to avoid air travel, the most carbon-intensive way to get around.

 

Reduce/Re-Use/Recycle More in Daily Life

reduce reuse recycle green climate change

Since the rise of environmental awareness and conservation came about decades ago, we’ve been taught from a young age that one of the best ways to live ‘green’ was to be sure to follow the three R’s: reduce, reuse, and recycle. The most we engaged in these three activities, the less material waste would end up in landfills, and the cleaner the planet could be. These types of actions ring true for a generation now focused on climate action, as they can minimize the needless emissions of carbon. We can reduce power consumption, such as via energy efficiency upgrades to a home; we can be sure to engage in responsible and thorough recycling programs to reduce the emissions associated with the production of new materials; and we can reduce waste material that’s being sent to landfills and creating associated methane production.

 

Food and Diet

green sustainable food and diet climate change

 

Food is an area of life that might be the most personal to us, but the impacts of how and what you eat can indeed be global in scale. The agricultural process, the food production industry, and transporting foods from where they are sourced to where they’ll be consumed in the end all create a level of emissions that impacts the climate (which will in turn affect what food can grow where in the future). If we want to prevent the most damaging impacts of climate change, then addressing food and diets is critical. Personal choices like eating more plant-based foods or finding ways to eat locally produced foods can have a notable benefit in reducing your carbon footprint.

 

These pages are constantly growing as we engage more people and organizations in conversation about these critical topics. So check back often, as these can be considered living documents and the conversations built using quotes and inputs from those who have agreed to talk with Solar Tribune are consistently deepening.

If you’d like to participate in this project, reach out to us and we’ll be happy to schedule a call to discuss your views. And a very special thanks to all the organizations and their representatives who have contributed their time and effort in participating in these important dialogues:

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