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The magic of talking

I’m going to suggest you do something that it took me years to do myself: talk about the climate crisis. If it’s something you care about, if it’s on your mind, if you are taking action, if you are worried about the future or excited about some new climate initiative, bring it up.  Dr. Katherine Hayhoe, one of the world’s top climate scientists, says talking about it is the most important thing you can do to fight climate change, and I agree. But it can be hard to get started, so I’m going to lay out her argument here to inspire you, and suggest that you might be surprised how people respond (in a good way).

The first time I spoke up to a stranger about my climate work, I remember exactly where I was, and that I’d been doing climate advocacy for many years by then. I’m conflict avoidant, and I think I was afraid of eliciting a negative reaction. And I’m not alone: according to the most recent polling data from the Yale Climate Communication program, global warming is important to 71% of Americans, yet 61% say they rarely or never talk about it!

It’s vital that we speak up. In her new book Saving Us, Dr. Hayhoe asks, “What do we talk about? Things we care about…(our speech) displays what we are thinking about to others, which in turn connects us to their minds and thoughts. So if we don’t talk about climate change, why would anyone around us know we care—or begin to care themselves if they don’t already? And if they don’t care, why would they act?”

Speaking about climate signals to those in our communities that climate change matters, and this has incredible ripple effects. Conversely, studies have shown that self-silencing on climate leads us to consistently underestimate how much others care about climate change, and the more we underestimate other people’s climate worries, the more hopeless we feel. Speaking up breaks this cycle, empowering us to feel we can make a difference because we are not alone.

Another way to understand the power of talking about climate change is to remember that we are social creatures, influenced in a million large and small ways by our friends, families, and communities. Each time you talk about caring and acting on climate, you are sending a signal that encourages others in your social network to care and act. For example, someone is more likely to install solar panels on their home if others in their neighborhood have already installed them. This isn’t just because the panels are visible, it’s also because neighbors talk to each other about why they went solar, the installation process, and the benefits.

How do you start, and what might you say? Dr. Hayhoe suggests simply sharing personal stories about your concerns, experiences, and actions. She says, “What do people pay attention to most? In general, we tend to favor personal stories and experiences over reams of data or facts. In fact, when you hear a story, neuroscientists have found, your brain waves start to synchronize with those of the storyteller. Your emotions follow. And that’s how change happens.”

For my part, I believe that any kind of talking is a good start. Things I’ve recently been chatting about include the electric barbecue we just got because we are working on electrifying our home, my worries about the coming fire season, and the Banking on our Future Pledge I signed to support banks that do not invest in fossil fuel expansion.

One reason we self-silence about global warming is that we are afraid of a negative reaction. In my experience, this fear is largely unfounded. As long as I avoid preaching and instead talk about my own concerns or actions, people react positively. Often, they seem to feel heartened that they are not alone in their climate worries. The first time I spoke up to someone I barely knew about my climate advocacy work, she looked back at me and said, good for you! At the time I felt liberated to finally be open. Now I look back on that moment and imagine that I may have played a small part in nudging her toward becoming more engaged in climate action. It certainly didn’t hurt.

What’s next for Power Up for Climate Solutions

In 2022, Power Up for Climate Solutions will be providing resources for decarbonizing at home and in your community, and building resilience in the face of growing climate instability. We will be placing less emphasis on national and international climate policy action. The reasons for this shift are explained below, and we hope you will find our new direction useful in this time of growing accessibility of clean energy techologies and increasingly catastrophic and frequent climate disasters.

The world has changed dramatically in the last few years. Three truths about the moment we live in inspire our new focus on direct decarbonization and building resilience.

First, technological and economic barriers to a clean energy transition have lowered dramatically for Americans in middle and higher income brackets. The speed of technological and economic changes in clean energy has outpaced even optimistic predictions, and as a result, decarbonizing home energy and transportation is feasible at a personal and local scale for many of us. The impacts of climate change fall most heavily on those least responsible, harming the most vulnerable among us. We will be encouraging those who have some privilege to begin decarbonizing or to help others afford to do so.

Renewable resources generated only 19 percent of US electricity in 2020, but climate experts and modelers increasingly contend that a 100 percent renewable energy grid by 2050 is “not only feasible but can be done without any blackouts and at a lower cost than the existing grid” (Nikita Amir, “The US could reliably run on clean energy by 2050”). We will be providing tools for you to contribute to this transition.

Second, the climate crisis is here now. The speed of warming and the magnitude of climate-fueled disasters has touched everyone I know in recent years. In 2021 alone, the US experienced twenty major weather disasters as defined by NOAA. These included the February winter storms causing the power grid in Texas to fail; a severe and widespread drought in the West; the Bootleg and Dixie fires in California, so bad they generated their own weather; Hurricane Ida; the historic and deadly heat dome centered over Oregon, Washington, and Canada; and the Midwest derecho and tornado outbreak in December with more than fifty tornados. The imperative to strengthen our resilience in our homes, our food systems, and our communities to deal with climate instability is urgent.

Third, our political system has failed to head off a worsening climate crisis that threatens everything we need to survive and thrive. As Ezra Klein succinctly observed, “Decades of climate activism have gotten millions of people into the streets but they haven’t turned the tide on emissions, or even investments.” National politics in the US are more toxic and our culture is more divided than at any other time in my lifetime; the odds of major climate policy being enacted by Congress in 2022 appear minuscule. I believe the biggest opportunities for climate progress right now are in other arenas.

The resources we will be sharing will offer ways to contribute to the clean energy transition and guidance for building resilience at home and in your community. Examples may include individual, community, and business clean energy programs; regenerative agriculture; clean electrification resources; electric vehicle information; information on divestment from fossil fuel companies; and climate resilience resources. I hope that the resources and ideas we share will provide support and allow you to find ways to contribute to a clean energy transition, become more resilient in your home and your community, and help create a safer, more peaceful, more equitable world.

Guest Blog: What each of us can do about climate change

Most people are aware that climate has changed around the world. Fires in Greece, California, and Siberia; flooding in Belgium, China, Germany; and record-breaking temperatures in too many places to name.

The cause of all this: added gases to the atmosphere (called “greenhouse gases”) that hold heat close to the surface. Two of the worst are carbon dioxide from burning fuels, and methane, also called natural gas.

The U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on the Climate Crisis announced a “Code Red for Humanity” August 9, saying we have very little time to make changes to reduce the gases we keep adding to the air. I now always wear a red shirt to meetings, as a sign of the climate emergency we face.

We are in for a world of hurt. Global warming will worsen the problems of hunger, homelessness, education, immigration, mental illness, racial equity, social justice, and every other problem in society.

Meanwhile ad campaigns have promoted the idea that cutting fossil fuel use to reduce greenhouse gases means that we will suffer, lose jobs, hurt the economy, and be unable to live life as we wish.  This is false: we will suffer much more if we do not create large-scale change. The actions below are all important, but require no change in your daily life.

What can we do?  I want to suggest three actions for every one of us:

First, we must talk everywhere about the need to act on climate change.  Although most people favor action, fewer than a third of Georgians had a conversation about climate last week. So please, make it a point to discuss it with someone every day.  Call up a friend or relative. Post something on social media. Bring it up when you’re standing in line. Don’t be silent.

Second, we must share our concern with elected officials. Again, talk about it with these public servants. Write a letter or email.  Call their office. Tweet about it, or retweet others. A state legislator once told me, “If three people in my District call me about the same issue, that becomes my issue.” When they don’t hear from us, they only hear from lobbyists.

Finally, we must join a larger group to take action together. Although we all benefit by reducing fossil fuel use in our daily lives, the actions of corporations and governments that employ millions have a larger impact on overall carbon emissions. We must all work together to influence their decision makers. I volunteer with Citizens’ Climate Lobby (cclusa.org) and can recommend it. Other climate groups include 350.org, the Sunrise Movement, Fridays for the Future, Extinction Rebellion, and Climate Reality. You can even join multiple groups!

Many many actions can help us reduce our emissions. Go to drawdownga.org for a list of 20 different ways Georgia can cut greenhouse gas emissions in half in just ten years, including building improvements and large-scale solar projects. Every step can help, but think as large as you can.

I want to close about the need for immediate action. What’s at stake is not nature, but people. Remember, this is Code Red for humanity.

A CCL member recently wrote, “If there are children in a burning building and I have the ability to save some of them, I have a responsibility to save as many as I can.”

Please join me in action.

Henry Slack is the Citizens’ Climate Lobby co-coordinator for Georgia, and a mechanical engineer. He originally wrote this for the Atlanta Friends Meeting (Quaker), then adopted it for a wider audience.

Note from Carla Wise: This essay expresses what I have been feeling and wanting to say more perfectly than I’ve been able to put into words. I’m grateful to Henry for giving me permission to re-post it here. Below are several links to climate actions and organizations to join in addition to Henry’s Georgia-specific links. Right now, the most urgent action you can take is to tell your Members of Congress to act now. You can use the easy #Call4Climate tool to do so!

Great organizations to support:

Rewiring America

Evergreen Action

Chesapeake Climate Action Network

Power Up for Climate Solutions

Power Up for Climate Solutions is back!

It’s good to be back! After five months off from climate advocacy following the train wreck known as 2020, our organization is coming back online. Thank you for sticking with Power Up for Climate Solutions during the break. I hope that you are feeling some sense of renewal and hope as we enter summer, as I am. Yet as the heat wave that smothered and scorched the Pacific Northwest inches eastward, I also feel a renewed sense of of the scale of the climate crisis we are facing and the challenges ahead. So with this clarity and sense of urgency, let me tell you about our organization’s next steps:

Power up for Climate Solutions will continue to focus on providing tools, information, and inspiration to help you engage in climate action. We will continue to emphasize actions that build political and societal will for enacting effective national climate policies while sometimes including personal and community actions. We remain committed to unifying around any and all fair and effective climate policies as long as they protect the most vulnerable among us.

We are bringing back our climate action invitations and our blog, with a new schedule. We will send you climate actions only when we have something really important you can do, so frequency will vary. Some months you may receive several actions, and some months you’ll receive none. This will allow us to send only actions we feel are especially impactful. The blog will come out six times a year instead of twelve. We will continue to have a social media presence on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook, but with less frequent postings.

Starting this fall, we will be introducing a new initiative: Climate Circles. I’ll be offering these experimental circles to anyone interested in bringing a small group of friends, family, or colleagues together for monthly gatherings to connect, learn, and take action on climate solutions.

Climate circles are intended to be fun, flexible, and focused on learning something and taking action at each gathering. The format will be adaptable to meeting virtually or in person, and will be flexible to meet the needs of each group. This program will start small, but in time I hope to make it available to anyone who is interested.

As I write to you, it’s a much more uncertain time for climate action than it’s been in a very long time, and that’s a good thing. Anything (or nothing) is possible. We have the largest majority of Americans ever who are worried about the climate crisis and want government action. We have a president who understands the science and the urgency. We have ever-improving technological and policy tools to undertake rapid decarbonization and ways to do it that will be good for people. At the same time, we have a divided government and problems with misinformation and mistrust. We have challenging divisions within the climate community and a vocal and powerful minority fighting hard against a clean energy transition. I hope you’ll stay with us. I’m excited to get back to work. Let’s make rapid decarbonization and solving climate change the story of the next decade.

 

We are taking a winter break!

Power Up for Climate Solutions is taking a winter break. It’s time for us to rest, reassess, and realign our efforts with the rapidly evolving social, political, and climate landscape of 2021. For the next few months we are pausing our monthly actions, blog posts, and social media updates. We will return in spring reenergized and with new perspective on the most impactful role we can play in promoting climate solutions that is sustainable for our organization.

We recognize that making meaningful progress on the climate crisis is tremendously challenging as the pandemic, the economic crisis, the racial justice crisis, and deep social and political divisions in the U.S. create havoc and hardship. We hope that in the next four months, the trajectories of these multiple crises will begin to improve and provide an opening for action on climate. A functional government may emerge and create opportunities to enact policies for decarbonization and a green recovery strengthened by a re-invigoration of our international relationships. As this happens, it will be clearer how we can be most effective in contributing to climate solutions.

On a personal note, I’ve been a climate writer and advocate since 2006. I am passionate about this work, but it has never been easy. The erosion of climate progress, the suppression of science, the ugliness and lawlessness of this administration have taken a toll. And as is true for everyone I know, I have suffered painful losses this year, and am worn thin from the multiple catastrophes of 2020. I need some time to recharge.

I hope to come back with fresh eyes, renewed energy and a clearer sense of how Power Up for Climate Solutions can contribute to a safer, healthier, more just world where people and life can thrive.

Thank you for being part of this organization. I hope you are able to take good care of yourself this winter. Expect to hear from us in mid-April, 2021 with an update on what comes next from Power Up for Climate Solutions. Thanks for your patience and support, and for all you do for climate action.

My deepest gratitude and warmest winter wishes to you.

Changing the odds: Rebecca Solnit on hope and action in dark times

I’ve long admired Rebecca Solnit’s writing, and today I want to share some excerpts from her essay in The Guardian, “Climate change, Covid–our hearts ache. But a new era is possible. We can do it,” to inspire you. If you want more, you can read the full article here.

As a human and a climate advocate, I feel like I’m holding my breath. Climate chaos is here. Our chance of preserving a climate compatible with thriving human societies depends on electing climate champions in November and compelling them to enact transformative climate policies immediately. We may already be too late. The question Solnit addresses is, with compounding crises causing so much suffering, how do we keep hope alive and act on it?

She acknowledges that in this moment, it is tempting to give up: “The last four years have been a long, rough road for people who care about the fate of the earth and the rights of ordinary people, and I understand the temptation to feel that what is wrong now will be wrong forever, to feel that it is too much to face and more than we can change.”

But, Solnit says, “anguish and hope–hope as ferocious will to continue, and not trust the odds but to change them–can coexist.”

At this crucial moment for humanity, Solnit makes the case for hope along with anguish, and for acting on that hope; “In the US we are facing a crucial election. As humanity, we are facing even a larger one: to respond to the climate crisis by choosing the best-case scenario rather than letting the worst unfold.”

As I’ve written about here and here, we are rapidly developing viable and affordable policy and technology pathways to move us toward the best-case scenario. These pathways are becoming more attainable all the time. For example, Solnit notes that the left is converging around a set of climate policies originally associated with the Green New Deal, and these policies are gaining wide acceptance:

“In the USA, the Green New Deal is among the ideas that were only recently regarded as almost outrageously radical – ie a disruption of the status quo – that are now widely accepted by politicians and the public as necessary. ‘The climate plan is a jobs plan,’ Biden’s spokesperson told the Guardian. Julian Noisecat wrote that Biden has accepted the Green New Deal in all but name.”

Other viable and effective climate policies are gaining momentum as well. We now know that taking climate action will have a host of other benefits. Solnit quotes Senator and climate champion Brian Schatz (HI) about the benefits of bold climate action:

“Responding could bring about a more just society, Hawaii senator Brian Schatz recently tweeted: ‘Too much of the climate movement of the past was about what climate change is doing to us, and not about what climate action will do for us. Taking action does not require austerity and scarcity. Done well, it will result in more wealth, more fairness, and better jobs. We already have many of the technologies needed to avert catastrophe. We just need the American optimism and the political will to deploy them on an unprecedented scale. What we are describing is a future with an improved quality of life, more fairness, and better products. If we do this right, the people and communities that have been treated unfairly, exposed to chronic pollution, and left out of progress in the past stand to gain the most.’”

The heart of Solnit’s message is this: at this most critical moment, whatever pain you are in, choose hope too. Do all you can to elect climate champions, then do all you can to get them to act on climate. Hope is not optimism. Hope is a commitment to the future, and must be manifest in action. Hope matters most when it’s hardest and when the stakes are the highest. This is our moment.

 

 

Most fossil fuel energy is wasted–New analysis shows how to fix this!

With catastrophic fires again raging in California and hurricane Laura devastating the Gulf Coast, the urgency of the climate crisis is painfully clear. You may wonder if it’s too late to do anything meaningful to avert climate chaos. A new analysis finds we can still eliminate 70-80% of US carbon emissions by 2035 with existing technologies and tools, getting this country on a 1.5° C pathway while creating millions of jobs and lowering energy costs. And this isn’t some fly-by-night study: it was done by MacArthur Genius grant recipient Saul Griffith and colleagues, after analyzing all the available data on how energy is used in the US.

This new report, available from “Rewiring America,” shows how the US can quickly and fully decarbonize our economy with proven technologies and existing resources. David Roberts, writing about the report in Vox, describes it’s findings as “oddly optimistic.” Here are the major bombshells, as summarized by Roberts:

“In a nutshell, (the analysis shows) that it’s possible to eliminate 70 percent to 80 percent of US carbon emissions by 2035 through rapid deployment of existing electrification technologies, with little-to-no carbon capture and sequestration. Doing so would slash US energy demand by about half, save consumers money, and keep the country on a 1.5° pathway without requiring particular behavior changes. Everyone could still have their same cars and houses–they would just need to be electric.”

How is this possible? First, burning fossil fuels for energy is incredibly wasteful. Electric motors are much more efficient at converting energy into useful work. So much more efficient, in fact, that electrifying everything would cut US energy demand in half, according to Rewiring America’s report. Second, our clean energy technologies have advanced to the point where we can use them to get most of the way to full decarbonization. The five key existing and well-proven technologies we need, according to Griffith’s work, are wind and solar power plants, rooftop solar, electric vehicles, heat pumps, and batteries.

Of course, in order to get on this 1.5° C pathway, we have to commit, and mobilize on a scale we haven’t done since World War II. Such a mobilization would ramp up clean energy and electrification as fast as possible. Within 3 to 5 years, we need to increase our electricity grid three to four fold, our EV production four fold, our wind turbines 12 fold, and our solar modules 12 fold. Then, after this initial period of mobilization, every time a diesel or gas car gets replaced, it has to be with an EV. Every time an oil or gas furnace goes out, it is replaced with a heat pump, and so on. Talk about a green recovery jobs program!

Two other gems I want to mention from this report: First, the benefits of following this plan are extraordinary even without the potential to protect a climate compatible with human societies thriving. Clean air, good jobs, cheaper energy, quieter roads and cities, and on and on. Second, this analysis doesn’t rely on, or even consider, the carbon emissions that are possible with traditional efficiency measures such as insulating buildings, double-glazing windows, driving less, or downsizing homes. Adding any of these would only increase our chances of decarbonizing in time to do our part to get on a 1.5° C pathway and protect a livable climate.

If you want to dig deeper into this, you can download the full report here. What this compelling study shows is that it’s still within our capabilities to tackle the climate crisis while creating a green recovery from the economic devastation of the pandemic. If you needed any more motivation to help elect climate champions this November, maybe this will be it.

What the coming together of the left on climate looks like

In just six weeks, we’ve seen three major climate proposals indicating that the factions of the Democratic Party are aligning on climate policy after a decade of disarray and disagreement. This policy platform on climate shows how much interest groups and politicians agree on and lays critical groundwork for enacting a transformative green recovery and a just transition to a clean energy future. It illuminates a path to finally passing big, bold climate policy solutions at the national level.

If you aren’t someone who spends time in the weeds of climate change news, you may have no idea what I’m talking about. With the pandemic raging, the economy destabilizing, and a rational racial justice/policing crisis, unification of the left on climate policy hardly made headlines. Yet if you are hoping that after the next election we will enact a green recovery and a just transition to a clean energy future, take a moment to celebrate, because such action just got a lot more likely.

Here’s a quick summary: On June 30th, the House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis issued its report . This included a detailed Climate Crisis Action Plan put together by House Democrats. On July 8, the Biden-Sanders unity task force on climate (chaired by John Kerry and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez) issued its policy recommendations. Finally, on July 14, Joe Biden released his Build Back Better proposal on climate, a $2 trillion proposal for clean energy investments, economic stimulus, and a transition to net-zero emissions by 2050.

Here’s how journalist David Roberts summarized this in Vox: “For the first time in memory, there’s a broad alignment forming around a climate policy platform that is both ambitious enough to address the problem and politically potent enough to unite all the left’s various interest groups.”

These plans have a lot in common: they all set standards for net-zero emissions by 2050 (or sooner), they all focus on climate justice, and they all include large-scale public investment.

  • Setting standards: Two-thirds of US emissions come from sectors where clean alternatives are already available–cars, electricity, and buildings. Details vary, but the plans agree on a common core of strong performance standards and incentives for these big three emitters to make rapid progress on emissions in the next ten years. Doing so can get us a long way toward meeting the 2030 emissions reduction goals the IPCC says are critical to prevent the worst, most catastrophic climate change impacts.
  • Climate justice: Unions, fossil fuel workers, and frontline communities helped develop these plans. They include polices such as coal worker transition programs, equity mapping to identify vulnerable communities and send public investment there first, and incentives that favor union workers for clean energy jobs.
  • Large public investment: Support for green industries, manufacturing, research, and job creation is in these proposals, as are a number of ideas for combining recovery from the COVID-10 economic crisis with transformative climate solutions.

Pre-pandemic, when I used to give in-person talks about climate solutions, I sometimes ended with this quote attributed to Nelson Mandela: “It always seems impossible until it is done.” This summer, the left’s new unity on climate policy makes transformative climate progress seep a little less impossible.

If you are interested in more details about these plans, see links below.

Carlie Clarcq, “Biden’s clean energy plan proposes economic recovery through green investments,” Climate Change, July 23, 2020.

David Roberts, “At last, a climate policy platform that can unite the left,” Vox, July 9, 2020.

Three stories show progress on our pathway to a better climate future

I bet you could use some good news today. I’ve been following three climate progress stories this month that illustrate movement toward a safer climate and a better world. Below are quick summaries of each of them with links you can use to learn more. I hope these stories encourage and inspire you!

One: The fossil fuel sector is increasingly losing its social license to operate. This month, the Vatican urged the 1.2 billion Catholics on earth to divest from fossil fuel investments. This is the latest in a string of increasingly big wins for the fossil fuel divestment movement. Since January, Citigroup, JP Morgan Chase, and others have pledged to stop investing in the dirtiest fossil fuels. Many faith groups, universities and pension funds have declared that it is unethical (and unwise) to invest in the destruction of the earth’s climate. If the financial sector stops financing fossil fuel extraction refining and transport, the chances of preventing a runaway climate catastrophe increase.

Two: More businesses with deep pockets and vast resources are announcing plans and beginning to act to decarbonize their energy systems and contribute to climate solutions. This month Lyft committed to transitioning to 100% EVs (electric vehicles) by 2030. Transportation is the largest source of greenhouse gases in the U.S., as well as a huge contributor to local air pollution. Lyft’s commitment will help reduce these impacts, and it will also increase trust in EVs, which is a critical step for widespread adoption. Ford Motors announced plans for carbon neutrality by 2050, which will require a huge commitment to EVs and other climate-friendly changes. Other companies that have recently upped their commitments to climate action include Unilever, (one of the biggest consumer goods companies in the world), Amazon, Microsoft, and Ikea.

Three: Renewable energy is taking over the U.S. electricity grid, even without help from the federal government. The coronavirus pandemic has accelerated this trend, and a grid that’s powered by clean energy is rapidly becoming both technically feasible and economically competitive. A new study shows that falling costs combined with breakthroughs in storage have made it feasible to get to 90% renewable electricity in the U.S. in just 15 years while lowering costs. This level of technological progress and economic viability for renewables was unimaginable ten or even five years ago, but today, we have the ability to quickly transition our electrical grid to renewables affordably.

Turning the COVID-19 carbon crash into our last, best chance

Working from home, I look out my window at the altered world. No cars pass for long stretches but walkers are always about, and I hear bird songs I’ve never noticed before. I drive so rarely that I haven’t charged my electric car since mid-March. Of all the changes (many of them painful) brought by the pandemic, road traffic decline might be the one I like most. This quieting down of our engines, it turns out, might also be providing us with a precious gift–a little bit more time to avert the full-scale climate catastrophe we are heading for.

As you’ve probably heard, COVID-19 restrictions have caused a worldwide decline in carbon emissions. According to an analysis by the scientists who track the annual Global Carbon Budget, at the peak of COVID-19 restrictions in early April, global CO2 emissions were down 17%. A whopping 43% of lowered emissions came from road traffic decline. Depending on the lifting of restrictions and our behavior in the coming months, this analysis predicts a 4-7% decline in overall greenhouse gas emissions for the entire year.

Many pundits have already weighed in on the meaning of this carbon drop—some framing the emissions decline as impressively large, others as surprisingly small.  But what I see in this pause in greenhouse gas emissions growth is possibility. In all likelihood, this pandemic moment presents our very last real chance to preserve a livable climate.

As a climate advocate, I think a lot about how we might still bring greenhouse gas emissions down fast enough to prevent the full-scale climate catastrophe we are hurtling toward. According to the UN’s most recent scientific report, this requires us to begin steep emissions reductions by 2020 to get on a pathway to 50% emissions reductions by 2030 and zero emissions by 2050. Few people have really taken onboard what this means or what the stakes are. I believe many in the youth climate movement do understand the science and the stakes. That’s why they are so angry and so scared.

Greenhouse gas emissions have been rising 1% per year for the past decade. Now a terrible global event has had the side effect of reversing this upward trend for 2020. This has bought us a bit more time, offering us just one last golden opportunity.

I’m not advocating giving up our modern lifestyles, or living under COVID-19 restrictions any longer than necessary: in fact, just the opposite. I’m searching for a pathway we can take to cut emissions fast enough to have a chance of preventing massive human suffering, preserving modern civilization, and allowing our children a shot at a habitable world.

As I’ve noted elsewhere, tackling the climate crisis is within our technological, policy, and economic capabilities. Advances in clean energy and energy efficiency are continuing to make decarbonizing more feasible and ever cheaper. Capable experts are devising workable plans that combine economic recovery from COVID-19 with rapid decarbonization. Polls show a strong majority of Americans agree it’s time to tackle the climate crisis.

To help this moment become a turning point, we can each stick with those changes that have surprised us by making us happier (for me, this includes less driving, more walking, and giving up the gym). We can advocate for changes in our communities that speed decarbonization and increase well-being (for example, cities making more room for walkers permanent). We can block the bailing out of fossil fuel companies and support clean energy and energy efficiency projects instead. We can give our time, money and votes to elect climate champions in the next election, and each election that follows. Then we can advocate for passing bold policies for a climate-friendly recovery and a livable future.( Here’s one way to help).

This is not a rehearsal. The recovery we choose will determine the fate of our species, so let’s do this!