To Restore Hope, Focus on Climate Change Solutions Now

Looking for support to focus on climate change solutions, I recently attended the Climate Reality Leadership training in Denver. After working on climate change and energy issues for many years I was still waiting for the magical day when U.S. carbon policies would align to solve the global warming crisis.

I hoped the training would restore my faith in our nation’s ability to ignite large-scale, effective solutions for climate change. The workshop offered a new arsenal of tools to communicate with the public – at all levels of understanding – about global warming.

After spending three days rubbing elbows with Al Gore and his well-trained army of staff and climate change evangelists my faith was renewed. Together – myself and 970 others – we learned to walk, talk and breath a universal language of climate change.

At the workshop we learned to focus on climate change solutions and deliver a tangible and hopeful message. Science and facts matter, and so does the message. Before we talk about solutions let’s review the basics just in case you need a quick reminder.

Increased greenhouse gases in our atmosphere are absorbing solar radiation, causing global warming. Seems simple enough. Our current administration would have us believe the earth is flat and global warming is a hoax. Yet there is this matter of the greenhouse gases.

Normally, rays from the sun warm our Goldilocks planet just enough, while excess heat is released. However, build up of greenhouse gas emissions (mostly carbon dioxide which hangs around for hundreds of years) is trapping the excess heat and wrapping the planet’s surface in a blanket, warming land, oceans, and atmosphere to dangerous levels.

Greenhouse gases are emitted mostly from burning fossil fuels for electricity (coal, oil, gas), driving cars and trucks, and cutting down and burning forests. Here’s an image of the major sources.

Sources of greenhouse gas emissions to help us focus on climate change solutions

Most American’s agree that global warming is happening and carbon emissions should be scaled back. Yet many don’t believe climate change will harm them personally.

The truth is, the impacts of climate change are here now and everywhere. In our own backyards we are starting to see unusual or extreme weather patterns across the U.S. Regions that are typically hot are expected to get hotter.More droughts and wildfires are expected in dryer regions of the U.S. Colorado faces increasing heat and drought threats over the next 30 years. Wildfires burning across the West are three times as large and the season is now averaging 105 days longer than it was in the 1970s.

Wet and snowy regions are beginning to experience heavier precipitation. At the climate reality leaders workshop, we saw slide after slide of catastrophic floods across the country. The U.S. could see up to 400% increase in downpours by the end of this century.

Image of a "rain bomb" in Phoenix, Arizona to help focus on climate change solutions

Have you ever heard of a rain bomb? It’s a wet microburst moving between sky and earth with tornado strength. These and other storms are expected to intensify.

In the Northwest, we’re seeing declining snow pack, warming rivers, and dwindling salmon runs. In California after five years of debilitating drought, the state is experiencing one of the wettest years on record causing major flooding and damage to the tune of more than $1 billion.

Focus on Climate Change Solutions

Fortunately, there are plenty of solutions. On the ground we can all support local policies in our city and state to get off fossil fuels and go 100% renewable. There are initiatives moving across the country to do just that. For those who can’t afford solar rooftops, there are alternatives such as community solar and emerging microgrids. Decentralized renewable energy is the way forward.

Solar homes in Denver to demonstrate how we can focus on climate change solutions

For small personal steps, you can tap into your sustainable Mini-Me and try these: 1) reduce and reuse everything you can; 2) turn it down, turn it off and avoid energy use; 3) walk, ride a bike, or share a ride and find ways to avoid gas-guzzling cars.

Remember that everything we buy or consume takes energy and precious resources to produce and dispose. Let’s turn back the dial and grow foods locally, regenerate the soils, farm sustainably, reduce food waste, and save our forests. The goal is to help our lands absorb more carbon. Oceans too, but that’s another story.

I once believed that market solutions to climate change would naturally fall into place if we could just nail that carbon price. A carbon price will certainly help but we need much more. Federal and state carbon policies would enable large-scale funding and support for swift mitigation but we can no longer wait for that magical day.

We can start in our own backyards and work our way through the community, businesses, and the city. Fixing the climate crisis is going to depend on changing each of our lifestyles including the foods we eat, the cars we drive, activities we do, and the energy we use. We have the answers to focus on climate change solutions. What we need now is to act swiftly on all fronts.

Author: Kathryn Thomsen

Founder of Hundredgivers, a nonprofit supporting and accelerating sustainability initiatives benefiting local and global communities. Kathryn is a social entrepreneur, consultant, researcher, writer and urban farmer. She collaborates with individuals, organizations, and businesses to develop climate change solutions, clean energy, and sustainability strategies and programs.

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