Remaining Hopeful In The Face Of Climate Change
Remaining Hopeful In The Face Of Climate ChangeI felt like I needed a little pick me up, a reminder, if you will, about why we should remain hopeful in the face of climate change. I know that the topics we talk about here, including what you see on social media, in the news, and from friends and family – can be heavy. But, to make our work sustainable (and protect our mental health), we need to remind ourselves of why we should stay hopeful periodically. I’ll be honest – when I see the frequent and intense droughts happening in sharp contrast to flooding, fierce heat waves, melting glaciers and rising sea levels, malnutrition, and food insecurity – it gets overwhelming. But, even saying that raises my heart rate a little bit! When we are hopeful, it not only makes tough situations like climate change bearable, but it helps to motivate us to improve our lives and take steps towards making a better future happen. So let’s take a breath together (breath here) and have a little pep talk about hope, shall we?
Clean energy is growing
Accessiblity and AffordabilityOne reason to remain hopeful in the face of climate change is that clean energy is growing and becoming more accessible and efficient. Fossil fuel companies are said to be in terminal decline. Demand for fossil fuels is dropping as there are rapid advancements in clean technology and energy and more targeted policies, investments, and goals for cleaner energy across the globe. The Center for Climate and Energy Solutions says that “Renewable energy is the fastest-growing energy source in the United States, increasing 100 percent from 2000 to 2018.” And although fossil fuel use still reigns king, coal use is down, and we are trending towards cleaner energy solutions. In addition, economic development is growing due to millions of jobs created in the clean energy sector. Like in creating renewable energy, energy storage, energy efficiency, and clean vehicles and transportation. This is much more reliable and sustainable than other traditional energy jobs we’ve seen in the past. Solar and Wind power has become cheaper – as a report by Lazard shows that wind energy prices have fallen 70 percent over the last decade, and solar materials have fallen 89 percent on average in the US. Electric vehicle prices have fallen 89% since 2010. And building an all-electric home is cheaper and more available. So we are creating more jobs and making these types of clean energy and technology more accessible and affordable.
Healthier LivingIn terms of health, The World Health Organization says that 4.2 million deaths per year are caused by outdoor air pollution worldwide and are driven mainly by the combustion of fossil fuels. This air pollution from fossil fuel use can directly contaminate our water, affecting plant life, wildlife, and our crops. I know that sounds disheartening – but the shift to clean energy is helping to prevent air pollution and contamination from happening. The percentages of populations exposed to unsafe air pollution levels across the globe are declining due to clean energy and environmental policy. The more we convert to cleaner energy, the cleaner our air will be, the cleaner our water will be, our economy will grow, and we will be able to live healthier and fuller lives. That is something to be hopeful for!
Corporations are taking responsibilityThere is a huge market for sustainable technology innovation and development if companies decide to invest in it, which requires them to be responsible for their current actions first. Another reason to stay hopeful in the face of climate change is that Corporate Responsibility for the use of fossil fuels and the overall adoption of sustainable practices is growing. This is huge because the brunt of climate action can’t be held solely by individuals. For example, the Governance & Accountability Institute (G&A) research team reported “that eighty-six percent (86%) of the companies in the S&P 500 Index® published sustainability, or corporate responsibility reports in the year 2018” as compared to just 20% in 2011.
Corporatate Social ResponsibilityCorporate Social Responsibility (or CSR) is a management practice whereby companies integrate social, environmental, and economic concerns into their business operations. For employees, this can mean better workplaces that they feel proud about. For businesses, this can mean more loyal customers, resulting in consistent profits and cost savings through a reduction in waste and resources. Finally, for society, this means an overall positive impact. When companies take responsibility and change their practices, it means more accessible and more available decisions on behalf of the consumer.
There is a Demand for TransparencyFor example, a new study shows that 100 companies are the source of 90% of global single-use plastic production, with 20 of those companies attributing to over half of that single-use plastic production. Furthermore, that production almost exclusively uses fossil fuels, with Exxon Mobil ranking at the top of the list. AND this study revealed that Close to 60% of the commercial finance funding single-use production comes from just 20 global banks. Talk about the value of companies making a change! With increased pressure from society on companies like this, they are forced to look at alternative options. It’s no longer going with the norm or flying under the radar. Transparency is now challenged at all levels. And we are seeing who the players are and what actions they’re taking towards more sustainable practices – making it easier for consumers to decide who to support and who to demand specific and measurable change, which is a reason to be hopeful!
Government is taking actionBut corporate change sometimes comes from the government. And government action is a third reason to be hopeful in the face of climate change. When people and companies fail to implement what we need – the government can step in.
Policies and ApproachesCurrently, there are general approaches in place, including carbon taxes, subsidies, non-tradable pollution permits, technology, emissions standards, and product bans. We started with the Kyoto Protocol, which required only developed countries to reduce emissions. We then adopted the Paris Agreement, which recognized that climate change is a shared issue and called on all countries to keep global temperatures below a two °C increase above pre-industrial temperatures. And even now, the Green New Deal proposal calls for public policy to combat climate change by creating millions of high-wage jobs in new green industries, transitioning our energy systems, and building new infrastructure.
Climate Action at all levelsWe’ve seen nationwide, statewide, and local government policy instruments implemented to reduce environmental impact. I’ll give you a few hopeful examples:
Australia implemented a plan to ban single-use plastics by 2025 (that’s right around the corner!), a strategy to halve their food waste by 2030. And, they created South Australia’s Hornsdale Power Reserve, the world’s largest lithium battery, to more effectively store wind energy.
Many states are signing 100% clean energy legislation. Some states, like California, are paving the way for phasing out gas-powered vehicles, which has had a domino effect for other state policies and garnered federal support of domestic electric vehicle production.
Even in rural America, Rock Port, Missouri, became the first 100% wind-powered community in the United States. With four wind turbines supplying all of its electricity to the small town.
The City of Cincinnati implemented The Green Cincinnati Plan in 2008. A community-wide greenhouse gas reduction target of 84% by 2050, and identified over 80 specific actions to reduce emissions.
Cities worldwide are bringing energy and innovation to create connected, compact and efficient communities through city planning, growth management, social policy, and more efficient transport systems. City, state, and national governments have the power to transform communities through environmental awareness and helping ease citizens into low carbon living.
And, many health and social organizations have been leaders in influencing government and making a change for the better.
Climate action occurs at every level, including the individual level, which is absolutely a reason to be hopeful in the face of climate change.
More people are concerned and taking steps towards a more sustainable life. Globally, 74 percent of people said they want to reduce their impact on the environment and nature by a significant amount. And younger generations, like Gen Z and Millenials, are more eager to “make a significant effort to become healthier, more environmentally friendly, and more helpful to others.”
More people realize the disproportionate effects of climate change on vulnerable groups such as children, low-income people, people with disabilities, and minorities. More people realize the collective impacts of their individual actions. That a shift in more mindful climate action behavior is powerful and required, and that individual behavior AND systemic action is necessary to make lasting change.
One study shows that certain individual behaviors such as reducing material consumption, biking to work, and eating locally grown foods can become ingrained as a matter of personal ethics through education and persuasion. And If enough people adopt these norms, there may be a “tipping point” that can make pro-environment norms become widely shared and environmentally friendly behaviors pervasive. Aka, your actions matter!
People are ready and willing to make changes when given the opportunity.
Opportunity and hope
Although Climate change is a significant threat, and resolutions need to be adapted quickly – we have an opportunity for transformation. Opportunity is something we should absolutely be hopeful about. We still have the opportunity for an advanced green global economy, reductions in social inequalities, and the end of poverty.
We have the opportunity to adopt new ways of thinking, new ways of acting, and new ways of growing personally and economically.
The opportunity to help others and ourselves, where we all benefit.
The opportunity to prevent risks to human health and natural systems.
The opportunity to take a step back, protect nature’s eco-systems, and let mother nature do her thing and replenish its systems.
We have the opportunity to save our planet.
You listening to this podcast is HOPEFUL! And I thank you for giving me this opportunity and hope every day.
The more we manifest, plan, and talk about a hopeful, clean, and safe future for all – the harder we will work together to find and refine the solutions that are out there to make it happen. We just have to keep the big picture in mind.
So keep going, keep fighting, and keep growing neighbors – and remember to remain hopeful.