As civil society and business leaders mobilize for our planet, we must too

By Jill Hopke and Thomas Bateman

This month marks duel milestones to again galvanize climate action around country. Climate activists have marched for jobs and justice. Now, the Global Climate Action Summit brings local and state leaders together with business and multinational representatives in San Francisco.

A goal of these actions is to push forward the U.S. commitment to climate action in the face of the Trump administration’s shortsighted retreat.

As these civil society and business leaders recognize, now is the time for decisive action on climate change.

Time to Overcome Political Inaction

For decades our political leaders have failed to act. In the 1980s, Republicans and Democrats seemed ready for a political solution. Again in 2007 there was bipartisan readiness to act, but that was before the Great Recession. The economy has rebounded and again many conservatives are acknowledging the need to act.

PT Rimba Makmur Utama researchers carbon monitoring measure peat surface elevation change using Rod Surface Elevation Table (rSET) in Indonesia. Photo Credit: Sigit Deni Sasmito/CIFOR (Flickr)

A 1974 Science article described the “sense of urgency” among meteorologists, oceanographers, and others trying to model the potential impacts of climate change. Since then, in the business world and beyond, sense of urgency has become a catchphrase highlighting the need for decisive action.

With climate change, urgency long seemed overly alarmist and unnecessary when a dangerous climate future was hard to connect to daily life. But climate scientists are increasing able to say how specific extreme weather events, such as heat waves and the record rainfall that came with Hurricane Harvey to Texas, are made more likely by climate change.

If you are personally concerned about climate change, you are in the majority. In fact, researchers at Yale and George Mason Universities found that most registered voters in the United States are worried about climate change.

A Sense of Urgency is Here

What we all need to safeguard our planet — and avoid extreme-weather impacts on food, water, health and more — is a concerted, massive, urgent, collective effort. We all must do more.

Consider what you are doing to contribute to a better future. Contrast that with what you could be doing. If every person increases, just a bit, their contributions to the climate cause, together we can safeguard our future.

For starters, consider the climate change positions of candidates when you vote this November. But once the midterm elections are behind us, our efforts must continue. As a country, we need to join the world in developing a collective sense of urgency — all of us starting with our own mindsets and talking about climate change with others.

Children harvest in Tainan, Taiwan. Photo credit: Michael Bish (Flickr)

We cannot afford to leave climate solutions to politicians and businesses alone. Here are some steps you can take toward urgent climate action. Identify personal meaning and purpose in your own community. Consider what you love that is threatened by climate change. Maybe it is your ability to garden and visit parks in the summer. Maybe it is your home on the coast, or the physical health of your family and community.

We all have climate change stories. Now is the time to share them, along with constructive ideas for action.

Be a Climate Champion

Become a climate champion in your community. Talk with others. Research shows that talking with trusted peers can be an effective way to reach people on climate change. Show others your energy and enthusiasm for safeguarding our shared home.

Furthermore, discuss the consequences, including human impacts and financial costs, of inaction. Encourage collaborative efforts. Progress is far more than the sum of individual successes.

Now is the time to tackle the climate change challenges we face. Together we can make a positive difference.

Jill Hopke is an Assistant Professor of Journalism at DePaul University, where she teaches climate change communication. Tom Bateman is a Bank of America Professor at the McIntire School of Commerce, University of Virginia.