For me, it was the morning of September 9, 2020, when dawn never came. All week, wildfires have raged from Seattle to Mexico, depositing a thick layer of soot and smoke over California. Around 7 a.m., I watched a blood-red orb cross the sky above my house in San Francisco. “Mother Nature just gave us a red card,” a friend wrote to me later that night, shortly after deciding to return to Britain, “and it’s going to get worse.”
Moments like these are one of the main reasons I started hearing a question I hadn’t heard much in a decade about climate change: “What can I do?” »
We are launching the Climate Coach at The Washington Post to answer this question. Don’t expect “101 things” lists or token gestures. No plastic straw campaigns here. We will dig into the data and give substantiated evidence advice and thoughtful analysis on what matters to protect the planet, the environment and each other.
Each week, the Climate Coach column and newsletter will host an honest discussion about the environmental choices we face in our daily lives. We will approach these questions with curiosity, optimism and vigilant skepticism.
You may have heard the argument that there’s nothing ordinary people can do but vote: it’s the Green New Deal or the bust. But there is a second view, one that regards individual action as extremely important.
Although the global problems do not seem entirely amenable to individual action, that is only part of the story. Human culture and global warming are not linear systems. They are carried by exponential curves, social contagions and threshold effects. They exist at the messy confluence of biology, economics, psychology, and physics.
Take solar panels. In 2021, researchers from the journal Nature published an article investigating why people install solar panels on their roofs. Subsidies, geography and politics have all been considered. The most powerful factor? If a neighbor already had solar panels. There was even a proximity effect. People living within two blocks of the signs were most likely to buy their own. The solar panels, in other words, were contagious. With climate, we have to consider social norms as well as policies and incentives.
We will take this as a guiding principle in the Climate Coach column. Individual climate action is more than the sum of its parts, complementing, not replacing, transformative political and economic change.
We will address your concerns and follow your interests (let me know your questions here). We will explore how to change your career for the climate. Savor the invasive species (skip the lionfish). How to invest your savings in a stable climate. Learn about the incentives in the Inflation Reduction Act. Meet the bugs that will feed the future. Repower communities in coal country. Trade cars for people on slow streets. Try the fashion repair and repair movement. Identify sources of air pollution in your home and neighborhood. And learn, perhaps, to worry a little less and to act a little more on the climate.
I’ve worked on climate issues for more than 15 years – the last six as a journalist and editor of the news site Quartz – and have also spent several years developing climate policies for international organisations.
But for me, this column will also be personal. In June, my son, Vaughan, was born. The only Earth he has ever known is nearly 1.2 degrees Celsius (2.2 degrees Fahrenheit) warmer than most humans have known. Once he is my age, he is expected to live in a world with carbon dioxide levels exceeding those that existed more than 4 million years ago, a time when forests have took root in the Arctic and flooded sea levels where the cities we live in exist today. .
It’s not a world I want to pass on to him or the roughly 10 billion others he’ll share the planet with by 2050, the year scientists working for the United Nations advise the world to go to zero emissions. net to avoid the most catastrophic global warming. I want Vaughan, and everyone else, to have the best possible chance in a warming world. Fortunately, it’s a choice we have as a society — and as individuals.
The Climate Coach column and newsletter will be launched in January. Register now.
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