There has never been a more important time to act on climate. Science-based targets from the most recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report give the global community just over 10 years to mitigate the worst impacts of the climate crisis.
The outdoor community has an opportunity to turn their passions into purpose and become climate champions. Here are five ways anyone can act on climate change.
1. Educate Yourself
You don’t have to be a climate scientist to be a climate advocate, but it doesn’t hurt to make sure you’re knowledgeable about the subject.
When it comes to climate change, the science is in: The Earth has already warmed 1.9 degrees Fahrenheit since 1880 (when climate record-keeping began), 18 of the 19 warmest years on record all have occurred since 2001, and 2016 came in as the hottest year ever on record. More than 97 percent of climate scientists agree—over the past century, the earth has been warming at an alarming rate, which is extremely likely due to the increased prevalence of greenhouse gases caused by human activities.
Here are a few of our favorite resources for learning more about climate change:
- Project Drawdown: A global research organization that identifies, reviews and analyzes the most viable solutions to climate change
- NASA: Vital signs of the planet
- Grist: Working toward a planet that doesn’t burn
- Union of Concerned Scientists: Science for a healthy planet and safer world
- Drilled: A podcast on climate denial propaganda
- Merchants of Doubt: How a handful of scientists obscured the truth
2. Recognize your impact
Your carbon footprint is your direct impact on the climate and can show where changes in your personal life can be made. First, it’s important to take stock of your footprint—here’s an EPA resource to do that. There are many individual actions we can champion, like limiting plastic consumption, driving less frequently, taking public transportation more often, and reducing our food waste. We need change not only at the individual level, but at the systems level, as well.
3. See the big picture
Recognizing your direct impact on the climate not only helps you see where you can make changes in your day-to-day life, but more importantly, shows where the system needs to change to have the biggest effect.
We live in a carbon-based society. If we want to make meaningful reductions in carbon emissions, it’s not just about not using plastic straws (although, c’mon, no more plastic straws), it’s about advocating for policies that allow us to reduce our reliance on fossil fuels.
For example, if you travel a lot for work, you may find your carbon footprint is larger than others, and that reducing the number of flights and long drives you take each year could greatly reduce your individual impact. But perhaps a more important question is why transit emits so much carbon in the first place.
One hundred 100 fossil fuel companies accounted for 71 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions from 1988 to 2015, according to the Carbon Majors Database.
Acting on climate means understanding we need to take that burden off of individuals and instead champion systemic policy solutions.
4. Identify Your Superpowers
Whether you love writing, organizing friends to action, or inspiring your buds to get outside, you can easily transform your passions into climate action with just a little focus. No matter what skill you’re fine-tuning, you can join Protect Our Winters (POW) or other climate organizations to grow those interests and hone them in on climate solutions. We’ll help you discover how your superpowers best fit within the climate movement.
In early 2018, POW added professional climber Tommy Caldwell to our Alliance. He uses his passion for climbing and the outdoors to lead others toward action. Since joining POW, Caldwell has advocated for the protection of public lands from fossil fuels extraction and joined POW in Washington, D.C. to testify before a Congressional committee on behalf of climate action. Regardless of your passion, POW will help you turn it into purpose.
5. Become a Climate Advocate
It might sound obvious, but the best way to act on climate is to simply become a climate advocate. All the previous actions position you to be part of the climate movement—becoming an advocate is the final step.
Get involved by contacting your elected officials at the local, state and federal levels. Although it seems like a small step, it can have massive impacts. Those messages (phone and email) do get delivered to your lawmakers—and it can be pretty hard to ignore a deluge of concerned comments from thousands of constituents. If there’s an issue or a bill you think your lawmaker ought to act on (even if they haven’t historically in the past), reach out and let them know. It’s actually pretty easy.
If you haven’t yet (and you’re over 18), another important climate action is registering to vote and voting. Again, it seems like a simple step, but it’s much harder to take action on climate policy if you can’t vote. So get yourself registered, and then make sure you turn out!
If you’re looking for more, it’s time to start organizing. Sign up to volunteer with a climate organization. In addition to POW, the Natural Resources Defense Council, The Wilderness Society and 350.org are other great options to consider. Get your friends on board, talk to your buddies about climate change on the chairlift or trail, and turn the community out for climate action.
Editor's note: Protect Our Winters (POW) is a nonprofit partner of REI. Since 2015, REI has awarded POW with $75,000 in grants.