Representatives of the world’s nations are meeting in Bonn, Germany on November 6-11, 2017 for the 23rd annual “Conference of the Parties” (COP) under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC). This annual conference is an opportunity for all of the participating nations to discuss their collective response to the global crisis of anthropogenic (human-caused) global warming.
As government and industry representative gather in Bonn for COP23, now is a good time for those of us who aren’t endowed with great political power or vast material wealth to reflect on the climate crisis and talk to each other about what we’re going to do about it.
As usual, the solutions formulated at the top will likely be inadequate to meet the challenge. Therefore, it’s up to us to do what we can to push climate policy in a more science-based and more just direction. This involves at least two different but important approaches: supporting climate action at COP23 and organizing our own climate action at the local, regional, and national levels.
Support Climate Action at COP23
I don’t have much faith in national governments to act in the best interest of their own people. Governments tend to be controlled by oligarchs and special interest groups that have more influence on government policy than we do. However, when enough people speak loudly enough, governments sometimes listen, if only out of fear of the consequences of mass mobilizations against them.
Contact your representatives and other elected officials about COP23 and your demands for climate action and climate justice. Let them know that you care about this issue and that it will affect how you vote. Participate in any COP23-related demonstrations and events in your area.
Organize Local, State, Regional, and National Climate Action
Advocacy around COP23 and the UNFCCC generally is only going to go so far. The United States is pulling out of the Paris agreement — and even if all countries meet their Paris pledges, this will still only create one-third of the reductions needed to meet the agreement’s stated goal of keeping this century’s warming well below 2 degrees Celsius.
It’s up to us to make up the difference. Push local, state, regional, and national initiatives to reduce our emissions. Educate yourself and others about the most effective ways to reduce emissions for individuals, organizations, communities, and nations. Create grassroots pressure for lasting change in the energy and climate justice policies of large centralized institutions like governments and corporations. And wherever possible, reclaim your power with projects like community-owned solar that shift power (literally and figuratively) away from large centralized institutions and toward local decentralized community control.
Most importantly, keep talking about this with your friends, neighbors, coworkers, and other people in your community. Climate silence is one of the greatest barriers to climate action and climate justice in the U.S. A majority of people in the U.S. want climate action, but rarely talk about it or list it as their highest priority. Break the silence and let people know that you care.
Don’t Give Up
Whatever you do, don’t give up. No matter how dire the news about climate policy and climate disruption gets, keep talking to your friends and neighbors about climate change, climate justice, and what you can do to help the situation.
I’m not saying “don’t give up” from an optimistic perspective. Quite the opposite, really. At this point, I’m convinced that the most likely outcomes of the climate crisis range from very bad to much, much worse. Global warming is already creating consequences in many regions that are quickly sliding into the realm of the catastrophic — and even if we somehow stop all emissions today, we still have decades worth of consequences for past emissions awaiting us.
But you know what? We also still have the power to have a significant impact on the outcome. Our actions over the next few years may mean the difference between catastrophic climate disruptions and civilization-ending climate disruptions. Let’s all do what we can today to avert the worst consequences of anthropogenic global warming.