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Doing the Impossible: Tackling Climate Change

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The latest report from the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change concludes that we could cross the threshold of one point five degrees Celsius of global warming as soon as 2030 – just twelve years from now – and besides the devastating impacts of heat waves, droughts, and extreme precipitation, that much warming could trigger irreversible and escalating changes in Artic permafrost and Antarctic ice sheets.

The report goes on to say that avoiding this nightmare scenario will require unprecedented changes in every aspect of society. And, to top it all off, prominent climate scientists have said that the IPCC’s version of things may be too rosy.

It’s pretty overwhelming and – quite frankly – not terribly motivating, a sentiment that our next guest tapped into in an op-ed for the NY Times this past week. But,  if there's one takeaway from this interview, it's this: we can do hard things. 

"We have done this before. We have faced impossibility before. We will do it again. And that's the kind of effort it's going to take," Andrew Jones, the founder of Climate Interactive, a non-profit organization that creates computer programs that let users run virtual experiments with the Earth’s climate system said.

But that’s difficult to do, especially when much of the media coverage on climate change can leave us feeling helpless. So, what’s the best way to get the message across? Jones said we need to speak from the heart and the brain, and that we need to give people the opportunity to help.

“It is really necessary right now to speak with urgency about what this feels like, and [share] all the opportunities and possibilities for action that could really solve the problem,” Jones said.

Some of those opportunities could include eating a plant-based diet, changing your lightbulbs to energy-efficient ones, or driving an electric car, but there are more broad ways to make a change. Jones said that the highest leverage thing to do is to stop burning coal. If we do, air quality would improve, respiratory disease and health impacts would lessen, and we would save money if coal was kept safely in the ground.

Getting involved with climate action organizations and pulling together with your community to reduce overall energy use can make a big difference as well. Jones mentioned three groups that are working hard to combat climate change: Citizens Climate Lobby, Mothers Out Front, and 350.org.

He also noted that the IPCC report laid out three main things we should focus on to help combat climate change:

·      Meet the Paris pledges early. 

·      No new fossil fuel investments after 2020. He noted that a carbon price would help us do that.

·      Radical energy efficiency and electrification. Jones believes that we could save a lot of money by using energy more efficiently.

Jones ended the discussion with a hopeful message: “We can do it. It's not going to be easy. It's going to be worth it." And, he added, "It's going to take all of us.”

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If you’re interested in working with the C-Roads computer model that Jones mentioned in the interview, you can access it here.  

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Web content created by Liz Lerner. 

Elsa Partan is a producer for Living Lab Radio. She first came to the station in 2002 as an intern and fell in love with radio. She is a graduate of Bryn Mawr College and the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. From 2006 to 2009, she covered the state of Wyoming for the NPR member station Wyoming Public Media in Laramie. She was a newspaper reporter at The Mashpee Enterprise from 2010 to 2013. She lives in Falmouth with her husband and two daughters.