Tune in to the Climate Reality Project's "Dirty Weather Report"
"Dirty" fuels, like coal, oil and natural gas, emit gases like carbon dioxide (CO2) when they are burned. This CO2 lurks in the atmosphere, creating a gaseous blanket that is smothering the earth, causing temperatures to rise, and disrupting the climate. We've all seen the impacts of climate change, whether it's the destruction caused by Super Storm Sandy earlier this month and Hurricane Katrina a few years ago, or the increasing poison ivy in our own backyards. The Climate Reality Project is a non-profit organization started by former Vice President Al Gore to raise global awareness about the threats we face from climate change and to advocate actions we, our elected officials, and leaders around the world can take to get this problem under control.
I asked Maggie Fox, the Executive Director of the Climate Reality Project, an old friend, and a colleague from my days when we both worked for the Sierra Club, to explain why we all need to make climate change a personal and public policy priority.
* Maggie, when you and I met, you were working to protect public lands in the Western U.S. for the Sierra Club. Why did you shift your focus to climate change?
In my mind, the two are one and the same: protecting our planet from climate change also means protecting some of our most precious natural wonders. I have spent a happy portion of my lifetime in the outdoors: mountaineering, leading expeditions, and exploring some of the most beautiful and wildest places in the world. A few years ago, I flew over Glacier National Park, a place where I have hiked and climbed, and I could not believe the change I had seen. Where once there had been deep, vast glaciers, the glaciers are now largely gone with only a few small snowfields left. And this is both incomprehensible and frightening to me. Despite all our technological advances, we are still deeply connected to the natural world. Climate change affects our natural landscape, the ecosystems around us, and ultimately all of humanity in profound ways. That makes it one of the most pressing crises we face as a species and a planet. It is the challenge that brings us all together to solve.
* I'm fascinated by the description of this project as the Climate REALITY Project. What is that about? Do you think people don't take climate change seriously, or don't consider it a real threat?
Unfortunately, while the science has long been settled on the fact that climate change is real, happening now, and caused by human activities, there is still a loud and too powerful denier industry out there. The Dirty Energy industry has spent hundreds of millions to foment denial and doubt about whether climate change is even happening. It's the same playbook the tobacco industry used for years to hide the health impacts of cigarettes. Our goal is to break through the fog and shine a light on the reality of climate change and the available solutions.
In fact, these are exactly our goals for 24 Hours of Reality: The Dirty Weather Report, a worldwide, online live event on November 14 and 15. We're convening many of the world’s most powerful voices from science, government, business, foreign policy, and culture, in a timely dialogue about how climate change impacts all of us. You can learn more about the event on our website, climaterealityproject.org.
* You and I both, along with many other scientists, environmentalists, and citizens, have been trying to raise awareness about climate change for decades. At this point, what are the biggest obstacles that still prevent the public from embracing solutions to our climate problems?
Climate change has been a big, slow-moving problem. Its impacts at first seemed diffuse, far away in time and place, and hard to pin down. But we’re seeing greater and greater evidence of our warming planet and changing climate on a day to day basis, as Dirty Weather — extreme heat, floods, storms, droughts, and fires — become more intense, more destructive, and more local. In New York City, where I am this week for 24 Hours of Reality, Superstorm Sandy brought climate change into reality in particularly devastating ways — affecting people's lives, homes, and incomes.
This new reality requires our communities and elected leaders to step up to take action on climate change. That's why during our event, we are inviting all our viewers to take the Climate Reality pledge:
"I pledge my name in support of a better tomorrow, one powered by clean energy. I demand action from our leaders to work on solutions to the climate crisis. I pledge to get involved. I pledge to share this global promise. By uniting my voice with a million others, we have the power to change the world."
There is no silver bullet for solving the climate crisis. Instead, there are a broad array of solutions, from individual choices we make every day that reduce energy consumption, to broad, sweeping legislative changes that require serious action at the state, national, and international levels. Every action at every level that combats climate change is one we support. During 24 Hours of Reality: The Dirty Weather Report, we will be dedicating a portion of nearly every hour to discussing the solutions people all over the world are implementing right now, from the comprehensive climate legislation passed in Australia and South Korea, to the groundbreaking program to limit carbon pollution in California. These are some of the places that are showing us the way forward.
* Do you have a particular message on climate change that will resonate with women, who are the primary readers of my blog?
Unfortunately, and unfairly, women are particularly hit hard by the impacts of climate change. Not everyone may realize this, but women make up a majority of the world's poor. In developing countries, they are most often the ones responsible for growing and cooking food. And they depend on the farmland, forests, and sources of water that are easily damaged by extreme weather and sea level rise.
But women are not just impacted by climate change; they are critical agents of change. To quote Christiana Figueres, Executive Secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change: "We are 50% of the population around the world and we represent more than 50% of the solution."
Around the world and across the United States, women are standing up for their livelihoods, their communities and their families. We are using our voices to call on the leaders of the world to confront and solve this crisis. And we will be heard."