"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
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?
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."