Why We All Need To Go All In On Climate Action In 2021

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Why We All Need To Go All In On Climate Action In 2021


Dr Deborah Brosnan, expert scientist and environmental entrepreneur, tells us why this year is the year of positive action and hope.

Dr Deborah Brosnan

Sun 7 Feb 2021

I'm going to say something I wouldn't have dreamed of only a few short months ago.

2021 is the year to have hope again.

With all that we've collectively been going through, it feels scary even to let the tiniest sliver of optimism peek out.

protesters in mask at a rally

There have been many good reasons to despair over recent years.

Since late 2019, COVID has killed more than 2 million people worldwide.

Climate change has made its presence felt more and more, from extreme wildfires in California and Australia to records for Atlantic hurricanes and average global temperatures.

We're driving wildlife species out of existence at rates hundreds or thousands of times higher than the natural extinction rate.

Oceans are acidifying.

Ancient glaciers are melting.

And over the previous four years, the world has endured a complete disregard of environmental protection and conservation from the US administration and others that place short-term economics over a healthier planet and people.

We're all feeling beaten up.

We've been fighting for the environment and public health for so long.

Much of the time, though, we’ve sensed that we’ve lost more than we’ve won.

But change is afoot.

Politics, science and individual action are aligning in ways they never have before. We now have an opportunity to turn despair into promise and, just as importantly, into meaningful action.

woman in flower shirt giving talk at Tedx

Glaciers are melting and sea levels are rising. We are running out of time to take action

Change of direction

For anyone who cares about the planet's health, President Biden's election is a positive change, regardless of your party identification.

He is literally giving science a seat at the table by raising his science advisor to a cabinet-level post.

Environmentally-aware politicos and bureaucrats will lead other offices like the Interior Department and the EPA. He rejoined the Paris climate agreement and the WHO on his first day on the job.

Though we’re still in the early days, it’s clear the new administration will earnestly undertake the difficult work of mitigating COVID, climate change and pollution.

Even without federal leadership over the last four years, progressive local governments and companies have forged ahead to do their part in slowing climate change.

97 cities worldwide have signed onto the C40 initiative to fight it aggressively, and many others are moving toward that goal.

Sustainability nonprofits like Ceres and several investment houses are working with corporations that recognise they have a responsibility to do better.

woman holding a biden poster in a street protest
“For anyone who cares about the planet's health, President Biden's election is a positive change, regardless of your party identification”

Technological developments are helping

Meanwhile, scientists have been busy uncovering solutions that give us practical tools to live comfortably and sustainably.

As one example, new technologies are enabling more efficient solar energy conversion by harnessing a broader segment of the light spectrum.

Separately, scientists, officials and organisations are using AI and data-driven cloud technologies for conservation and environmental policymaking.

As just one example, TrailGuard AI is employing a powerful camera system and machine learning to break the illegal wildlife supply chain.

Drones now gather data and monitor remote areas that are hard for scientists to visit—especially during the pandemic.

And organisations are investing millions in health and environmental solutions, like the X-Prize Foundation’s $10 million challenge to preserve rainforests.

With politicians and scientists starting to row in the same direction, there have never been more ways for each of us to live our environmental values.

Of course, we still need global and national leaders and solutions, but each of us is now empowered to take actions that will collectively transform our world in ways that support the planet.

Hands planting a tree

Planting trees helps reduce carbon emissions all over the world

With politicians and scientists starting to row in the same direction, there have never been more ways for each of us to live our environmental values.

We all need to go all in on climate action

Here are a few steps you can take today that will make a difference to climate change.

1. Shop small, shop sustainably

Environmentally-minded fashion, food and cosmetics startups are just some of the new consumer-goods producers offering products that do less damage to the environment.

But the value in spending your money with these companies isn't just about propelling their sustainable products.

Every dollar that goes to them is another vote by a consumer that sustainability matters. The big corporations need to respond to consumer preferences or risk losing market share.

2. Go renewable and go electric

There’s now a vast diversity of electric products that can save customers money over the long term while also diminishing greenhouse gas emissions.

New electric vehicle models are coming out every year.

Home heat pumps use modern technology to save money and power use over old-fashioned furnaces and boilers. So tell your electric company to produce power with alternative sources, and then use that to cleanly fuel your lower-emissions life.

3. Plant trees

That simple act, done collectively, can significantly reduce carbon dioxide in our atmosphere while creating beautiful places for people. And you don’t need big tracts of land to do it.

Around the world, communities are coming together to plant “tiny forests.”

Based on forest management methods developed by Japanese botanist Dr. Akira Miyawaki, these small, fast-growing and dense forests pack a lot of benefits into a compact space.

The areas, some the size of a tennis court, store carbon, soak up water to reduce flooding, attract wildlife, reduce dust, improve air quality and cut noise pollution.

4. Get involved

Join organisations like Scistarter, Zooniverse or Planet Patrol and become a citizen scientist.

Team up with neighbours to gather data that will help solve sustainability problems.

Join nonprofits whose work you believe in.

Tell your government representatives that you're an environmental voter, and you're paying attention to how they vote. Heck, run for local office yourself.

It's time to get optimistic about 2021.

We are nearing the end of the window when we can pull our world back from feeling the worst climate change impacts and public health risks.

Fortunately, politics, science, and people are aligning to rise to the challenges we face. This is the year when individual action—specifically your effort—can translate into real change.

Dr. Deborah Brosnan is an expert scientist, environmental entrepreneur, and a marine resilience specialist. She has over 25 years' experience in environmental risk reduction and problem solving across government, civil and private sectors in the US and internationally.

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