How can you be part of big bold action on climate?
When President Joe Biden recommitted the United States to the Paris Agreement on his first day in office, it sent the message that, finally, climate change action is one of the top issues on the national priority list. And while rejoining this commitment of some 190 countries to limit global warming to less than 2 degrees Celsius doesn’t by itself guarantee we’ll decarbonize sufficiently, it represents the kind of large-scale action that’s needed to have any hope of getting there.
As the world’s second-highest emitter of greenhouse gases behind China, the United States released more than 5.9 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere in 2018, according to the EPA — some 15% of global emissions. Although that represents a decline from the mid-2000s peak, we still have a long way to go to achieve carbon neutrality.
Despite renewed federal momentum, it’s not the time to sit on the sidelines. How can you be part of big bold action on climate? Here are some ideas:
#1 Support nonprofits that tackle national climate policy or other movement-building efforts.
Founded by pro snowboarder Jeremy Jones, Protect Our Winters (POW) rallies outdoor enthusiasts, athletes, and the outdoor business community to push for climate legislation on the state and federal levels. Named after the target for the safe concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere (350 parts per million), 350.org is an international organization that works through national, state, and even local groups (there’s a 350 in the Roaring Fork Valley as well as a community-specific divestment campaign, Fossil Free) to end the fossil-fuel era with a fast, just transition to renewables. The Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal campaign organizes grassroots activists around the country to speak out on replacing coal-fired power plants with clean energy alternatives. You can join the action by signing up to receive updates and calls to action, volunteering, and/or donating to these worthy groups.
#2 Push elected officials to take climate action.
The Aspen Skiing Company’s Give a Flake website offers some quick and easy social media tools to express your thoughts to elected officials. POW makes it simple to email your representatives with campaigns on timely issues, including plenty of background information to help inform your message. Or, put your elected officials’ phone numbers on speed dial and send them your personalized thoughts.
#3 Pay attention to your local utility.
As the costs and benefits of solar, wind, biomass, and hydropower become more and more attractive, many utilities are making major impacts on reducing emissions in their service areas. In fact, some of the most progressive action is happening in the Roaring Fork Valley. Regional electric cooperative Holy Cross Energy recently announced its goal to provide 100% renewable energy by 2030 — well ahead of schedule and a milestone the City of Aspen’s electric utility reached in 2015 and the City of Glenwood Springs electric utility reached in 2019. If your utility is member-owned, like Holy Cross, make sure to vote in board elections for the candidates that are most dedicated to clean-energy goals.
The good news is, in the absence of federal action on climate change in the last four years, momentum has been building strongly on the regional, state, and local levels. In 2019, for example, Colorado Governor Jared Polis announced a roadmap to 100% clean energy by 2040 — joining eight other states shooting for that level of renewables. More recently, Polis’s administration unveiled a plan to transition the state’s transportation system to zero-emission vehicles.
It’s an exciting time to be involved in climate action: The possibilities for big, bold action are huge — albeit on a tight timeframe. (For a comprehensive analysis of where the US stands in relation to Paris Agreement goals, check out this Climate Action Tracker). Decarbonization will take not just a village but a globe — and everyone can play a part.