How to Move from Concern to Action

A study conducted by The Yale Program on Climate Communication has determined that only 21% of all Americans are actively doing something to address Climate Change in their everyday lives, reflecting their concern in the choices they make regarding how they vote, where they buy their food and the transportation they use. The same study also shows that another 30%, (that's over 100 million other Americans), are concerned but are not taking the actions necessary to address the crisis. If a good number of these 100 million Americans come to the realization that this crisis is the most serious threat to the human race since the Second World War, and that their actions will make a difference to the outcome, I believe we can get global warming under control by 2050. This idea is the premise behind In Our Hands.

Many people ask me what they can really do to make a difference. My first suggestion is to start looking at your current actions through a new lens. Become aware of the actions you are unconsciously taking in your every day life that are adding to the problem, and then choose among the numerous possible actions you could easily take to help solve the problem.

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Playing your part to solve this crisis can be both easy and rewarding. And opportunities abound. For example, in your personal life you can simply start voting for candidates who have shown a commitment to reducing the use of fossil fuels, building resilience to the potential ravages of climate change and/or dealing with the water and agricultural land issues that are at the heart of the sustainability crisis. Here are a few more examples of actions you can take in your personal life:

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When people ask “but what can I do?” they are usually thinking about actions in their personal lives. But there are also many activities in one's community to choose from. For example, you could invite six or so friends to join you in a Climate Action and Discussion Group to discuss the ideas in In Our Hands. Depending on the interests of the group you could delve into some of the 180 TED talks, documentary films and books that are referenced in chapter 6 (links to these resources can be accessed by one click in the Kindle or iBook versions of the book). The group might then choose actions to work on together. In essence you’d be creating a book club which not only discusses an interesting topic but takes meaningful actions as well. For many people, collaborating as a group can be far more satisfying and enjoyable than working alone. Email me at Wilford@WilfordWelch.com and I’d be delighted to help you get going. Here are a few more actions you can take in your community:

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Among the community related actions outlined in the above image is one of my favorites, and one of the most powerful: Work with local authorities to require that your utility company give you the option to get a portion or all of your electricity from renewable energy sources, such as solar or wind. Pacific Gas and Electric Company supplies our electricity here in the Bay Area. We pay about $10 more a month to have 100% of our electricity come from renewable energy sources. As the demand for renewable energy sources goes up, that option will soon cost you no more than having your electricity come from the fossil fuels which will destroy the lives of your grandchildren.

There may also be opportunities for you to make a difference at your place of work. Businesses have to listen to their employees as well as their customers and their investors if they are to survive and prosper. Why not become an “intrapreneur” and make constructive suggestions about how your company might reduce its electricity usage or shift from fossil fuels to solar or wind. If you identify actions your company can take that will not only save the planet but also save them money, they will be more likely to take action - and reward you as well! Here are a few more examples of actions you can take at work:

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Interview with Colleen Bidwill of Marin IJ

Click here to read the full interview!

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While on a trip to Ethiopia, Wilford Welch saw firsthand the effects of climate change. This profound experience led the Sausalito resident to write “In Our Hands,” his recent book on how everyday people can help solve the climate crisis.

For more than five decades, Welch, 80, has explored the driving forces impacting our world. After getting a law degree from the University of California at Berkeley, he became a U.S. diplomat in Asia. He left to work for Arthur D. Little as an economic development and business consultant for nearly a decade, before becoming the publisher of the World Paper, a world affairs publication that appeared in more than 20 countries. (Click here to continue reading).

The Six Americas - Who is Paying Attention to the Global Warming Crisis and Who is Not? 

The Yale Program on Climate Change Communication has been tracking the views of the U.S. population on the issue of Global Warming since 2008. The good news is that 21% of the population are now “alarmed” and are working to address the problem on a regular basis. But that is clearly not enough despite the fact that the “Theory of Change”, a well researched piece of social science, states that it usually only takes a committed 10% of the population to drive policy. (Think U.S. - Cuba foreign policy).

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I have spent the past two years researching and writing the most accurate and concise book I could to inspire those 30%—who say they are “concerned” about global warming but are, in reality, doing very little to address the problem—to finally focus and take serious action. 30% of the population is 100,000,000 people! And that number is far more than enough to get the United States to do its part to overcome political and industry headwinds and effectively address this crisis before it is too late. We are not victims. We have choice. The future is literally “in our hands.”

If all the efforts now underway to galvanize Americans to take action are successful, there is a high probability that we will keep global warming somewhere between 2 and 3 degrees below pre-industrial levels. But we must all row together in the same direction and at a far faster pace - not as depicted in this illustration from In Our Hands.

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The Crisis We Avoid Paying Attention to and Why We Avoid Paying Attention to it.

I found the New York Times’ Sunday magazine article on August 1, 2018 deeply disturbing - but not surprising. It spelled out how the world ignored the scientific consensus reached between 1979 and 1989 that we had to curb the use of fossil fuels or face the following consequences which I summarize below:

  • If, by a miracle, we were able to limit global warming by 2 degrees centigrade above pre-industrial levels, the sea would rise several meters and the Persian Gulf would have to be abandoned.

  • If limited to only 3 degrees, most coastal cities around the world would be lost. 

  • If limited to 4 degrees, Europe would be in permanent drought, vast areas of China, India and Bangladesh would be claimed by desert, the Colorado river would be down to a trickle and the American Southwest would become largely uninhabitable.

  • If global warming ever reached 5 degrees above preindustrial levels, it would possibly result in the end of humanity.

Wouldn’t you think such news would have galvanized all of humanity then—and certainly by now—to take action to save itself? 

Cleary this did not happen. And here we are today, still arguing over whether global warming and climate change exist and not coming close to doing enough to keep global warming under 3 degrees. United National Secretary General Antonio Guterres stated on September 10, 2018 that “Climate change is the defining issue of our time …. and that country targets so far would achieve only one-third of the global target”.

 What’s going on? 

For starters, emotions rather than scientific facts or logic drive more than 80% of decision making. That’s a general explanation. For a deeper dive into what might be affecting our decision making on this issue, I have found Per Espen Stoknes’ book What We Think About When We Try Not To Think About Global Warming a remarkable assessmentIf this topic perks your interest, I urge you to buy the book and make up your own mind - based hopefully on logic rather than on your emotions.

Here is the link to the New York Times magazine article:

 www.nytimes.com/interactive/2018/08/01/magazine/climate-change-losing-earth