Perspective: The Most Important Thing You Can Do About Climate Change

Jan 22, 2020


It continues unabated. The past 5 years were the hottest on record -- again. Australia is on fire and ice is melting at both poles. Meanwhile, despite having solar panels and buying carbon offsets my carbon footprint is still awful. I recently returned from a luxury cruise to Antarctica, a far cry from my usual Antarctic research expedition.

Unlike the paying customers I was there to talk about a rapidly changing Antarctica driving rising sea level, a dramatic manifestation of the climate crisis. As a scientist and educator, my objective was to raise awareness among wealthy and influential people of what must be done, and the consequences of endless delay.

A guest asks me, “what can I do? I recycle. I drive a Tesla, I avoid plastics, but do these things really make a difference?”  I have to be honest. In the face of such a global crisis individual acts have little impact. Personal righteousness is important, but real progress on a global problem calls for bigger solutions.

Really halting the rise and reversing CO2 emissions calls for major and global shifts in energy infrastructure. Not cheap, but the cost of doing nothing is far higher. So, first principles, what individuals can do right now that can have a genuine impact is to work hard to convince politicians and industrialists to quit coal and tar-sand oil, modernize the infrastructure, incentivize and promote zero carbon technologies and support research into promising but as yet unavailable technologies. Let’s get to work. 

I’m Reed Scherer. My perspective is frustrated but clinging to optimism.