How People are Taking Climate Change Action

Gina-Marie Cheeseman

People are getting fed up. As governments dally in the face of advancing climate change, individuals, cities and towns, and entire industries are pushing back against climate change inaction

Climate change is wreaking havoc. Bushfires in Australia are raging across four states. As of writing, 27 people have died. Three intense hurricanes in 2019 caused billions of dollars worth of damage in the Bahamas, Mexico, and the U.S.

Not everyone is burying their proverbial heads in the sand. Take 16-year-old Greta Thunberg who staged school strikes that spread around the globe and caused millions of people to take part in protests. As a result, 2019 can be called the year of climate change protests.

Three weeks ago, climate protestors took to the streets in Washington, D.C. The protest lasted for more than seven hours. Some protestors chained themselves to the door of a branch of Wells Fargo Bank for two hours. In November, activists staged a hunger strike in the office of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

When all else fails, turn to the courts

Some activists are filing lawsuits to force climate action. The Urgenda Foundation, a Dutch environmental group, filed a lawsuit against the Dutch government to force it to do more to reduce greenhouse emissions. The court in The Hague ruled that the government must limit emissions to 25 percent below 1990 levels by 2020. The EU-wide objective is only 20 percent. The government had pledged to reduce emissions by 17 percent. The court concluded that the government had a duty to take climate change action because of the “severity of the consequences of climate change and the great risk of climate change occurring.”

The Dutch government appealed the decision. On December 20, 2019, the Supreme Court of the Netherlands in The Hague upheld the decision. The court stated in its summary that “there is a great deal of consensus in science and the international community about the urgent need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by at least 25 percent by developed countries by the end of 2020.”

Turning skiers into climate activists

Outdoor enthusiasts such as avid skiers have a stake in climate change. Several reports show that the ski season is shrinking. A 2018 report found that the number of days “that can support snowfall are expected to decrease, and ski resort towns could lose valuable tourism traffic” because of climate change. The winter recreation season across the U.S. will shrink, with “virtually all locations are projected to see reductions in winter recreation season lengths, exceeding 50% by 2050 and 80% in 2090 for some downhill skiing locations,” according to a 2017 report.

Major ski companies are trying to turn their customers into activists. About 10 million skiers made around 59 million visits to resorts in the U.S. last winter. Auden Schendler of Aspen Ski Co. said that the way to mobilize the ski community is to “weaponize the outdoor community as a political movement.” Some examples of educating skiers to turn them into activists are the educational programs visitors to the Snowbird resort in Utah or the Killington Ski resort in Vermont can expect to see, including one to protect the environment. 

Cities and towns are taking action

While the U.S. government is not taking action on climate change, cities and towns across the country are doing their part. Whether small or big, the nation’s cities are grasping the urgency of climate change action. One such town is Crested Butte, Colorado which has a goal to be zero emissions that is powered by 100 percent renewable energy by 2030. The town has a population of just 1,643.

New York, the most populous city in the nation, has a plan called 1.5 Climate Action Plan. The name of the plan refers to limiting temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius. The city is committed to reducing its greenhouse gas emissions by 80 percent by 2050, compared to 2005 levels.