World leaders will soon gather in Paris to discuss a new climate change agreement. COP21, as the talks are known, will aim to keep global warming below 2 degrees Celsius by establishing binding limits on greenhouse gases.
But that alone won’t be enough to combat what President Obama calls the biggest threat to future generations. He and the rest of the world are relying on young people like you to help.
So what can you do? A lot, says Jackson Dougan, a researcher at the Environmental Defense Fund and a former U.N. youth observer.
Put a price tag on climate change
Framing the consequences of climate change in economic terms is a powerful way to get the attention of policymakers and business leaders, Dougan says. A variety of organizations publish data you can use to advocate for action. For example:
- Citigroup estimates that the world will lose up to $44 trillion in GDP by 2060 if it does not act on climate change.
- According to the Risky Business Project, heat waves caused by climate change will cost U.S. farmers tens of billions of dollars in lost crop yields.
- Annual losses from climate-related flooding in Mumbai could reach $6.4 billion by 2050, says a study in Nature Climate Change.
Demonstrating how environmental practices boost companies’ bottom lines also is an effective way to mobilize the private sector to redefine “business as usual.”
Act locally to have a global impact
Addressing climate change can start at home, Dougan adds, if you make more sustainable choices in your own life. Technology can help.
Today’s software can give you energy-efficiency tips based on your usage, while a new generation of inexpensive, portable devices can help you monitor air quality where you live. Green tech has provided alternative transportation options that are good for the environment and your wallet.
Not sure where to start? If you are a university student, you can learn more and meet like-minded people by joining groups active in building sustainable communities. Faith-based organizations offer another way to get involved in climate-related issues.