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Understanding climate change policy: A beginner's guide

Reusable straw, check. Reusable bag, check. Compostable phone case, check. Meatless meals, check. Political action...sorry, what?

Listen, I get it. As a shy, self-doubting, self-critical person, political action felt daunting. Besides, I'm already doing so much in my every day life to combat climate change. Isn't that enough?

Personal action is nothing to scoff at. By altering our purchasing decisions, we hit top polluters where it hurts (their pocket books). It decreases plastic in landfills, oceans, and streets. Personal action is important. So important, in fact, that it's on the list!

But it's only part of the picture. Green (like, actually green) companies make up a tiny, niche portion of the market. To combat climate change, we need federal regulations that will make the "bad guys" a little less, well, bad!

Climate change policy refers to the set of actions, regulations, and strategies that governments at various levels (local, regional, national, and international) put in place to address the issue of climate change. Climate change is primarily driven by the accumulation of greenhouse gases (GHGs) in the Earth's atmosphere, mainly from human activities like burning fossil fuels, deforestation, and industrial processes. To combat climate change, governments need to know that we want policies to mitigate GHG emissions and adapt to the impacts of a changing climate.

Here are the basics of climate change policy and how you can engage with government initiatives at various levels.

Mitigation and Adaptation:

  • Mitigation: This involves efforts to reduce GHG emissions. Policies can include setting emission reduction targets, promoting renewable energy, improving energy efficiency, and implementing carbon pricing mechanisms like carbon taxes or Carbon Border Adjustment Mechanisms (CBAMs).

  • Adaptation: This focuses on preparing communities, infrastructure, and ecosystems for the impacts of climate change, such as rising sea levels, extreme weather events, and changing precipitation patterns. Adaptation policies include building resilient infrastructure, protecting coastal areas, and developing early warning systems.

International Agreements:

Governments often participate in international agreements like the Paris Agreement, where they commit to specific GHG reduction targets and cooperate to limit global warming. Individuals can support these agreements by advocating for their country's active participation and adherence to its commitments.

National and Regional Initiatives:

At the national and regional levels, governments develop and implement climate policies tailored to their specific circumstances. Individuals can engage in these initiatives by:

  • Voting: Electing leaders who prioritize climate action.

  • Advocacy: Joining or supporting environmental organizations and participating in advocacy campaigns to influence policymakers.

  • Public Participation: Attending public hearings, town hall meetings, and submitting comments on climate-related policies to ensure that the public's concerns are considered.

  • Supporting Renewable Energy: Installing solar panels, using electric vehicles, and reducing personal carbon footprints.

Local and Community Engagement:

Many climate policies are enacted at the local level. Individuals can engage with these initiatives by:

  • Community Organizing: Participating in local climate action groups or starting one in your community.

  • Energy Efficiency: Supporting and adopting energy-efficient practices in homes and businesses.

  • Sustainable Transportation: Promoting and using public transportation, biking, or carpooling.

  • Green Spaces: Advocating for and participating in tree planting and urban green space projects.

Educate Yourself and Others:

Stay informed about climate science, policy developments, and local initiatives. Share your knowledge with friends and family to raise awareness and promote collective action.

Economic Choices:

Support businesses and products that prioritize sustainability and reduce carbon emissions. Your consumer choices can influence corporate behavior.

Engage with Elected Officials:

Contact your elected officials at all levels of government to express your views on climate change. Be clear about your concerns and expectations regarding climate policies.

Lobby for Change:

Organize or participate in lobby days or campaigns to directly advocate for specific climate policies with your elected representatives. I recommend checking out Citizen's Climate Lobby.

Participate in Research and Innovation:

Support and engage in scientific research, innovation, and technology development aimed at addressing climate change challenges.

There are soooo many ways to get politically active whether you feel up to political lobbying or working up to it. No action is too small.

I hope you have the best day ever,


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