Climate change is the most urgent sustainability challenge of our time. It threatens to disrupt our economy, our national security, our ecosystems, and is predicted to make existing racial and economic disparities worse. 97% of climate scientists actively publishing in the field agree that man-made climate change is happening, but it has taken a long time for the rest of society to come to terms with that reality. This week, outlets from The Economist to CBS to PublicSource are covering climate change, looking towards the Sept. 23 Climate Action Summit at the U.N. And, led by youth around the world and here in Pittsburgh, massive public action will make the reality hard to forget. It’s the story of the month, and a critical chapter in the story of humanity.
The truth is that climate impacts are already being felt, not just across the world (or in Houston, TX, flooded again this week by another massive storm fueled by increasing ocean heat). We are also feeling the impacts to our quality of life here in Western Pennsylvania. Climate change has resulted in life-threatening heat waves, increasing rainfall leading to flooding, mold and ensuing respiratory problems, and, among other things, massive increases in cases of Lyme disease spread by ticks that are increasingly finding our climate welcoming. Warmer temperatures also increase the formation of ground-level ozone, exacerbating our long-term challenges with air pollution.
Whether you are able to join the strikes today or not, the data are clear. The realities of climate change are not a matter of partisan identity or station in life. All of us inhabit the same warming world and realistic, ambitious leadership is needed, in all sectors.
So what does climate action look like? It looks like supporting policies that encourage our renewable energy and energy efficiency industries, already responsible for more than 90,000 jobs, and which can unlock tens of thousands more jobs for Pennsylvania. Climate action looks like creating new standards for how we make and use goods, energy, and food. Climate action looks like building the resiliency of our communities so that they can survive under pressure and thrive in years to come, and incorporating the tenets of sustainable economic development already benefiting a number of our communities.
Regionally, here in Western Pennsylvania, the climate conversation is just beginning in many ways. At Sustainable Pittsburgh, we believe that finding a path to build a society that can sustain itself into the future and protect its children should be a shared goal.
Most people don’t yet perceive a social pressure around climate change, meaning that for most of us, action on climate change doesn’t feel important to friends and family and few see others taking action. Hopefully, this week will begin to change that perception, and be a step closer to creating a new reality.
Volunteering with local nonprofits, contacting your elected officials, and having conversations with friends, family members and strangers are just a few ways that we can advance a more sustainable and just future for all.