Why There's Never Been a Better Time to Combat the Climate Crisis

This is the start of a crucial decade in human history. And while it’s certainly not starting the way we all expected with a global pandemic forcing the world into public health and economic crises, that doesn’t mean we can take our eyes off the climate ball.

In fact, it’s never been more important to focus on the threat of climate change. While bad actors are doing their damnedest to ramp up pollution, there is also an unprecedented opportunity to transform the entire economic system.

And as luck would have it, a recent book lays out a clear blueprint for how to do so. The Future We Choose was published late last month and features insights from Christiana Figueres, the climate negotiator who helped guide the Paris Agreement into existence, and Tom Rivett-Carnac, her senior advisor and partner on a new project called Global Optimism. 

And I have to say, as a crusty and cynical climate journalist (basically the most crusty and cynical profession-subject area combo imaginable), the book actually made me perk up. Because look, there’s a lot of terrible news on the climate front. But wallowing in it as some people (me) are prone to occasionally do doesn’t make you a realist. It makes you (me) an idiot. The Future We Choose lays out concrete steps the world can take to address the climate crisis. But rather than glossing over the nitty-gritty, the book dives right into how you (or again, me) can get involved in fostering the needed structural changes.

Too often, climate change is framed up in a way that makes individual actions seem trivial in the face of structural change. But the reality is the system can’t change if individuals don’t push it to. A canoe left to its own devices will float down a river in the current, but it’s only a matter of time until it capsizes and throws you overboard. That is, unless you grab the oars.

Figueres and Rivett-Carnac talk about how to harness the power of consumer choices while eschewing being a “consumer” in favor of being a “citizen” (that would be action number 4) and how we can contribute to reforesting the planet and righting our relationship with nature (action number 6).

They also highlight three mindsets for how to go about being a part of the change. The one that stuck with me the most is one of being a stubborn optimist, a mindset that acknowledges things might still go sideways for the climate and society, but that it isn’t an excuse to give up trying to stop that from happening.

“You have to believe that you have the wherewithal or that you at least can rely on those around you to help you to attain something that may seem very, very difficult for you to do alone,” Figueres told Earther. “That is the kind of gritty, determined optimism that we need in order to be able to effectively address climate change in a timely fashion.”

The book is basically part self-help, part how-to for saving the planet. And in our current times, that’s honestly just what we need. We just need to make the choice to engage with it.

Brian Kahn