Thinking as if Climate Matters

Stabilizing our climate will require an attitude shift from “me” to “we.”

By Bob Doppelt

Photography by Patrick Montero


Thinking as if Climate MattersIt’s an early spring morning in the year 2035. By midday, the temperature will hit the century mark, so you rise at dawn to get an early start in your garden. The news at breakfast describes extreme droughts, windstorms, and floods occurring across the globe. A reporter says key crops are again collapsing. You hope your garden will survive.

Some climate scientists foresee this unsettling scenario, brought on by the growing amounts of greenhouse gases in Earth’s atmosphere. If we do nothing to dramatically reduce emissions in the next few years, the planet will continue to heat up. Since no one wants this, we must learn how to think and act now to ensure a different future. The first step is to understand why our climate is changing.

Life exists on Earth because a mix of atmospheric gases surrounds it, traps heat, and keeps temperatures at a level favorable to living creatures. The concentration of greenhouse gases in Earth’s atmosphere has now reached 400 parts per million—notably higher than it has been in 3 million years. The extra gases, which include carbon dioxide that scientists have traced to human activities, trap additional heat, leading to more extreme weather and other destructive impacts.

We all contribute to climate disruption through the coal, natural gas, and other fossil-fuel-based energy we use. No one can avoid the negative impacts of climate change, nor can any individual alone resolve the problem. We are in this together.

Only by caring for the collective “we”—which means other people, here and abroad, and the climate and ecological systems that sustain us—will anyone be safe and prosper. Through my work with the Resource Innovation Group, a nonprofit organization that promotes climate solutions, I’ve learned that five commitments can help individuals make choices that reduce their contribution to the climate crisis.