Actions You Can Take to Tackle Climate Change

In August, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released the Sixth Assessment Report, detailing the latest scientific understanding of “the current state of the climate, including how it is changing and the role of human influence, and the state of knowledge about possible climate futures, climate information relevant to regions and sectors, and limiting human-induced climate change.”

Here’s a quick summary:

  • Climate change is bad, and it’s going to keep getting worse
  • Human activity is unequivocally causing and worsening climate change
  • Weather extremes will continue to increase in frequency and intensity
  • If we don’t reduce emissions to net-zero, and fast, we will render the planet uninhabitable for countless species, including ourselves
UN secretary-general António Guterres summarized it perfectly: This is “code red for humanity.”

Chances are, this report made you feel anxious, depressed, scared, angry, panicked, hopeless, and numb. I felt all of these emotions to my core, after having clung to naive optimism the last couple of years that maybe Covid-19 shutdowns were enough to get us on the right track, or maybe enough world leaders would finally recognize the urgency of this crisis and act accordingly.

Alas, neither Covid-19 nor the words of world leaders has resulted in a course shift, and we continue full speed ahead, racing toward impending climate collapse.

In our world of omnipresent crises and the continuing barrage of dire news about climate change, it often feels easier to just go about our days, hoping and praying that some smart scientist somewhere will figure out a way to deal with it in time.

But the reality is that we are out of time, and it’s everyone’s collective responsibility, no matter how small an impact we think we might have. It is more important than ever for us to find ways to stay engaged, rather than losing hope.

Climate responsibility extends far beyond our individual actions, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t do anything. But what? How can we help, when the scale of this problem is so enormous and the reality so depressing? Where do we even start? Our brains are not designed to function in constant survival mode. It’s overwhelming to feel like nothing we do will be enough, knowing it’s nearly impossible to make “responsible” climate choices in our current society.

“Climate anxiety” and “eco-anxiety” are fast becoming household phrases, and not in a good way. The American Psychological Association defines eco-anxiety as “a chronic fear of environmental doom.” The Climate Psychology Alliance notes that “eco-anxiety is an inevitable and even healthy response to the ecological threats we are facing,” and “paying heed to what is happening in our communities and across the globe is a healthier response than turning away in denial or disavowal.” Grist even named climate anxiety the biggest pop culture trend of 2019.

Fortunately, there are some awesome resources and tools that can help you manage climate anxiety, increase your personal resilience, and take the guesswork out of meaningful climate action. I personally use many of these tools to keep myself from slipping into resigned apathy.

There are high-tech and low-tech ways to take care of our hearts and our world. It doesn’t matter which or how many you choose, only that you find something that works for you.

Apps and Tools to Make a DifferencePublic pressure can be an impactful way to drive change. We Don’t Have Time (iOS, Android) is a social network “for everyone who wants to be a part of the solution to the climate crisis.” We Don’t Have Time leverages social media influence to hold politicians, decisionmakers, and companies accountable for climate change. The app connects users directly to companies and organizations to collectively push for more sustainable and climate-friendly behaviors, and it calls out companies for damaging practices. Users can review company initiatives and send climate action suggestions and petitions to decisionmakers. The news tab provides global climate and energy news to keep users informed.

Understanding our own actual impact on climate change can also help us identify behaviors we can change and reduce our climate anxiety.