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Climate solutions are necessary. So we're dedicating a week to highlight them

Wind turbines are seen in Big Spring, Texas. Humans are driving global warming; that means humans can find solutions to change our trajectory.
Brandon Bell
/
Getty Images
Wind turbines are seen in Big Spring, Texas. Humans are driving global warming; that means humans can find solutions to change our trajectory.

Climate change is here. And this week, NPR is doing something new. We're dedicating an entire week to focus on the search for climate solutions, with stories across our network.

Why we're focusing on climate solutions

We've just emerged from a brutal summer. Heat waves across the U.S. and the world. Fires across Canada. In Maui, the deadliest wildfire in the U.S. in a century. Hurricanes. Melting polar ice. Ocean heat waves killing coral. When I talk with people about climate change, I often hear hopelessness. Like we've already lost. People just throw up their hands. What do you say to that?

I'm Julia Simon, NPR's climate solutions reporter. I know that things are bad right now. But what if we reframe the conversation? With climate change, it's not like this is a meteor hurtling toward Earth and there's nothing we can do about it.

Humans are driving global warming. And that means we humans can find solutions to change our trajectory. We already have many solutions.

Now is not the time to back away from the challenge. Robert Bullard, professor of urban planning and environmental policy at Texas Southern University, equates this moment to when the U.S. faced past injustices, like slavery.

"I push back against any individuals or organizations that will say, 'Well, we can't do anything about this challenge.' We can do something about it. But it would mean that we have to make up our minds that this is a challenge that we must address on a societal basis and on a global basis," he says. "We should not and cannot accept climate change as the norm."

How we define climate solutions

Broadly speaking, climate solutions are things that reduce greenhouse gases — like solar and wind energy combined with batteries. Energy efficiency. Land use is key too, like reducing deforestation. Individuals can play a role also — for example, eating less meat.

We should not and cannot accept climate change as the norm.

But we have to remind folks that solutions are not all on individuals. A lot of solutions come down to companies and governments.

For example, last year President Biden signed the Inflation Reduction Act — themost significant piece of climate policy in U.S. history.

Governments can set the agenda for climate policy. We saw this in Brazil; the current president, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, is cracking down on deforestation in the Amazon. Under his predecessor, Jair Bolsonaro, Brazil's deforestation was surging. So some advocates see voting as a powerful climate solution.

Adapting to our warming planet is also a climate solution

We will need to rebuild infrastructure for rising sea levels and new rainfall patterns. Adapting to climate change doesn't mean we're giving up — adaptation is a necessary part of reducing the harms of climate change. Also, planting trees in warming cities provides shade and cools us down. And trees store planet-heating carbon dioxide.

There's a word — "co-benefits." Ways that curbing greenhouse gases might make life better too. If we replace coal- and gas-fired power plants with renewables, we reduce greenhouse gases that warm our planet. But we also end up reducing other kinds of air pollution and make cities better for our lungs. Disadvantaged communities bear the brunt of pollution, so reducing fossil fuels would help communities of color.

There's an equity component to climate solutions

Climate solutions should not be repeating inequities and injustices of the past. As we make more batteries and electric vehicles, for example, how do we ensure that mining for the key metals in those technologies is done ethically? How do we avoid mining that pollutes water or grabbing land from Indigenous communities?

And we have to remember that some individuals and companies are more responsible for climate change than others. So how do we hold them accountable? This summer in Montana, 16 young plaintiffs won a climate lawsuit arguing against the state's development of fossil fuels. Last month, California filed suit against several of the world's biggest oil companies. These cases could have major implications across the United States. Accountability can be a climate solution too.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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Julia Simon
Julia Simon is the Climate Solutions reporter on NPR's Climate Desk. She covers the ways governments, businesses, scientists and everyday people are working to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. She also works to hold corporations, and others, accountable for greenwashing.