The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, an internationally recognized authority on climate science, recently released an alarming report warning that if global warming is not kept to a maximum of 1.5 degrees Celsius within the next twelve years, then even half a degree will significantly worsen the risks of drought, floods, extreme heat, and poverty for hundreds of millions of people. Ninety-one leading climate scientists from 40 countries analyzed more than 6,000 scientific climate-change studies and concluded that we have an extremely short time to transition our economy away from fossil fuels and other carbon pollution as part of a necessary global mobilization in pursuit of a stable climate.

At the same time, the U.S. has been the world’s biggest source of emissions, and the Trump administration has withdrawn the U.S. from the 2015 Paris climate agreement. Yet the report predicts drastic falls in grain yields and food supplies, dramatic shrinking of the economy, six times as many wildfires in the U.S., states of permanent drought, many major cities flooded as Arctic ice sheets melt and sea levels rise, the death of nearly all coral reefs, and other disasters.

What does this mean for how we practice democracy? We encourage you to consider the democratic values of justice for all, the common good, and popular sovereignty as you take the following steps:

  • Consider what changes you can make to reduce your carbon footprint and make a commitment with your family, neighbors, community, and coworkers to do so. Check in regularly with your partners in this effort to make sure you are all meeting your goals. A free carbon footprint calculator (such as those listed below) can help you determine the amount of carbon dioxide and other carbon compounds emitted due to your consumption of fossil fuel.

  • Determine your carbon footprint. Start at home, and see how many friends, neighbors and coworkers you can get involved. Then consider how much travel is required as part of your functioning in the world. Convene a family counsel, neighborhood group, or work group to review what actions you can take to reduce consumption and emissions. Make the necessary changes or recommendations to the appropriate decision-makers. Make sure the group follows up regularly to see how you are doing in meeting your goals.
  • Research the impact of global warming on the area in which you live and work. Visit Climate Central to find out how rising sea levels will impact your state. Find out what, if any, actions your local, state, and federal authorities are planning to address these problems. Consider how you believe a government of the people, by the people, and for the people should address these challenges. Get involved in advocating for the solutions you believe are fair, just, and a reflection of America’s core democratic values.
Habib Todd Boerger in Practicing Democracy at Work