This week in Pittsburgh, about 1300 people are in training to become climate leaders in their communities. That means convincing other people to make changes to their lives. But how? Ken Berlin is the president and CEO of The Climate Reality Project, which works to build public support for addressing climate change. He says it’s about communicating four key messages. The Allegheny Front’s Kara Holsopple asked him about them:
KEN BERLIN: The first is that climate change is real and it’s being caused by humans. The next stage is to show people that climate change is having an impact on them, and it’s not something that’s going to happen 10, 20, 30 years from now. If you’ve seen all the hurricanes and the fires that are taking place in California, the examples out there are getting stronger every day. Third thing, we have to show people, which is the hardest in a way, is that climate change is urgent and therefore they have to make it a priority in how they deal with their politicians and how they try and get things done. And finally, we talk about the solutions. People have to feel that this is going to benefit the economy not harm the economy. We are investing in industries of the past, not industries of the future. The industries we’re talking about going to be trillion dollar a year plus industries to deal with this transition to a clean energy economy. And the cost of renewable energy is getting to be fully competitive with fossil fuel based that energy. And if it’s not now, will soon be — even without any kind of subsidies at all. So the solutions are there. We think people need to understand that and we spend more and more time talking about solutions now.
KARA HOLSOPPLE: The Trump administration has announced scrapping the Clean Power Plan to reduce carbon emissions from power plants which contribute to climate change. It’s announced withdrawing the U.S. from Paris climate agreement. Do those decisions make your work more difficult?
KB: We had to change our strategy because of this. We had to become much more local in the work we were doing, to make progress in reducing carbon emissions at the state level, the city level, the county level, and with the business community, with individuals and their actions. and with energy efficiency in buildings. But not having the federal government on your side doesn’t help, it hurts. So our goal is to make enough progress between now and 2020 and hopefully, at the next election, we will be able to double down and get the kind of emission reductions we need to address this issue.
KH: he vast majority of climate scientists agree that the climate is changing, people are causing it. Do you ever ask yourself you know why do we still have to do this like why aren’t people getting it?
KB: Well I think the reason people aren’t getting it is a very strong counter-narrative that sort of denies what we think are the facts on this. And it’s hard to breakthrough that counter-narrative. We’d rather not be out there, but we’re dedicated to try and changing people’s minds about this or to try and bring people the facts and the evidence on the issue. In the end we have an abiding faith in the American people that they will be able to rise to this and deal with this. Most of the American people want action on this. They just have to make their voice heard.
The Climate Reality Leadership Corps training in Pittsburgh is supported by The Heinz Endowments, which also supports The Allegheny Front.