Climate Literacy

December 16, 2015
By: Peter Johnson, Education Ambassador

A Closing Window for Climate Action

It was hard to transition back to being a middle school teacher after having a week with my mind focused on the global-scale problem of climate change. Back in my classroom this week, my students were receptive to the summary I provided of the deal that was struck at COP21. I told them that it was a much better deal than most people expected, but then had to remind them that the current emissions pledges still warm the Earth up by 3ºC. It was the big first step we needed, but after twenty years of inaction, we need more than just one step. What we do in the next 20 years matters, in a big way. Reading Bill McKibbon’s article, “Climate deal: the pistol has fired, so why aren’t we running?, underlines that point.

I am so grateful to Climate Generation for putting the Windows into Paris program together, and for selecting me as an Education Ambassador. I am grateful for the hard work of the whole Climate Generation team throughout the two weeks of COP21, both in Paris and in Minnesota. I left Paris with a new worldview, new priorities, and new connections. The roundtables especially connected us with people we never would have had the chance to meet otherwise.

On a personal note, I recognize that traveling to Paris cost a good amount of carbon. I plan to offset all of the carbon emitted on this trip by several means. I am confident that the awareness I will raise, the commitments I have made, and my new connections will bear “pollution-reducing” fruit in the future. Together, I believe all of these things will make this my trip a net gain for the environment many times over, though I acknowledge it did cost carbon. I have long invested in reducing my carbon footprint and will continue to consider each bit of carbon for which I am responsible.

This Paris climate conference has far exceeded all of my expectations. I was able to effectively and proudly represent my students, by presenting their words to President Obama’s Science Advisor; I reported to them first-hand and via webcast from the area where the big decisions were being made. I believe that my future students will benefit from the numerous connections I have made with individuals around the world. I have so many opportunities to follow up on that I will need weeks to sort them all through.

Reflecting back on the past week, I can also say that my own interest in this issue has expanded. I will be making many personal decisions to further reduce my carbon footprint, and also plan to engage in local government to advocate for pollution reduction policies. I went to this conference because I want my twin boys to inherit a world that is spared from dealing with the climate impacts that the science is warning us about. I come back knowing much more about the urgency in the call to climate action and the extraordinarily important time that we live in. We have a window to get ahead of catastrophic climate change, but that window is closing, fast.