Unless your head has been in the sand this month, you know about the new IPCC report focused on what it will take to stop warming at 1.5 degrees Celsius. And, importantly, on how much it will matter to stop there rather than rise by 2 degrees C, the “standard” target; by 3 degrees C, where the Paris goals could take the world by 2100; or by 4 degrees C, where our current trajectory is heading, again by 2100. Let’s not even think about a rise of more than that, except for Mark Lynas’s powerful 2008 book Six Degrees: Our Future on a Hotter Planet.

The warning is sharp. As one UN representative so vividly said, it is like “a deafening, piercing smoke alarm going off in the kitchen.”

But of course we have been warned before, and yet here we still are. And it’s not just because of large-scale inertia, power, greed, and bad-faith disinformation. It’s also because not enough of us have thrown ourselves into the fight.

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Why not? In “We Were Warned” (2017), novelist Anthony Doerr writes about his own response to one major warning in terms many can probably relate to: “Hour by hour, minute by minute, I make decisions that seem like the right things to do at the time, but which prevent me from reflecting on the most significant, most critical fact in my life: Every day I participate in a system that is weaponizing our big, gorgeous planet against our kids.”

So what should we do? What actions have the best chance of making a real difference, a difference at a larger scale than our own personal carbon footprints? This excellent, short list from Neil Leary, director of the Center for Sustainability Education at Dickinson College, is a great place to start. Also, here is my own overlapping list of suggestions.


This series is curated and written by retired Colorado State University English professor and close climate change watcher SueEllen Campbell of Colorado. To flag works you think warrant attention, send an e-mail to ICYMI@yaleclimateconnections.org any time. Let us hear from you.

SueEllen Campbell

SueEllen Campbell created and for over a decade curated the website "100 Views of Climate Change," a multidisciplinary collection of pieces accessible to interested non-specialists. She is especially interested...