Another Earth Day has come and gone, and once again the planet is hotter. The latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the U.N. group that provides regular updates on our warming world, is a frightening read—the word “unprecedented” appears with alarming frequency—and scientists and world leaders alike are starting to speak more directly about the threats we all face. As U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres said, “Humanity is on thin ice, and that ice is melting fast. Our world needs climate action on all fronts—everything, everywhere, all at once.” But still, there are some silver linings out there, and I want to focus on positive actions and signs of hope.
To start, I enlisted my most committed climate-aware friend: Dahni-El Giles, my first-year college roommate, who is now Sustainability Advisor at UpRhizer.com and Legal Counsel at Sila Nanotechnologies. For our 20th college reunion, Dahni-El created and facilitated an interactive workshop for Harvard’s class of ’99 entitled “The Optimist’s Guide To The Climate Crisis: How To Do More Than Hope.” It’s something he continues to do for companies and organizations around the world, and I can see why. Using the En-ROADS interactive climate simulator, he had us adjust dozens of policies and behaviors—electrifying transportation, shifting to plant-based diets, etcetera—to see their impact on global temperatures, CO2 emissions, sea level rise, and more. It was a powerful exercise that left me feeling less overwhelmed and more hopeful.
But the biggest takeaway arrived during an email exchange with Giles last week. After I told him I was writing this piece, he noted: “Depending on where we are in our future global warming trajectory, every avoidant tenth of a degree saves millions of human lives from death, and tens of millions of human lives from forced climate migration.” He added, “There’s also tens of millions of animal lives, which are essential to a healthy biosphere. No matter how you look at it, all progress matters!”