In an editorial, Hudson County Improvement Authority Deputy Director of Sustainability and Community Outreach Amanda Neisheiwat explains how climate change impacts every aspect of our lives, including local governments.
The impacts of climate change touch every sector and person on our planet. It is an issue that seems impossible to solve, especially if you do not see the solutions in action.
After working in government and participating at the United Nations for more than a decade, I’ve seen a major shift in the way people speak about climate change…and it gives me hope.
Nearly every large city and company in the world has adopted or will soon adopt emissions reductions goals. Our country has made a historic investment in mitigating climate change and supporting the emergence of new, cleaner technologies.
There is conclusive research showing that reducing our contribution to climate change strengthens our communities and makes businesses resilient, thus satisfying both voters and shareholders.
New Jersey has recently adopted aggressive carbon reduction goals which will ultimately improve our local economy.
Despite these opportunities for hope, there still exists a cynicism that these efforts are pointless. Scientists that spend most of their lives analyzing frightening climate data understand on a molecular level what is a stake.
Despite this, they continue to pursue ways to work alongside governments to preserve humanity. Those in service to others fundamentally understand that humans can solve the problems they create.
Now that most people understand that climate change will impact us, we must address a new climate-related concern. The belief that we are not going to solve climate change.
How a lack of belief impacts local governments
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change recently released another report with an urgent call to action for all sectors, especially policymakers, to do more about reducing our reliance on fossil fuels. This is not just for policy makers at the national level.
Local governments have an important role in solving climate change.
According to a survey by the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication, most people surveyed in New Jersey believe climate change is happening and that it will harm future generations.
This message of concern is not getting from the electorate to our local leaders. There are dozens of incentives, grants, and fiscally responsible funding mechanisms available for climate mitigation and adaptation for communities in New Jersey.
Yet, because they do not hear from their constituents on the issue, some local officials do not feel that it is important enough to talk about climate change as part of their campaign.
We need to believe in our governments enough to urge them to do more, and to make candidates that talk about climate change feel like we have their back.
How a lack of belief impacts our future
As an adjunct professor at Ramapo College, I see young people who are bitter about what they perceive as the lack of action taken by governments and businesses to stop climate change.
They have little belief that governments or businesses care enough to do anything meaningful.
When presented with information about what public and private sectors are doing and how youth can impact this movement towards change, they begin to feel empowered.
Youth are leaders of today AND tomorrow, we need to foster this hope that they can improve their community and refrain from calling a belief in humanity a form of “naivety.”
How a lack of belief impacts everyone
A lack of belief in humanity solving climate change causes us to make decisions that we would otherwise regret. Every day, we are making choices that support organizations that help us build a better future or, alternatively, prevent us from doing so.
Choices like where we purchase our clothing and food and those we vote for (or the choice of not voting at all) have consequences.
If there was a belief that eating unhealthy foods does not impact our overall health, people would continue to eat unhealthy foods.
Similarly, if we continue to believe that climate change is not a problem we can solve, we will continue to make decisions against our best interests.
Believing is a form of action. Believing that we can reduce our reliance on fossil fuels and move towards better and more efficient technologies to save lives, is possible.
Believing we can solve these problems together means we have hope in our future. We are at a major crossroads.
Public perception on solving climate change is improving, but we need more people. I believe we can do it.
Amanda Nesheiwat is a Hudson County Sustainability Professional and Founder and President at Envision Green, LLC.