5 takeaways from our hope and climate change conversation with Katharine Hayhoe

Thursday, April 28, 2022

Estimated reading time: 5 minutes

On April 27, 2022, Sarah Burch, Executive Director at the Interdisciplinary Centre on Climate Change (IC3), spoke with climate scientist Katharine Hayhoe, who The New York Times called “one of the nation's most effective communicators on climate change.” They discussed climate change communications, strategies for individual and collective action, transition inequities, the role of children and youth, and so much more. They also weighed in on what we’re all wondering – is there hope? Here are five highlights from that conversation:

1. We must communicate the risks as well as the solutions.

Emissions over the last 10 years have been the highest they have been in human history. Without immediate and deep action, the goal of limiting warming to no more than 1.5 degrees Celsius is beyond reach. But, for the first time ever, we have evidence that climate solutions are working. The solutions to climate change now exist; we just have to adopt them. These two parts of the conversation are inseparable and must be talked about in tandem.

2. Ordinary people are the only ones who have ever been able to change the course of our world. 

And we must do it again! Now, more than ever, our choices determine the future we want to have. The future is up to us and there is a growing consensus that immediate action is needed.

3. Our actions matter, but even more important is acknowledging how we make a difference.

How our actions influence those around us. As Mother Theresa said, “I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples.” In saying that, we must also acknowledge that individuals are currently locked into high carbon systems that make individual choices expensive/hard. These systems need to change. That’s why voting is so important. And why taking climate action, in whatever way is available to you, is significant because it shows decision makers that you are prioritizing climate action, which should in turn make it a priority for them too.

4. We must talk about the future we are working towards.

Missing from the climate conversation are discussions about what we want our future to look like. What are we working toward? What is the future we are trying to obtain? It is more mobilizing to focus on our vision than the impending doom.

5. Caring for yourself is a climate action.

Be kind to ourselves. Spend time with those you love, what you love and where you love. It will help you keep going in this work.

Sarah and Katharine’s rich conversation led to the conclusion that the future is not guaranteed, but it is up to us! To have hope means coming to terms with the truth of the climate crisis. Once we do, we can identify important opportunities and focus on solutions that can help steer us along a transition to a resilient, low carbon future.

For more details, watch the recording and check out the resources Sarah and Katharine shared below.

Remote video URL
The event was organized by the University of Waterloo’s Interdisciplinary Centre on Climate Change (IC3), Sustainability Office, and Organizational & Human Development with the intention of driving action and reigniting hope on the climate crisis. Thank you to the 200+ attendees for your thoughtful questions and engagement. 



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The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has released the third report for its sixth major assessment of the science of climate change; Climate Change 2022: Mitigation of Climate Change. Sarah Burch, Executive Director at IC3 and professor of Geography and Environmental Management, is a lead author for Chapter 17: Accelerating the transition in the context of sustainable development. Learn more about where we are in terms of our global greenhouse gas emissions and Burch's contributions.