Climate Change

Why Climate Change Solutions Should Be at the Forefront of Our Minds

April 22, 2022  • Aspen Ideas: Climate

There has never been a more important time to talk about the climate and its effect on the planet we call home. Multiple high-profile reports from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change warned us of what the future could look like if we continued our business-as-usual approach. It is clear that we need collective climate action now.

This is why, in partnership with the city of Miami Beach, the Aspen Institute is hosting Aspen Ideas: Climate, a multi-day gathering focused on global and local solutions to the climate crisis. Before we head to Miami Beach, we interviewed five Aspen policy program directors who will be joining us on the collective ‘why’ for an event like this and what they hope the audience will learn.

What session will you be moderating at Aspen Ideas: Climate and why does it matter?

I will be moderating a discussion centering Indigenous truth, ideas, and knowledge that are rooted in and intersect with our climate and our world. As the original caretakers of this land, Indigenous Peoples retain the evolutionary knowledge of our lands, waterways, and environment, and we have seen, for generations, the changes and destruction that have taken place. Furthermore, Indigenous Peoples have often been disproportionately impacted by climate change with little to no agency in addressing the crisis. Effective Indigenous solutions and practices, that have been used since time immemorial, need to be heard and utilized to protect the earth and environment that sustain us each day. I am looking forward to sharing the stage with two Native youth from the Center for Native American Youth’s Advisory Board, Owen Oliver and Charitie Ropati.

Nikki Pitre, executive director of the Center for Native American Youth

I will be moderating a session titled ‘Big Ideas from the Frontlines’ focused on showcasing global solutions to help us cope with extreme weather related to climate change. We will hear from a dynamic Indian woman entrepreneur focused on business solutions for food security for Indian farmers affected by drought; a U.S. based disability rights activist; a renewable energy expert delivering resilient solar power in hurricane-affected Caribbean islands, and the former Minister of National Planning and Economic Policy for Costa Rica.

Around the world countries and communities are being affected by intense wildfires, by flooding, by the effects of drought, and hurricanes. Human-caused climate change is intensifying devastating weather extremes, particularly heat waves, rainfall, drought, and hurricanes, and will make them even worse in the coming decades according to the IPCC.

So, in the face of worsening extreme weather events across much of the world, how we build resilient communities, supply chains, and infrastructure across policy and practice is, therefore, an urgent key question for us all.  How do we also guarantee that coping measures are just and inclusive?  These are some of the challenging questions that we will be addressing in the panel.

Richenda van Leeuwen, executive director of the Aspen Network for Development Entrepreneurs

As the climate crisis deepens and affects more people around the globe, news media coverage becomes increasingly essential. Yet too often, stories of a changing climate are still relegated to niche reporting, rather than an essential throughline across every aspect of coverage—from the economy to politics to health.

The good news is this is slowly beginning to change. According to the Media and Climate Change Observatory at the University of Colorado, ‘Media attention to climate change or global warming in August 2021 was the highest level of coverage [in] nearly 12 years.’ Major news organizations like The Washington Post, The New York Times, and The Guardian are taking a broader, bolder approach to their reporting and expanding their teams and work. And groups like Climate Central provide science, data, and other reporting to news outlets at the community level. But it is not nearly enough.

During Aspen Ideas: Climate, we will have the rare opportunity to host dozens of scientists, climate experts, community advocates, and government officials in one place to discuss nearly every possible solution to help address climate change. At the media roundtable, I will be convening climate journalists from the Atlantic, Covering Climate Now, Grist, the Miami Herald, National Geographic, NBC News, Telemundo, Time, and others to discuss how the fourth estate needs to better inform the public of one of the biggest ongoing crises of our time.

Vivian Schiller, executive director of Aspen Digital

During Aspen Ideas: Climate, I will moderate a dynamic panel that includes Paula Daniel, co-founder and chair of the Center for Good Food Purchasing; Sam Schimmel, a St. Lawrence Island Siberian Yupik and Kenaitze Indian appointed to the State of Alaska’s Climate Action Leadership Team; and Devita Davison, Executive Director of FoodLab Detroit. Together they will share how they are reinventing our food systems with local, climate-smart, and scalable solutions that give every person the option to eat well for themselves and the planet.

Corby Kummer, executive director of Food & Society

What is one thing you wished everyone knew about the potential solutions to climate change?

Before understanding potential solutions, everyone needs to understand what climate change is and what is really happening to our world. We need better access to education in our schools, and communities to raise awareness and depoliticize the reality of our changing world.

Solutions need to be rooted in Indigenous ways of knowing. The reality is, too often the conversation and philanthropic investment in environmental justice and climate change leaves out Indigenous and Native voices. This misstep perpetuates a colonial narrative that disregards ancestral ways of knowing and the erasure of the first caretakers of this land. Solutions that lack a cultural lens continue to promote systems failure. Our nation is witnessing a loss of access to traditional hunting and fishing grounds, an inability to grow traditional crops, disruption to sacred sites, and a lack of green spaces. Many policies affecting Native people are done in the name of conservation, without considering the cultural impact.

In a rapidly changing world, we have a collective responsibility to ensure that traditional forms of ecological knowledge are not only respected but utilized and preserved. It is imperative to include Indigenous voices and to recognize that traditional knowledge systems have existed since time immemorial and can be solutions to our most pressing climate issues.

Nikki Pitre, executive director of the Center for Native American Youth

The small business sector represents 80-90% of businesses around the world, contributing around 40% of GDP in most developing economies. Yet the role of small businesses as solution providers is often neglected in global conversations on climate action. Small businesses deliver innovative green solutions in local markets across many sectors of the economy, not only in clean energy. They are key to climate adaptation and building local resilience and need the attention of governments when talking about Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) and National Adaptation implementation roadmaps and the private sector.  They—and the intermediary ecosystem of incubators, accelerators, and entrepreneurship support organizations—need more attention from policymakers combined with adequate financing in order to help countries meet their own climate targets. This is a key area of focus for our work at the Aspen Network of Development Entrepreneurs in developing countries.

Richenda van Leeuwen, executive director of the Aspen Network for Development Entrepreneurs

The ability to tell stories of the communities around the world who are directly impacted by the dramatic effects of the climate crisis is key to changing the hearts and minds of those not on the frontlines. Equally important is local news coverage of the multitude of ways our own towns and “backyards” are bearing the impacts every day. Media is an incredibly powerful tool for sparking action. We need newsrooms to take the mandate of informing the public seriously and create space at every news desk for a climate reporter. Every news outlet should publish a story on climate change every day. Helping to inform the public on this issue is paramount to our survival as a species. Our newsrooms can and must play a vital role in people’s ability to understand what is happening in the communities around us and around the world.

Vivian Schiller, executive director of Aspen Digital

Small businesses deliver innovative green solutions in local markets across many sectors of the economy. They are key to climate adaptation and building local resilience.

Climate change has real-world, immediate impacts on farmers that ripple all the way through the food system to consumers. Nearly 40 million Americans are food insecure—many in food deserts without access to affordable or nutritious food—and yet this same failing system is pumping nearly one-third of our greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere.

In our existing industrialized food system, we are reaping what we sow. Droughts, wildfires, and increasingly violent storm patterns, not to mention rising fuel costs and the reliance on fertilizers and pesticides, squeeze already slim profit margins. Consumers not only foot a higher bill, but food pantries struggle to serve vulnerable communities. There is also compelling Food is Medicine evidence that we are eating less nutritionally dense food that contributes to the onset of chronic illness crippling our healthcare system. If we get down to the grassroots of the matter, regenerative farming practices and a greater reliance on locally-based agriculture and food systems, could we start turning around climate change for the better?

Corby Kummer, executive director of Food & Society

One of the most important things to know about the potential solutions to climate change is that they are broader and more complex than we typically imagine. Most often, conversations around climate change solutions focus on solar panels on roofs of houses, wind turbines, and electric vehicles. But those more commonly thought solutions are only a small piece of the larger puzzle needed to solve the climate crisis.

As understanding of the climate crisis continues to grow, the ways in which we can build resilient communities—as well as the ways we can mitigate climate change—are growing as well. During Aspen Ideas: Climate, we will hear from experts across industries and from around the globe on the many ways we can ensure a just energy transition, one that limits our reliance on carbon-emitting fuels and ensures affordable access to energy for communities that have been systematically excluded from conversations about energy infrastructure. We will learn how the vastness of the ocean could be a climate change hero. And we will see how communities like Miami Beach have already taken significant steps toward resiliency as a rising sea, extreme weather, and extreme heat threaten people around the world.

And as my colleagues have noted, inclusive solutions will be central to our success. From harnessing the power of small business entrepreneurs to amplifying Indigenous and Native voices to telling climate and environment stories differently, the work we do at the Aspen Institute shows how climate change intersects with every aspect of society. That is something that will be front and center during Aspen Ideas: Climate.

Importantly, every solution we can imagine, actualize, and implement can contribute to both solving climate change and creating new industries. Jobs and financial security for millions of people have always been a political talking point on both sides of the aisle. Coming together and listening to the plethora of climate change solutions and creating new pathways for millions of people to participate can and should be a bipartisan effort. The latest IPCC reports have stated quite clearly that we have reached a new point in the fight to protect our planet, but our collective plan of action hasn’t done the same. It’s time for that to change and Aspen Ideas: Climate will be an event that can help us do just that.

Greg Gershuny, executive director of the Energy and Environment Program

You can register for the Aspen Ideas: Climate here

Climate Change
We Can All Join the Climate Fight
January 5, 2022 • Greg Gershuny & 1 more