Climate Truth, Justice, and the American Way

09/03/2015 04:11 pm ET Updated Sep 03, 2016

The overwhelming scientific consensus is that humans are warming our planet by burning fossil fuels and cutting down trees. 97% of climate scientists agree about this. But the agreement doesn't stop there; the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) also went to a lot of effort to create equally strong reports about who will be hurt worst, and it turns out, climate impacts are not distributed equally across all of humanity. Climate change is being caused by the richest humans and the impacts will be borne largely by the poorest. This, of course, is not news to anyone thinking about it for a minute, especially those of us who recently marked the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina's landfall with grim remembrance of some of the disparities in who is most vulnerable during and after disasters.

Unlike Pope Francis, who eloquently casts climate change as a moral battle, a matter of justice for the poor, in his recent encyclical, Laudato Si, the scientific community never actually comes right out and says this is a matter of right and wrong. Instead, the IPCC says things like:

--- which is, arguably, scientist-speak for "this is totally just not fair at all, you guys."

So what are we to do? And must we remain solemnly grim and horrified while doing it?

It's possible I may be biased, because my personal fight for climate justice has led to lots of silliness, laughs, and even wearing a cape from time to time. This is not typical. But our latest video in the Don't Just Sit There - Do Something! series points out that when it comes to climate change, while there really is a right and a wrong course of action, heroes and villians -- we can choose inspiration over despair. It's up to us to become the heroes that we're looking for.

I know that, especially as a U.S. resident who is thankfully not hurting for basic necessities, some climate-friendly changes are easier and faster to make than others. Recently, my family took a big step that was a long time coming, buying a used Chevy Volt. For years, we've known our next car would be electric, and the day finally came. Unsolicited, unsponsored review? It's GREAT, and honestly, the personal benefits far outweigh the peace of mind that I get from knowing my carbon footprint is that much lower. I mean, it's no invisible jet, but driving the Volt is smooth and quiet and really, genuinely fun. Even the 2012 model makes you feel like you live in the future. Or at least, like you live in a future you'd approve of. One that protects not only the weakest among us, but also all future generations.

Personal changes and policy changes (like the recently finalized, historic Clean Power Plan to reduce climate pollution from the U.S. power sector) are what will get us to that better future, for everyone. So let's keep fighting for truth, justice, and a new, clean-energy-based American way.