Can the climate change fight be won? And if so, what climate leadership steps must we take to grow an army of supporters willing to take action? To access necessary resources and create a strategic plan that offers hope and solutions to a complex problem? To change things for the better? It is not easy, but there are proven models for change. My favorite is Dr. John Kotter’s Eight Steps of Change. I’ve successfully used Kotter’s model in implementing educational change, and it certainly can work for fighting climate change.
Step 1: Increase Urgency. People have to feel the urgency, and, in the case of climate change, dread the outcomes if things stay status quo. Are people worried about climate change and willing to take action, or are they too complacent or frightened to act? How do we increase urgency without overwhelming people?
Step 2: Build the Guiding Team. Change requires teamwork. Do you have a team to work with? 350.org? Sierra Club? Climate Reality Project? A local support network? The notion of Spiderman or Superwoman saving the world is a fairy tale. Fighting climate change and the fossil fuel industry requires teamwork, sweat, grit and hard work.
Step 3: Get the Vision Right. Sustained efforts require a destination. A benchmark, capstone, endpoint, something understood by all. What is the vision for fighting climate change? A 2-degree Celsius warmer world? 1.5-degree Celsius? We need to know where we want to be so we know when we’ve gotten there. Stephen Covey captures this concept beautifully in Habit 2: Begin with the end in mind.
Step 4: Communicate for Buy-In. Clear, concise, heart-felt communications are essential. Confusion is the enemy. The fossil fuel industry and climate deniers know this all too well–which is why they sow seeds of doubt in various media. We must be impeccable and impassioned with our words if we hope to have others join us to fight climate change.
Step 5: Empower Action. Obstacles interrupt change through distraction, disorientation, and frustration. Leadership requires being aware of potential barriers and planning accordingly. We cannot afford to lose team members or momentum due to poor logistical planning.
Step 6: Create Short-Term Wins. There’s nothing like success to motivate and uplift. Climate change leaders look for the “low-hanging fruit” and celebrate all successes in the march towards climate restoration. Celebration is essential to sustaining the change effort.
Step 7: Don’t Let Up. Fatigue, frustration, fear, or losing the sense of urgency are hazards in any major change effort. Great leaders know this and fight doubly hard when things get difficult. I used to tell my cross-country ski team that races are won on the uphills and in the last kilometer. The same rule applies for major change efforts.
Step 8: Make Change Stick. When we inevitably win this climate change battle (and we will win), we need to be certain our efforts “stick.” Policies, protocols, culture, habits . . . all need to be put in place that ensure we never, ever place Earth in a tenuous position again.
Fighting climate change will require a global commitment led by millions of leaders at the international, national, state, regional, and local levels. Climate leaders who understand and use effective change models can ease the struggle.
5-Minute Climate Change Mitigation Action Item for the Week:
Winter is approaching and with the falling leaves come falling temperatures. This year, reduce your fuel consumption and carbon footprint by lowering your nighttime temperature to 58 degrees Fahrenheit and daytime temps to 68 degrees Fahrenheit. 58 degrees Fahrenheit sounds chilly, but trust me, a few extra blankets makes all the difference. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, turning your thermostat down 10 degrees Fahrenheit for eight hours will save 10-15% on your heating bills.