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Follow Science: That's How To Fight Climate Change — And How We Should Be Fighting The Pandemic03:02
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Students participate in the Global Climate Strike march on September 20, 2019 in New York City. (Johannes Eisele/AFP via  via Getty Images)
Students participate in the Global Climate Strike march on September 20, 2019 in New York City. (Johannes Eisele/AFP via via Getty Images)

I sometimes joke that there are three things people ought to know about climate change:

Number one, it’s real.

Number two, man-made emissions caused it.

And number three, that’s why women need to run the world.

That last line always gets a laugh, but the truth is that the challenge before us is deadly serious.

Our country is trapped in a raging pandemic. Millions of Americans are out of work, without enough money to put food on the table. And our nation finally seems willing to confront our legacy of systemic racism.

Hundreds of people line up to receive food and goods distributed by volunteers from the Chelsea Collaborative Inc. outside the Pan Y Cafe in Chelsea, Massachusetts on April 14, 2020. (Joseph Prezioso/ AFP via Getty Images)
Hundreds of people line up to receive food and goods distributed by volunteers from the Chelsea Collaborative Inc. outside the Pan Y Cafe in Chelsea, Massachusetts on April 14, 2020. (Joseph Prezioso/ AFP via Getty Images)

For better or worse, 2020 also happens to be the year many people are waking up to the idea that climate change isn’t just real — it’s already here.

This year is one of the hottest years on record. Large swaths of the western U.S. are on fire. The Gulf Coast and Midwest are reeling from powerful storms.

Is it too much – is it too hard – to think about climate change now too?

I don’t think so. We don’t have to accept a life that looks more and more like a horror movie.

I haven’t lost hope and neither should you.

To my mind, there’s little distinction between racial justice and climate justice. And there’s no distinction between rebuilding our pandemic-battered economy and creating a clean future that our children will be proud of.

The truth is, communities of color — who have always been on the frontline and fence-line of pollution — are the same people who now face the greatest risk from a changing climate.

If we don’t think about that, if we don’t put those communities first, we risk perpetuating a system that’s already done so much harm.

Traffic is diverted off of the 71 freeway during the Blue Ridge Fire on October 27, 2020 in Chino Hills, California. (David McNew/Getty Images)
Traffic is diverted off of the 71 freeway during the Blue Ridge Fire on October 27, 2020 in Chino Hills, California. (David McNew/Getty Images)

The COVID-19 pandemic has been unbearably difficult. And lord knows, I don’t want to be trapped in my dining room for the rest of my days.

But these difficult months have also delivered a powerful wake-up call: the world can change on a dime.

The way we fight climate change, is the same way we fight the pandemic.

We follow the science. We listen to the experts. We embrace systemic and fundamental changes that help people live and thrive in a new way. We grab hold of the growing momentum around clean energy and climate action — and refuse to let go.

So, let’s get to work and build a more hopeful future for our kids — and for every single one of us.

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This segment aired on October 29, 2020.

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Gina McCarthy Twitter Cognoscenti contributor
Gina McCarthy is the president and CEO of NRDC (National Resources Defense Council). She is a former administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

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