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Everyone Has a Role in the Fight Against Climate Change
July 8, 2016

ALT: Screenshot of Melanie Nakagawa and course title (Courtesy of YALI Network)
Melanie Nakagawa teaches YALI Network’s online lesson “The Science of Climate Change.” (Courtesy photo)


You asked, we answered. As part of our #YALIGoesGreen initiative, we invited YALI Network Green Champions to ask questions of Melanie Nakagawa, deputy assistant secretary of state for energy transformation in the Bureau of Energy Resources and the instructor for the first lesson of Understanding Climate Change.

How do we get youth and women involved in solving climate change? (Kenya)

When it comes to tackling climate change, everyone needs to be brought to the table, especially women and young people.

Women have invaluable knowledge of community and social norms that can be harnessed into climate action. Studies on women and disaster show that when women are engaged as decisionmakers in resilience and disaster plans, they are better able to adapt and manage the impacts.

One way to get women more engaged is by creating spaces and opportunities targeted toward women — for instance, after a solar-panel technician workshop in Kenya attracted only men, the USAID clean energy program sponsored a women-only workshop to ensure women could gain skills needed to advance in the renewable energy field and to train other women.

And for youth, they are one of the largest demographics in the world — more than 1 billion worldwide! There is so much strength and innovation that can come from this group. A big part of getting youth involved in solving climate change is starting from a solid knowledge foundation. Society needs citizens who understand the climate system and know how to apply that knowledge in their careers and in their engagement as active members of their communities.

We know that empowering women and youth benefits everyone. It increases the number of supporters and active participants in the climate change dialogue, and offers diverse perspectives and solutions. When everyone comes together, with a united purpose to solve this problem, we can surely make a difference.

Since climate change has become a global problem, what can ordinary citizens do to help mitigate it? (Tanzania)

We know that this problem is so vast that no one country can solve it alone. No country too small can sit on the sidelines either. Everyone must do their part. There are many ways to help reduce your own personal carbon footprint, but there are also ways to get involved at the community level. You can support efforts to “green” your neighborhood, get involved in an environmental program, and let your elected representatives know you support action on climate change. If we think globally and act locally, we’ll have a fighting chance at staying below 2 degrees.

What suggestions do you have to help reduce carbon emissions within the home and workplace? (Kenya)

Just like real footprints, everyone’s carbon footprint is a little different. Here is a list of options that will help curb your contribution to greenhouse gas emissions. See how many you do!

When you run errands or travel …

  • Walk or ride a bike.
  • Take public transportation.
  • Organize errands into one trip.
  • When driving, accelerate gradually and drive at lower speeds.
  • Drive less, particularly on days with unhealthy air.
  • Maintain your vehicle and keep your tires properly inflated.
  • If there is an emissions check program in your area, get your car checked.
  • Travel light and avoid weighing down your vehicle.
  • Try not to idle your vehicle more than 30 seconds.
  • If you are buying a new car, go for the most efficient, lowest-polluting vehicle.

When you are at home …

  • Turn the lights off when you leave a room.
  • Replace energy-hungry incandescent lights with energy-saving CFLs or LEDs.
  • If alternative energy sources such as solar or wind are available, use them.
  • Limit use of heaters and air conditioners.
  • Install low-flow shower heads.
  • Recycle paper, plastic and organic materials.
  • Use nonpolluting stoves. Avoid using kerosene to cook, heat or provide light.
  • Wash laundry in cold water and line dry.
  • Buy energy-efficient appliances.
  • Use washable dishes, utensils and napkins rather than disposable plastic dinnerware.
  • Choose products made from recycled materials or sustainable sources such as bamboo, hemp and coconut fiber.
  • Use durable, reusable shopping bags, not disposable plastic bags.
  • Paint with a brush instead of a sprayer.
  • Store all solvents in airtight containers.
  • Use an electric or push lawn mower, and a rake instead of a leaf blower.
  • Eliminate use of toxic chemicals at home; opt for natural substitutes.
  • Plant a tree to help purify the air.

When you are at work …

  • Use natural light during the day.
  • Keep the thermostat at energy-saving settings.
  • Work from home if possible.
  • If you work in an office, start a recycling program. Print and photocopy on both sides of paper, and only print when necessary.
  • Turn off office equipment (e.g., computers, printers and fax machines) after hours.

The views and opinions expressed here belong to the author or interviewee and do not necessarily reflect those of the YALI Network or the U.S. government.