The climate crisis is one of the most important issues facing our world today. As an individual, it can often feel overwhelming and difficult to make an impact on such a large, complex problem. However, there are many effective ways for ordinary citizens to make their voices heard and push for real policy change on climate issues. With some strategic effort and persistence, you can help drive the societal and political momentum we need to create a more sustainable future.
Contact Your Elected Representatives
One of the most direct ways to influence climate policy is to reach out to your elected representatives at the local, state and federal level.
Your local officials such as city council members or the mayor have significant influence over policies in your immediate community. Getting in touch with them directly through phone calls, emails or letters lets them know climate action is a priority for their constituents. Attend town halls or public forums where you can ask questions and voice your concerns in person. Build ongoing relationships over time for maximum impact.
State legislators and governors have influence over policy issues impacting your state. Contacting them about bills up for debate is an opportunity to share your perspective. You can also urge them to introduce new climate-focused legislative proposals. Many states have taken the lead on progressive climate agendas, so state outreach is very worthwhile.
Members of Congress
Don’t underestimate reaching out to U.S. Senators and Representatives, especially those on key committees like Environment and Public Works. While federal climate legislation faces challenges, public pressure from constituents makes a difference. Phone calls and office visits tend to be most effective with Members of Congress.
Participate in Public Comment Periods
Many government agencies at the federal, state and local level have public comment periods when proposing new regulations or policy changes. This is your chance to formally share your opinion on the record. Follow agencies relevant to climate policy via their website, social media or email lists to find out about these opportunities. Submitting comments online can be quick and easy way to make your voice heard.
For example, the Environmental Protection Agency frequently has public comment periods open on major proposed regulations like auto emission standards. The State Department also seeks comments on environmental impact assessments relating to major infrastructure projects. Monitor agency news closely and submit comments urging climate-friendly policies whenever possible.
Join Local Advocacy Groups
Joining local climate or environmental advocacy groups amplifies your voice by letting you advocate alongside others. These groups actively mobilize their members when important legislation or policy decisions are happening in your community.
Examples include 350.org, the Sierra Club, Audubon Society, Moms Clean Air Force and more. Follow their advocacy alerts and sign petitions or make calls when requested. You can also volunteer to support campaigns. The more people involved, the more powerful the message.
Participate in Marches and Demonstrations
Public marches, demonstrations and rallies are time-tested ways to show broad support for an issue like climate action. While not always covered fairly in the media, large mobilizations send a symbolic message to politicians and can shift narratives.
The Climate Strikes led by Greta Thunberg have organized huge international turnouts for climate marches. The People’s Climate March and other mobilizations around major events like COP26 also demonstrate momentum. Look for upcoming marches related to climate and make an effort to attend if possible.
Submit Letters to the Editor
Local newspapers remain influential in many communities, making them an interesting avenue for climate advocacy. Submitting Letters to the Editor in response to relevant news stories or new policies highlights your perspective for a broad local audience.
To get published, make your letter timely, succinct and polite. Relate it to a recent local story and include your full name and contact information. Following paper guidelines ups your chances of seeing your climate views in print.
Speak Up at Public Meetings
Your local elected councils, boards, commissions and agencies hold regular public meetings where citizens can share feedback and concerns. Speaking up during the public comment period only takes a few minutes but delivers your perspective right to key decision makers.
Do your homework on items up for debate that day and prepare your talking points concisely. Stick to the allotted time and maintain a courteous tone. Follow up afterward with officials to reiterate your stance. Making your voice heard at the room where it happens can be very powerful.
Participate in Campaigns and Get Out the Vote
Supporting political candidates who make climate action a priority boosts the chances of real policy change. Campaign volunteer work like phone banking, canvassing and flyer distribution gives you the opportunity to engage others on the importance of climate issues and elect climate champions.
Also make sure you and everyone in your network gets out to vote on Election Day. Voter turnout is critical for getting climate leaders into office. Remind and assist friends and family in registering and voting to maximize impact.
While affecting policy change on pressing issues like the climate crisis can feel daunting, citizens truly can influence the agenda when we collectively speak up. Use your voice often and in a variety of ways. With persistence and strategic advocacy, we can come together to drive real climate solutions.