Save The Bay Executive Director David Lewis speaks at the 2017 California Climate Change Symposium in Sacramento.
Save The Bay Executive Director David Lewis speaks at the 2017 California Climate Change Symposium in Sacramento.

Environmental scientists, researchers, advocates, and policy makers descended upon Sacramento’s downtown district last week for the 2017 California Climate Change Symposium. The symposium served as a forum for veteran researchers, scientists, and newbies like myself from across the state and from across multiple disciplines, to share their research.

I really don’t think the timing could have been better.

With the assertion that global warming is still up for debate among the Trump administration’s top leaders, the symposium felt like an oasis of thoughtful discussion on safeguarding California from our planet’s changing climate. Emerging research ranged from drought and water management, to ocean acidification and hypoxia, to rising sea levels.

A sense of urgency and a need for climate facts as opposed to “alternative facts” was interlaced throughout the plenary sessions, making the significance of constant discussion about climate change even more clear and evident.  Save The Bay Executive Director David Lewis served as a panelist for a lunch session titled, “Communicating Science to California Public & Policymakers.” Lewis stressed the importance of focusing communication efforts on local and state elected leaders.

“How many people in the room talk to elected officials? You need to push them to do twice as much twice as fast, and the ones who aren’t doing anything, you need to push them to do something now,” said Lewis.  “It can be your local city council member who can do things in your town to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions and to prepare for adaptation. That’s where we need to focus our communication.”

Communication is central to what I do here at Save The Bay. Every day my team and I look for new tools and tactics that will inform and educate our grassroots community about threats to the Bay. It’s my job to make science and data sexy to an audience that is being bombarded with sensational content every single minute. This poses both a challenge and an opportunity to reach audiences across the spectrum. Climate change is certainly a hot topic at the center of a contentious debate between those who have made environmental advocacy their life’s work, and those who would rather rest on “alternative facts” to further their own selfish political agendas. I left the symposium ready to find new ways to engage our audience in the issues surrounding climate change, and introduce them to some of the groundbreaking research I had the chance to observe.

Understanding the science that safeguards California will become more urgent than ever before as we move closer into the unprecedented aftermath of a Trump presidency.  Developing programs, strategies, and policies that will reduce greenhouse gasses and encourage adaptation to rising sea levels on the state and local level will remain crucial to California scientists and advocates.

Our future generations are depending on it.