Teaching Guides for Classes
on the Climate Emergency and Care of the Environment


We have many outlines for teaching classes addressing the climate emergency. The following are outlines for nine topics—to be taught in a series of classes, or at a workshop—on Care of the Environment and the Climate Emergency. And on this page, are outlines for series of classes on climate change by several RC teachers. 

A reading list is not attached. Instead, please use the Sustaining All Life journal and pamphlet, the resources on this page, and the article "Why We Prioritize Addressing Climate Change." More outlines will follow, and these will be updated regularly as the situation is changing quickly.

Some outlines RC leaders have used for leading SAL workshops over the years can be found here


  1. Introduction for Teachers
  2. Outline: An Introduction to the Work on Care of the Environment (COE)
  3. Outline: The 2022 Unified Goal on the Climate (Part I)
  4. Outline: The 2022 Unified Goal on the Climate (Part II)
  5. Outline: Racism, Genocide and the Environment
  6. Outline: Climate Change Basics
  7. Outline: Parents and Climate Change
  8. Outline: Supporting Young People in the Climate Movement
  9. Outline: Sustaining All Life at the COPs (United Nations Climate Talks) and Major Climate Conferences
  10. Outline: Fossil Fuels and Renewable Energy

Introduction for Teachers

These are challenging topics for almost everyone. A priority will be helping people discharge. The following can help create the safety and connection for discharge: (Part I)

  • Close relationships within the group
  • Open caring for each other
  • Light tone (aided by songs, games, excursions outside, jokes, and so on)
  • Pleasant memories of contact with the natural world (spectrum of techniques)
  • Sharing hopeful things that are happening in connection with the environment

Help people work on the early distresses underlying their present-day feelings about the topic. While the situation is difficult in the present, our feelings are fueled by our early experiences. These are often feelings of discouragement, helplessness, fear, and isolation.

If you are doing these classes in series, you may want class members to try things between classes and report back. For example, they can learn about the local impact of climate change, learn something about a local life form, attend an environmental action, create a “climate change” game or skit, and so on.

Start the classes acknowledging that you are meeting on Native land and have someone give information about the original inhabitants of the land. Ask class members to learn more about this and share what they learn at the beginning of each class.

The following are outlines for eight topics. Each outline could be used for one class or could easily take several weeks to cover well. Go at the pace that is right for you and your class.

Outline: An Introduction to the Work on Care of the Environment (COE)

Introductions, news and goods, and go-round on a question like:  where do you feel most at home in the environment and why?  Anyone have any climate change jokes?  Funny stories?  (Teacher should bring a few—you can find jokes and cartoons online, some are even funny.  You can also find many cartoons in the PDF on climate change found on this page.)


Short theory talk:

We live on a beautiful planet populated by millions of species of life-forms, the result of billions of years of evolution. Every species is unique and important to all life on Earth and interrelated with the others in ways we are only beginning to understand.

We human beings emerged some two hundred thousand years ago and for most of that time struggled to survive and increase our numbers. But with our flexible intelligence and the physical capacity to make and use tools, we have amassed a great deal of knowledge and learned to modify our environment to better meet our needs. Our population grows faster and faster.

Human vulnerability to distress recordings has resulted in societies in which greed and oppression often dominate over inherent human qualities like cooperation and caring. Oppressive societies are shortsighted and exploitative.

Until recently, our awareness of the damage inflicted by human societies consisted largely of our sometimes-limited awareness of the mistreatment of groups of human beings—racism, classism, sexism, and other oppressions, which have led to war and other violence and to the vast majority of humans living without adequate resources while a small minority lives in abundance.

In recent decades, we have become increasingly aware that human impact on the entire planet (due to our irrational, shortsighted, wasteful, and damaging use of resources) has surpassed what the physical environment is able to recover from.  Pollution negatively impacts our health, especially for those living near toxic sources.  Yet our societies are committed to continuing destructive practices that profit a few, while endangering all life on Earth. In particular, climate change caused by greenhouse gas emissions from human activities (primarily burning fossil fuels and industrial agriculture) poses a serious threat to all life. 

Environmental degradation and climate change endanger everyone, but because of racism, genocide, and class oppression, communities targeted by these oppressions and vulnerable populations (such as the elderly, disabled, and very young) are more heavily impacted by the pollution and effects of climate change. Addressing the climate crisis requires acting against all oppressions to find solutions.

Mini session:  Finding our way to discharging about climate change.  Each of us has a unique connection to the environment. Putting attention on what in the environment (a place, a form of life, an experience) has been important and meaningful to us is a good way to start discharging about the environment and climate change. The Spectrum of Techniques (in the Fundamentals Manual) can help us avoid becoming “sunk” in despair about the present situation. Specifically, we can begin with pleasant memories connected to the environment and only move to heavier memories and thoughts as we are able to discharge. 

Break for game or song.

Short theory talk:

While climate change poses significant problems and challenges, any fear or despair we feel about the current situation has its roots in our early distresses. (Short talk on working on early hurts.)  Discharging on the early experiences that left us fearful, despairing, or discouraged will give us the attention we need to think about and act on the present situation. Discharging feelings of separation from others, and moving toward more closeness in our lives, can give us a stronger base from which to discharge our fears and discouragement.


How do you feel about climate change?  Did you ever feel similar feelings when you were very young?  What was happening in your life then?  (Counsel the client on the early hurts that laid in the feelings they have about climate change).

Mini-session for all on the connection between early hurts and climate change.

Think and Listen on climate change.

Attention out activity and closing. 

Readings: The pamphlet Sustaining All Life.

Outline: The 2022 Unified Goal on the Climate (Part I)

Introductions, news and goods, and go-round on a question like: Which of the RC goals has been most important to you and why?  Or what parts of the Unified Goal on the Climate that are most important to you and why?


Short theory talk:

The first goal on COE was adopted in 2001. In 2013 and 2017 World Conference of the Re-evaluation Counseling Communities adopted new, stronger goals. 

That members of the RC Community work to become fully aware of the rapid and unceasing destruction of the living environment of the Earth. That we discharge on any distress that inhibits our becoming fully aware of this situation and taking all necessary actions to restore and preserve our environment.

Distresses have driven people to use oppression against each other and carry out destructive policies against all of the world. A full solution will require the ending of divisions between people and therefore the ending of all oppressions.

The restoration and preservation of the environment must take precedence over any group of humans having material advantage over others. We can and must recover from any distress that drives us to destroy the environment in our attempts to escape from never-ending feelings of needing more resource.

At the 2017 World Conference, the 2013 Goal was replaced by the following goal:  

That members of the RC Community become knowledgeable of the clear evidence of the continually growing damage to the environment and all life forms, especially the climate change resulting from the ever-rising temperatures caused by human activity.

That we face and discharge any distress that interferes with our finding sustainable solutions, including the ending of the oppressive and exploitative nature of our societies. That we decide, discharge, and act against any distress that inhibits us from determining immediate steps, as large and radical as necessary, to end this damage, and from organizing and agitating for their adoption by governments and industries.

That we do this work together with everyone—especially oppressed communities which are currently experiencing the most damage from climate change.

In 2019 Tim, as International Reference Person, decided to act between World Conferences and strengthened our goal further with this initiative.  The 2022 World Conference adopted an even stronger Unified Goal on the Climate.

For an RC Community Goal to be effective, Co-Counselors need to internalize it and make it our own personal goal. Considerable work must be done—in classes, support groups, and workshops—for this to happen.

Mini-session—Possible suggestions for pairs, three-ways, or small groups:

  1. Read the Goal, sentence-by-sentence, or paragraph by paragraph, with attention. Stop after each sentence or paragraph and say your thoughts. Put your attention on these thoughts and on any feelings that come up. Discharge. Repeat with each paragraph or sentence.

  2. Read the Unified Goal with attention. Find where you feel most connected to it. Discharge from that spot. Read the Unified Goal repeatedly in session, each time looking for your connection to the Goal and where you can discharge.

  3. Do a mini-session on the first sentence/paragraph of the Unified Goal. Change partners and have a mini-session on the second sentence/paragraph of the Goal. Continue having mini-sessions with different partners for each sentence/paragraph in the Goal. Have each person share highlights and what they have learned.

Demonstration on the Unified Goal:

How do you feel about this Unified Goal?  Allow time to read through it as necessary…Which part of the Goal is significant for you?  What connection do you see to early hurts?

Try practice using the third paragraph of the Goal as a commitment to action. 

We in the RC Community commit ourselves to encouraging and supporting every one of us to act against and discharge any distress that might keep us from playing an active role, as large and radical as necessary, to resolve the climate emergency. For most of us, this will involve uniting with others to publicly oppose irrational policies and visibly support rational solutions.

"This means I will..."

Possible other questions for discharge: What do you have to feel to face the actual situation posed by climate change?  What is in your way of learning about the causes and effects of climate change?  What do you most need to grieve about climate change?  What solutions make sense to you and how can you work to bring them about?

 Work on distresses that keep us from thinking and acting big in the face of the challenges posed by climate change.

Historical background for the COE Goals:

The RC Communities adopt goals and policies at the World Conference, which takes place every four years. We put attention on Care of the Environment for the first time at the 1989 World Conference. The following Long Range Goals were adopted at that time:

  • The preservation of all existing species of life and the re-creation of extinguished species
  • The preservation of wilderness areas and the creation of a completely benign environment over most of the earth, the oceans, and the atmosphere

In 1993 another Long Range Goal was added: Complete responsibility for and the optimum use of, and recycling of, all the resources of the earth in the interests of all human beings and other life forms

An International Liberation Reference Person for Care of the Environment (Wytske Visser) was first appointed in 1996. Organized work on Care of the Environment began at that point.

In 2001, the RC Communities passed an additional Goal on Care of the Environment: That members of the Re-evaluation Counseling Community put increased attention on discharging the distresses that have led to the continued degradation of the environment of the world and to discouragement about taking the actions necessary for its restoration.

This Goal emphasized the importance of discharging. With its passage, the work moved forward more steadily.

Mini-session: my personal goal on the climate emergency


Outline: The 2022 Unified Goal on the Climate (Part II)

The Unified Goal brings the work on racism, genocide, classism, sexism, antisemitism, oppression of young, LGBTQ+, and disabled people, and all other oppressions to the center of the work on climate change.

"To transform these (destructive) policies, we must end the many forms of oppression our governments, institutions, and industries use to create and enforce the policies... The oppression of any group of people is unjust, inhumane, destructive, and against the interests of all people. Because our societies all use oppression to maintain themselves, we need to end all oppression to free humans from the grip of irrationality and end the threat to our climate."

Have the class divide into the constituency groups named in the Unified Goal to discharge on that section of the Goal and their person experiences.  Do this several times so that people can join the different constituency groups they belong to.

Do a panel with someone from each group.

Have the class divide into groups to work on oppressor distresses toward the different constituencies named in the Unified Goal. 


Reading: Introducing the Unified Goal on the Climate, by Tim Jackins



Outline: Racism, Genocide and the Environment

A Power Point presentation on Racism and the Environment is on the RC website. (Clicking on the link downloads the presentation.) It is a a little dated but still a useful source for information on environmental racism, climate change, and climate justice. You may download and modify it as you wish to use with your classes. It can be a good outline for presenting this information.

Introductions, news and goods, go around with each person sharing their heritage. 


Theory talk: 

Our oppressive economic system and society foster environmental degradation. Capitalism encourages profit making without regard for the well-being of humans or the planet. Exploiting human labor, racing to be first to claim and use up the earth’s resources, using those resources in ways that poison humans and other life forms—this is how capitalism has brought us to the current situation, a situation in which the majority of the world’s people suffer from oppression and exploitation and in which serious harm is being done to the Earth. Racism and genocide have been and are major vehicles for the exploitation that is fundamental to capitalism.

Environmental degradation endangers everyone. However, certain populations are impacted more and earlier than others. The damage done by human-caused climate change and environmental destruction disproportionately impacts people of the global majority, Indigenous communities, and poor and working-class communities. And it disproportionately impacts the nations that have long been targeted by colonialism, genocide, enslavement, and imperialism. (In many of these countries the majority of the population are people of the global majority.)

These communities and nations have long been the dumping ground for the world’s toxins and waste, including the waste from war. They have had their resources extracted without just compensation and without regard for environmental damage. And many of the effects of climate change (for example drought, food and water shortages, sea level rise, extreme weather events) are already causing grave harm to members of these groups, who lack the resources to move out of harm’s way (at best a temporary solution) or to adapt to the damage.

The globally dominant, more industrialized nations (that have colonized, dominated, and exploited the labor and resources of other nations) have consumed the most resources and have done so in ways that have polluted the Earth and emitted large amounts of carbon dioxide, methane, and harmful particulates into the atmosphere. The practices of the wealthier societies are responsible for the bulk of the growing climate crisis. While commitments have been made to reduce emissions, the commitments made only bring us one third of the way needed to keep global warming below 1.5 degrees centigrade.  And these wealthy nations continue to resist making financial commitments to repair the damage and provide aid to countries that have contributed only a small portion of the greenhouse gasses but that are already being negatively impacted.

Native people have been stewards of the land for tens of thousands of years, and they are playing an important leadership role in many environmental campaigns. Important alliances across historic divides are being formed, but much more work on oppression is needed.

The environmental crisis cannot be resolved without addressing racism and the oppression of Indigenous peoples. We need to hear directly from people from these communities and countries about the harm from climate change that they have experienced and the solutions they propose. And we cannot create the massive diverse movement needed to solve the situation without also working to end these oppressions. See Unified Goal on the Climate.

Demonstration with native person or person of the global majority followed by mini-session where PGM/native people choose their partners.

Panel if there are members of the class from communities disproportionately impacted, followed by mini-session.  It’s important for white people, people of the global majority, and Indigenous people to have a time to meet separately for discharge. Groups organized by class and age will also be useful for discharge.

If such individuals are not present, members of the class can educate themselves about these issues and report to the group. They can attend events held by these populations. There are also excellent articles and films on these topics.

Short theory talk:

Unchallenged racism, the oppression of Indigenous people, and classism in the mainstream environmental movement make the movement largely unaware of the impacts on these populations and unwelcoming to people of the global majority, Indigenous, working class and poor people. The perspectives and voices of people of the global majority have generally been marginalized or excluded. (In recent years, the historically white movement has been trying to address this; however, those efforts move slowly because people have not yet faced their role in these oppressions and lack effective tools to free themselves from racism.)

Through our work in United to End Racism and Sustaining All Life, RC has been offering our tools to the environmental movement. White people have much work to do on racism and its intersection with the environment and climate change.  The slide show on this page shows how we talk about our work.

The environmental movement plays a key role in the work against climate change, but we have lots of feelings of aversion to this movement.  We need to discharge those feelings so we can engage fully with this movement.

Mini-session about the environmental movement or SAL/UER's work.

Closing: next steps in learning about racism and the environment.


Outline: Climate Change Basics

The PowerPoint presentation here can be useful in presenting this class.  It is updated regularly with new information. (Last updated May 2022.) On that same page, under this heading: "Resources for Our Work to Stop Climate Change" there are many resources organized for people new to the topic, people with some knowledge, and people looking for advanced information.

Introductions, news and goods, go-round on a question like: What’s one fact you know about climate change?  How have you noticed climate change impacting our world?

Short theory talk:

We have to understand a situation in order to think well about it. People are vulnerable to emotional manipulation when they lack accurate information. Many of us don’t feel smart enough to understand climate change and the science of why it is happening. Or we have too many feelings about the topic to focus on learning about it. We can discharge our way to understanding the situation and we can be effective at addressing it.

In particular, many of us were made to feel stupid about science and math in school. It's important to understand the basics of scientific information showing that human activities are the cause of climate change in this period. Discharging early memories about science and math will be important. It’s best to start with early pleasant memories on these topics.

Mini session: early pleasant memories of science/math, learnings facts about the earth.

Demonstration: What is hard for you to learn about climate change?  What are the roots of the feelings? 

Below is some basic information on the scientific basis for understanding climate change and the present situation. It can be used to help people build their personal knowledge base. Make sure people get plenty of discharge as you present it. It helps if you can lighten the topic as you teach. For example, use drawings on colored paper or graphics printed from the internet for each point. Or play a climate change game by writing up some of the statistics (without explanation) and having people guess what the statistic means. Or guess at definitions for some of the new vocabulary. Or act out certain concepts and see if people can guess what they are trying to communicate.  (Funny prizes help even more!)

People learn best when they have had a chance to communicate what they have heard.  You can do frequent mini-sessions for people to say what they heard and discharge on any difficult spots.  Make space for people to ask questions and share what they know.  (Be thoughtful about and interrupt any patterns of domination.) 

Think and Listens can be very useful—where each person has time to think aloud with attention, without interruption, and without anyone commenting on their turn.

Ten things we should all know about:

The Earth is warming. Accumulated greenhouse gas emissions have formed a warming blanket around the Earth. The most dangerous of these emissions is carbon dioxide (CO2), though other emissions and substances contribute about 50% of the warming of carbon dioxide. Most human-caused CO2 emissions (80%) result from burning fossil fuels (coal, oil, gas). Other significant sources are industrial agriculture and deforestation (20%). 

We have measured the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere over time by drilling ice cores in Antarctica. This data shows us that the average level of CO2 in the atmosphere for the past 800,000 years has been between 180 and 260 parts per million (ppm) of CO2—reaching a high of 300 ppm in some periods between ice ages. In 1750, at the start of the Industrial Revolution (when humans started using fossil fuels in large quantities), atmospheric CO2 was at 278 ppm. In 2022 it is at 420 ppm. Reducing the carbon level to 350 ppm is a long-term goal.

In this same time period, the planet has warmed by 1.2 degree Centigrade. Half of that temperature increase has occurred in the past 35 years. (Each of the last four decades has been successively warmer than any decade that preceded it since 1850.) The climate science community is now in agreement that temperature rise should be kept to well below 2 degree Centigrade (aiming at 1.5 degree Centigrade) to avoid drastic, life-threatening global climate change.  See Summary of 2022 IPCC (United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) report.

  1. Average global sea level is now rising approximately 1.3 inch every 10 years as a result of the melting of polar ice and the expansion of warming ocean waters. Sea level rise varies depending on the warmth of the water in each part of the globe. For example, in the Philippines, the rate of sea level rise is 5 times the average. Our oceans absorb about 80% of the planetary temperature increase (causing sea level rise). The oceans also absorb about 33% of CO2 emissions (causing acidification).
  2. To keep the global temperature rise to no more than 1.5 degrees C, we must achieve "net-zero" carbon emissions (where all emissions are absorbed by existing "carbon sinks," such as forests and the ocean, or newly created sinks) by the year 2050 (a 70 - 95% reduction from 2010 levels of emissions). Other emissions must also be reduced significantly. 60% of global CO2 emissions come from the world’s 7 largest economies: United States, China, Russia, Brazil, India, German, and the UK (16% are from the U.S. alone; the U.S. population is 5% of the global population.)
  3. That means we can release no more than 500 gigatons (billion tons) of CO2 between now and 2050 to have a 50-50 chance of meeting the 1.5 degree goal. Globally we still get 84% of our energy from burning fossil fuels, in spite of the rapidly increasing use of renewable energy sources. 
  4. Maintaining the resiliency of carbon and methane sinks (natural ecosystems that absorb CO2) is also critical to limiting global warming. Today more than half of human-caused carbon emissions are captured by these natural ecosystems on land and ocean, but those sinks are becoming saturated. 
  5. Climate change is already a harsh reality in some parts of the globe. It is causing: a) droughts and crop loss (the temperature increase means fewer rains, or rains at the wrong times of the year in some places), b) severe weather events and the consequent habitat damage and flooding (a warmer atmosphere holds more water and results in bigger storms), c) sea level rise resulting in destruction of habitat and salinization (destruction by salt) of crop land, d) increased acidification of the oceans (damaging marine ecosystems), e) extended wildfire season, intensity, and range, and f) an increase in diseases (as warmer temperatures foster multiplication of disease vectors such as mosquitos). By 2030 it is projected that climate change will cause an additional 6 millions deaths a year.
  6. The cost of renewable energy sources (solar and wind) is currently the same as or lower than that of fossil fuel in many places. The International Energy Agency estimates that to keep the temperature rise below 2 degrees would take $3.5 trillion in energy-sector investments on average each year until 2050 ($500 billion per year more than is currently planned for.)  While use of renewables is rising so is use of fossil fuels. Private investment in renewables is not sufficiently profitable to inspire more investment; government funding is necessary. 
  7. The International Monetary Fund estimates that global fossil fuel subsidies total about $300 billion USD per year. (These subsidies include direct subsidies as well as providing the fossil fuel industry with free infrastructure such as roads, pipelines, ports; tax breaks; and not charging the industry for the costs of harm to the environment and to public health.) Global military spending in 2020 was $2 trillion USD. 

Mini-session or demo


Outline: Parents and Climate Change
(from Marya Axner)

Intended to be used with the SAL handout "Parents and Climate Change: Building Support and Unleashing Our Power", which you can download here. You can find all SAL handouts on this page: https://sustainingalllife.org/resources/.

1. Parents love their children. We have a deep connection to the future of humans on this earth and therefore we are well-suited to take action for climate change.

Mini: Let’s discharge on how much we love our children. (A demonstration can proceed any of the suggested mini-sessions.)

2. Review what parents oppression is: Parents are not paid for the work of raising children, work that is most important for the well-being of society. As conditions worsen, we have less time for our children, partners and extended families. We may not have adequate resources for them. We often blame ourselves because we cannot be there for our children the way we would like to. Nevertheless, we are good parents—it is the system that is the problem.

Mini: Let’s discharge on parents oppression.

3.  We need to build parent support around us: We can figure out how to reach out to other parents and build friendships and possibly teach other parents RC. By coming together with other parents and families, we can build a different kind of culture, one based on caring and meeting human needs. We may need to discharge some shyness in order to build the kind of communities we would like to have.


Discharge on what gets in the way of reaching out to other parents and building relationships with them.
Imagine what kind of community of parents and families you would like to build around yourself and your family.

4.  How do we talk with our children about climate change in a way that empowers them and doesn’t add distress?

Mostly we need to discharge our worry about climate change and about our children. The more we do this the more we will be able to be relaxed as we listen and talk with our children about climate change.

Mini: Discharge on our worries about climate change. We suggest you work on early worries.

5. We get to follow the lead of young people:  Many young people are taking the lead on climate change. We can be allies to them as they challenge young people’s oppression and take leadership. When it makes sense, we can take actions with our family members - our activism doesn’t have to take yet more time away from family time.

Mini: Discharge on supporting our young people’s leadership.

6. As parents, we are in a unique position to influence the people around us: We are in contact with many other parents and we interact with schools and other institutions that affect families. We have the authority to speak about issues having to do with families and young people. We can be bold in loving people, sharing information about climate change, and speaking out to support policies to end climate change. We can speak out against racism, sexism, classism and other oppressions that divide and weaken us.  We can take a significant role in organizing and empowering people to help build a sufficiently large movement to effectively fight climate change.

Mini: Discharge on what gets in the way of being bold in taking action on climate change?

7. Closing

Note: If everything is used in this outline it is probably a two-class series


Outline: Supporting Young People in the Climate Movement

This class outline is intended to be used together with the Sustaining All Life Handout "Supporting Young People's Activism in the Climate Emergency", which you can download here.   You can find all SAL handouts on this page: https://sustainingalllife.org/resources/.

Introductions/new and goods.

Laugh & Play:

  • Why Laugh & Play is important and why teenage years
  • Questions: Name of first crush, What music and bands helped you survive your teenage years, One adult who you loved growing up

Young People as key + keeping GMI YP central:

  • Point 1: As adults, we’re doing a great job. We should remember that. 
  • Point 2: We still feel really bad about ourselves. 
  • Point 3: Young people’s lives will be shaped by the climate emergency, and they need to be central to our movement.
  • Point 4: When working with young people, lead with yes!
  • Point 5: Supporting young people is a balancing act.
  • Point 6: We have to work on our adultism.

 Talk about racism and weave in history, climate, and young people.

Share tips/thinking for PGM allies to center PGM.

Share tips/thinking for white allies to center PGM.

Share helpful one-pagers on these topics from Sustaining All Life, including one on racism, and 2-minute video of Jenny Sazama talk about young people (currently here: https://www.rc.org/publication/environment/salvideos

The Role of Appreciations.


Stay connected.  See the resources on SAL website.


Outline: Sustaining All Life at the COPs (United Nations Climate Talks) and Major Climate Conferences 


Reading assignment in advance of the class: SAL pamphlet

Some downloadable SAL flyers on topics of interest to the class: https://www.sustainingalllife.org/salcop25

Fun comic on the history of the climate talks, up to Paris.  

Sustaining All Life was organized in 2015 with the goal of taking RC and our understandings about the natural healing process and the connections between oppression and care of the environment to the UN Climate talks (called COPs--for Conference of the Parties). SAL has participated in COP21 through COP27 so far, as well as the Global Climate Action Summit (GCAS) in San Francisco, California, USA (2018), Climate Week in New York City and London, Earth Day in many places, and more.

At the COPs, our delegates lead workshops (presentations of basic RC theory connected to some aspect of oppression and climate change—racism, indigenous people, young people, women, war, Arab oppression), forums (where we invite people to come share their personal experiences with climate change, climate activism or their experiences doing this work as indigenous people, young people, women, people of the global majority, Muslims, and so on). We also hold many listening projects, support groups, fundamentals classes, and caucuses…. using any reason to get people sharing their experiences, listening to each other, and learning a little about RC. 

Go-round for the class: what information from the pamphlet and the flyers or handouts was significant for the students? Up to 1 minute each to report.

Show GCAS slide show https://www.rc.org/publication/environment/sustainingalllife

 followed by a mini-session.  

As of December 2022, many thousands of people have come attended our events at the COPs and other conferences. More than 2100 people are on our mailing list. Many SAL delegates and volunteers have ongoing relationships with people that we met at the COPs. We have started RC Communities in at least the following countries through those connections: The Gambia, Cameroon, Guinea, Morocco. We are teaching RC to people in Nepal, Egypt, and Madagasgar—hoping to start Communities there in the future. Our participation has also been important to strengthening the work on climate change in the RC Communities. 

Mini session on SAL at the COPs—what would you have to face to be a SAL volunteer or delegate to one of these events? Or to do a listening project on the topics being addressed by SAL at the COPs?


 The United Nations is THE international body addressing climate change. There is no other global organization trying to look at the big picture and unite the world in this effort. (While there are many global climate advocacy groups, none of them have anywhere near the reach or the power.)

Short history (may want to start with a mini session on learning history):

1979—First World Climate Conference

1988—Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)

1990—UN First assessment report (of the impact of climate change worldwide) released, and second World Climate Conference held. Call for a global treaty on climate change.

1992—UN holds Earth Summit in Rio de Janiero, Brazil. Countries sign a treaty:  the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC)—where we recognized we have a problem, agreed on international cooperation to combat climate change by limiting average global temperature increases and the resulting climate change, and to cope with the impacts. The treaty called on Developed Countries, as source of most emissions, to lead the way in cutting emissions.

1994—Treaty goes into effect. 197 countries signed the treaty: the Parties to the UNFCCC.

1995—First COP (Conference of the Parties to the UNFCCC) held in Berlin

1997—Kyoto Protocol commits 37 industrialized countries and the EU to limit emissions based on the Convention. KP places a heavier burden on developed nations under its central principle of “common but differentiated responsibility”. US drops out in 2001, it takes effect in 2005.

2001—UN’s 3rd Assessment Report

2007—UN’s 4th Assessment Report

(Things move slowly forward as emissions rise. Useful to show some of the graphs showing the rise in CO2 and global temperatures during this time period: https://climate.nasa.gov/vital-signs/carbon-dioxide/


2013—COP19. Parties agreed to submit “intended nationally determined contributions”, known as INDCs, well before the Paris conference.

2015—Paris Agreement at COP21, replaces Kyoto Protocol. Aim to strengthen the global response to the threat of climate change by keeping a global temperature rise this century well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase even further to 1.5 degrees Celsius. 

(For more information on the United Nations process and the COPs: http://unfccc.int/essential_background/items/6031.php

(Note that since 2000, human-caused carbon emissions have grown at an average annual rate of 3.5 percent. The seven warmest years on record have all been since 2015. For more information, see: “Why We Prioritize Addressing Climate Change”)


It is very important that there is now a binding agreement for all signatory nations (Paris). For the first time, each country has submitted its own plan for emission reduction. Unfortunately, the sum of those proposals only gets us about one-third of the way to the goal of limiting warming to no more than 2 degrees C; but it is an important start.

The Paris Agreement weakened some provisions that were in previous conventions granting indigenous rights/human rights, but this language was strengthened in Bonn.

The Trump administration pulled the U.S. out of the Paris Accord in 2017. One of the first acts of the Biden administration was to rejoin the Paris Accord.

In October 2018, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) issued a key report: Global Warming of 1.5 C Degrees.  The IPCC 2018 Report states that to keep warming to 1.5°C requires reducing emissions by about 45% relative to 2010 levels by 2030 and reaching net zero (the point at which the amount of carbon released to the atmosphere is balanced by the amount removed) by about 2050.  (To reach that goal requires a 5x increase in current efforts.). Summary of that report.  The COPs are oriented to moving countries toward attaining that goal. 

The 2021 and 2022 Reports reaffirmed the findings of 2018 with more data and more certainly that we are in big trouble, cause by human activity.  The largest emitters will need to reach true net zero by 2045.

The pledges made at COP26 (and not strengthened at COP27) remain inadequate: the current 2030 targets (without long-term pledges) put us on track for a 2.4°C temperature increase by the end of the century.  (It was 2.7º before COP26.) Even with all the new COP26 pledges, we will emit roughly twice as much in 2030 as is required for 1.5°. Acknowledging this, the parties committed to meet again next year (2022) (instead of in 2025 as originally planned) to submit long-term strategies for reaching net-zero by 2050.

Loss and Damage—Developed countries have consistently fought any language that hints at liability for damage caused by climate change. They object to the focus on future emissions without addressing the historical and past emissions of developed countries that caused the climate crisis. They assert that principles of equity and "common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities" (from the Paris aggrement) demand that the wealthy nations make deeper and faster cuts in emissions than are expected of developing nations, and help shoulder the costs of climate destruction. The wealthy countries have consistently fought any language that hints at liability for damage caused by climate change. However, at COP27 a fund for loss and damage provision was incorporated into the agreement, though finance of this provision remains voluntary.

Some other important (though inadequate) agreements and proposals made at COP26:

  • Refers to fossil fuels for the first time
  • Urges doubling financial aid to poorer countries for adaptation by 2025
  • Calls for accelerating the “phasing down” of coal and phasing out subsidies for fossil fuels. 
  • Agreement by 100+ countries to end deforestation by 2030 with some serious financial commitments
  • 100+ countries committing to reduce methane emissions by 30% by 2030
  • 40+ countries committing to phase out coal-fired power (US, China, Australia and India are not part of this)
  • U.S.-China joint agreement to do more to reduce emissions
  • India commits to net zero by 2070
  • First mention of a “just transition” for workers

The COP26 agreement does not:

  • Push developed countries to achieve real emissions reduction now to keep to the 1.5º target
  • Meet calls for climate reparations for those most harmed who contributed the least
  • Phase out coal, just phase down
  • Adequately help countries respond to the damage from climate change
  • Address loopholes for offsets—gives big emitters and corporations a pass for cutting emissions while claiming “net zero”
  • Include a mechanism to ensure that carbon trading leads to an overall reduction in global emissions.

 This Climate Action Tracker shows how countries are doing toward keeping their NDCs.


Outline: Fossil Fuels and Renewable Energy 

No to fossil fuels, Yes to renewables—the problems with fossil fuels, facts about renewables, what’s possible 

Introductions, what hopeful fact about climate change have you learned lately?



Fossil fuels make up 84% of all energy globally, that figure is predicted to rise in coming decades despite increasing investments in renewable energy.  80% of GHG emissions come from fossil fuels, and stopping fossil fuels is the main focus of climate organizing.  More than 50% of fossil fuels are produced by 25 oil producers (corporations and states).  Emissions had leveled off globally for a few years around 2015-2016, but are now rising again globally, and in the U.S.

This video shows the history of accumulation of fossil fuels in the atmosphere and how large the US carbon footprint is.  https://grist.org/article/this-gif-captures-just-how-gigantic-the-u-s-carbon-footprint-is/?utm_campaign=btns&utm_source=share&utm_medium=email

60% of current CO2 emissions come from 6 economies:  US, China, Russia, India, Europe, Japan.  (U.S. 16% of these emissions while we have only 5% of the population)

A carbon budget shows how much CO2 we can still emit (so how much fossil fuels we can burn) and stay below 1.5C and 2C.  

Show graph on page 5 of the document, Drilling Towards Disaster.

The IPCC 2018 Report states that to keep warming to 1.5°C requires reducing emissions by about 45% relative to 2010 levels by 2030 and reaching net zero (the point at which the amount of carbon released to the atmosphere is balanced by the amount removed) by about 2050.  (To reach that goal requires a 5x increase in current efforts.). Summary of that report. 

Mini-session followed by demonstration on early hurts restimulated by climate change followed by mini-session.

Under our current administration the US has abandoned policies to curb fossil fuel emissions.  In fact, between now and 2030, the United States is on track to account for 60 percent of world growth in oil and gas production, expanding extraction at least four times more than any other country. 

Show graphs on pages 17 & 19 of Drilling for Disaster.

Another factor in global warming is methane leakage during fracking.  Methane is 32 times stronger than CO2 as a warming agent, so it has a big footprint.  Fortunately it dissipates from the atmosphere in only 12 years instead of the thousand years needed for CO2.  That means if we stop fracking, we can drastically reduce the warming effect and prevent about .5 degrees of warming.

Current subsidies to the fossil fuel industry: $300 billion globally, $25 billion in U.S.  (Note that in 2016 alone, the fossil fuel industry in the US donated $354 million to political campaigns.)

Health impacts of fossil fuels in addition to climate change:  air pollution; pipeline leakage, train accidents and coal dust, ship leakage; dangerous work.



Ninety-six percent (96%) of electricity will need to be low carbon by 2050.

Infrastructure for renewables has to be built, but then energy sources renew themselves, don’t use up resources. Expensive on front end, then very predictable and cheap.  Solar, wind, hydro, geothermal all are considered renewable resources.  (Note that mega-hydro dams have taken people's land, harmed wildlife, and caused many other problems).

Costs of renewables have been falling fast and now cheaper in some places than to use fossil fuels.  We do have the technology to make the transition in the next decade.  However private investment in renewables is not rising fast enough; still too much profit to be made in fossil fuels.  Will need public investment to make the transition fast enough.  

Currently investments in renewables are planned to be $95 trillion between now and 2050… we need an additional 15 trillion to make the full transition, for a total of $110 Trillion. That’s about 2% of global GDP, but making the transition is expected to increase the global GDP by 2.5%.

Here is a website that shows what mix of renewable energy your city is predicted to have in the year 2050.

Controversy about whether we should be continuing to use clean energy (energy that doesn’t release GHG emissions but isn’t renewable) or only renewable:  Nuclear and gas with carbon capture and storage (CCS) are both allowed under many state laws and seem to be in the mix envisioned by the Green New Deal.  There is strong opposition to both of these.  

Video of solar panels in the path of the Keystone Pipeline.  Inspirational action.

Mini-session on renewable energy

Think and Listen on climate change

Closing: your hopeful vision of the future



Last modified: 2024-01-15 14:24:04+00