TUCSON, Ariz. — Although the challenges posed by climate change can feel overwhelming, an Arizona scientist is tapping into the power of America’s moms to give earth a fighting chance.
Oceanographer Joellen Russell works at the University of Arizona’s Department of Geosciences. She uses robots, supercomputers and satellites to gauge the ocean’s role in climate change.
“I’m one of those big nerds,” Dr. Russell said, laughing.
Moms on a mission
Russell is also a mother of two children. That role inspired her to help lead the nonpartisan activist group Science Moms, which is dedicated to explaining climate change in simple, fact-based terms and motivating everyday moms to demand solutions that preserve the planet for future generations.
“There’s nothing more powerful than moms on a mission,” said Russell.
For Russell, climate change is personal, especially in the southwest where Tucson and Phoenix are the third and fourth fastest warming cities in the nation.
Her family goes stir crazy during summer months when it's too hot for outdoor activities and she worries how crop shortages in the coming years spurred by the mega-drought will impact food supplies.
“I think being a mom really puts it in perspective,” said Russell.
Dispelling myths about climate change
The Science Moms use videos to dispel myths such as “climate change is a natural phenomenon” or “climate change is way off in the distant future.” Perhaps the most damning myth of all, according to the Science Moms, is “there is nothing we can do about it.”
The vast majority of the world’s scientists acknowledge that human-caused carbon emissions are causing the planet to heat up. Organizations like NASA and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) provide specific details and warnings of the consequences.
“You know moms change the world. Whether it was the right to vote or child labor, we can make a big impact,” said Russell.
She says Americans have reason to be hopeful. Since 2007, energy-related carbon emissions from coal have declined on average by 6% each year in the U.S. However, recent reports by the IPCC note that the world’s governments are far behind climate goals.
“We’re making progress. We just need to make it faster,” said Russell.
A 'to-do list' for action
The Science Moms is now launching a $3 million “to-do list” campaign involving videos and commercials intended to prompt moms to action.
“The science moms created the one thing all moms need to take action, a to-do list,” Russell said in the video.
The list involves three steps; Swapping out carbon-polluting items for electric ones, sharing the message about climate science with other moms and speaking up to politicians about the need for civic action.
Russell’s optimistic, energetic attitude stands in contrast to some of the gloomy messages that can be found on social media among discouraged environmental advocates.
“We’re not passive here. This isn’t something being done to us. We’re going to fix it,” said Russell.
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