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Happenings: C-Change Conversations with founder Kathleen Biggins

The World Affairs Council of Hilton Head continues its Evening Speaker Series on March 5 with Kathleen Biggins, co-founder of the C-Change Conversations, a non-partisan association furthering discussion and learning about climate change and its impacts. LOCAL Life asked Biggins five questions heading into the March 5 primer. Tickets are $25. wachh.org or 843-384-6758.

[LOCAL Life] When did you first realize climate change is a real issue with far-ranging implications? [Kathleen Biggins] After attending a national conference in Washington, D.C., in 2013 and hearing a U.S. rear admiral and business leader talking about how climate change would impact our geopolitical security and economy. I began investigating the issue in earnest because I understood from these non-partisan sources that climate change’s scale and complexity were much greater than were being reported or discussed. I also realized that the politicization of the issue was hampering our ability to evaluate the risk.

[LL] How does climate change impact Lowcountry residents?
[KB] Lowcountry residents will be impacted on a wide range of levels. South Carolina is vulnerable to sea level rise, increased exposure to diseases carried by vector-born pests like mosquitoes, extreme heat and extreme storms. All of these have a direct impact on the economic health of the region and residents’ ability to keep themselves safe.

[LL] Many perceive climate change as a liberal issue. How do you bring moderates and conservatives into the conversation without turning them off? [KB] Climate change has become a “litmus test” for party loyalties, which has led to this being one of the most divisive issues in this country. C-Change Conversations tries to bridge that divide by being scrupulously non-partisan and reaching moderates and conservatives within their own communities where they are comfortable among their peers. We have an inclusive message and we use very credible sources, like NASA and NOAA, institutions we normally look to for credible guidance on how to stay safe. We’ve been told our presentation helps people understand the basic science of climate change and how it will impact the things they care about most – their jobs and economy, health and security, and exposure to geopolitical instability. We also highlight that there are solutions that fit within conservative principles and that many respected Republicans, including House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, are calling for a conservative response to the threat.

[LL] What makes the C-Change Primer unique? [KB] The Primer is unique in that it makes the science very accessible and meets audience members wherever they are, whether they doubt climate change is real, or man-made or poses an urgent risk. We use powerful graphics from credible sources. We have been told it feels more like a conversation than a lecture. It also challenges people to consider how they normally evaluate risks, and whether they are evaluating this one in the same way. Importantly, we have a very professional but inclusive and friendly tone, which helps people listen to and value our message.

[LL] What first steps can we all take to help fix this issue? [KB] The first thing we need to do is recognize and understand the complexity and scale of this threat. It is only once we begin to recognize how it will harm us that we can begin to forge the consensus to act. This is not an issue that one group or party can solve. It is not an issue that one country can solve. All of the components of society — entrepreneurs, scientists, financiers, businesses, policy makers and the public — need to come together. For that to happen we need good policies to create the roadmap, and policy makers at both the corporate and government level won’t act unless stakeholders demand it. So, the first and most important thing we can do is raise our voices and demand more from ourselves, our communities and our leaders. LL