Episode 45: How to Engage Youth in Climate Action

new jersey student climate action

Students from New Jersey Student Climate Action, who are working on carbon pricing at the state level

Citizens’ Climate Radio is a monthly podcast hosted by CCL volunteer Peterson Toscano. Browse all our past episode recaps here, or listen to past episodes here, and check out the latest episode in the post below.

Concerned about climate change, Princeton University student Jonathan Lu and his friends became excited about a particular solution: Carbon fee and dividend. Through Citizens’ Climate Lobby, they learned about a proposed national policy to price carbon and give the revenue back to households. That inspired them to ask, “Could this be done in New Jersey?”

Having a good idea is one thing, but doing the hard work to make it a reality is quite another. Jonathan and his friends realized they needed help researching New Jersey state law. They also needed to speak with more than 100 stakeholders all over the state. They wanted to make sure their idea for legislation would appeal to as many different groups as possible.

Luckily they found a group of hard-working, intelligent, and creative people who enthusiastically joined the cause, including people like Ahan Raina and Aurora Yuan. At the time, they were both 15 years old.

In this episode of Citizens’ Climate Radio, host Peterson Toscano chats with Jonathan, Ahan, and Aurora, members of New Jersey Student Climate Advocates (NJSCA). They and scores of high school and college students are working on the New Jersey Climate Investment and Carbon Cash Back policy. In addition to applying what they are learning in school about climate change, economics, and civics, they are discovering just how challenging it is to devise a bill that appeals to as many people as possible. They are committed to seeing households benefit once carbon pricing begins in the state.  

After hearing from more than 100 stakeholders, they realized they needed to make adjustments to their original policy proposal. In a state with many businesses and industries, they heard how their idea might impact New Jersey businesses. They came up with a compromise that has made the bill better for more people in New Jersey.

While they worked on the policy, though, student climate strikes broke out in North America and beyond. How did this impact their work? “People are definitely talking more about climate change because of the work of these climate strikers,” says Ahan. He adds, “You can build as much public interest as you want, but then someone has to do the work of building the policy.”

Aurora believes policy is the best way to address climate change, but not the only way. “I do participate in the climate strikes. I think policy, though, is the real concrete solution because we can’t get any tangible change without creating policy and systematic change.”

She understands why many of her peers are furious about the world they will inherit. For Aurora, though, that anger can get in the way of the conversation. “The more angry you are and the more angry words you say to other people, the less they are willing to listen to you and the less they are willing to work with you. I think having a tone of calmness and willingness to speak with others and listen to where others are coming from, and then cooperating with others is really, really important right now.”

Jonathan experienced great success working with high school students on climate policy. In this episode, he offers excellent advice to climate groups who want to work with young people.

If you’re inspired anew by this rising generation and want to learn some practical strategies for developing effective policy while working with youth, hear the full interviews in this latest episode. To learn more about NJSCA, follow them on Instagram.



Art House

Irish author Shirley McMillan wanted nothing to do with climate change. A busy mom with a young child, she did not deny the reality or seriousness of climate change, but it all felt too much. She was also uninspired by the many suggestions for how women can do all the hard work to lower the family’s carbon footprint.

Then something changed: Shirley began to see climate change as something more than just an environmental issue. She realized it is also a human rights issue.

Hear a lively conversation between Shirley and Peterson as she shares why it took her awhile to warm up to climate action. Learning about her reasons may help you better understand why your own friends and loved ones switch off when you start talking about climate change. Discover how, over time, you can influence your friends to embrace climate action on their own terms.


Like Shirley, imagine that your friend Heather told you she wanted nothing to do with your climate work. She also had a limited view of what that work looks like, saying, “Don’t take this the wrong way, but I don’t have time for climate work. I feel bad saying that, but I work full time, and I have two children still in school. I don’t have time for protesting right now.”

In this episode, hear what listeners had to say to Heather.

For this month’s new puzzler, imagine that you’re talking to your friend Charles. Charles is concerned about climate change but doesn’t know what we can do about it. You explain how carbon pricing is a powerful tool to help us decrease fossil fuel emissions. Before you can say more, Charles interrupts, “Are you out of your mind? Did you see what happened in France when they tried that? Those Yellow Vest protests were a political disaster! You really expect that to work here?” How would you respond to Charles?

Send Peterson your answers by March, 15, 2020. Leave your name, contact info, and where you are from. You can leave a voicemail of 3 minutes or less at 518.595.9414. (+1 if calling from outside the USA.) or email your answers to radio @ citizensclimate.org.

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Citizens’ Climate Radio is a monthly podcast hosted by CCL volunteer Peterson Toscano.