2018 News

‘We need a lot of different things happening to address climate change’

Flooding in Spring, Texas, just north of Houston after 2017's Hurricane Harvey

​Soon after a landmark report from the United Nations’ scientific panel on climate change came out in October, Lisa Reyes Mason, Center for Social Development faculty director for Environment and Social Development, wrote an opinion piece and spoke on television about what people can do.

“We need a lot of different things happening to address climate change,” Mason said in an interview on WVLT-TV in Knoxville, Tennessee.

Mason is an assistant professor at the University of Tennessee College of Social Work and co-editor of the forthcoming book “People and Climate Change: Vulnerability, Adaptation and Social Justice.” She also is a network co-lead for the Grand Challenge for Social Work to create social responses to a changing environment.

“We need to mitigate or reduce greenhouse gas emissions that are getting into our atmosphere,” she said. “Making sustainable choices as individuals, they do matter. We also need more than that. … We need actions in our neighborhoods, in our workplaces. As a society, we need more political and social will” to make changes on a bigger scale.

“There’s also a really big need to talk about climate adaptation, or helping people who are going to be affected by climate change no matter what we do today.”

Mason led a research team in Knoxville that studied how heat waves affect lower- and moderate-income residents. Out of more than 400 residents surveyed, 77 percent said the heat waves affected their physical health, 57 percent reported a mental health impact, and 64 percent said their finances took a hit, she reported in an opinion piece in the Knoxville News Sentinel.

“These are lives that matter,” she wrote. “How do we take steps to protect all people in our community from the consequences of climate change before it’s too late?”