The UNFCCC Climate Negotiations (also known as COP21 for short) starts in 2 days and the Republicans in American Congress are already moving to block any type of US climate package that would go to into a global fund to fight climate change. As I work for the United Nations, I spend a lot of my time at work reading and trying to understand what is preventing economic and social growth in some of the world's poorest countries, and how the UN can work to leverage resources and bring awareness to these issues so that they can be addressed. It is common knowledge, at the UN and in academic circles, that climate change is one of the greatest threats to global development--and that's putting it nicely. Climate change, if it is not addressed immediately will have disastrous and deadly impacts on humanity.
Photo via IRIN
Increasing desertification, droughts, and other extreme events threaten farmers' ability to grow food and count on dependable crop yields to feed our growing population. Today we are witnessing not only decreasing yields, but decreased nutritional value in the crops that make it through the harvest season. This is very worrisome, as IPCC (the Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change) estimates that by 2050 we might see 8% less crop yields AND the population is expected to increase to 9.6 billion (up from 7.2 billion today). This does not bode well, as a struggle for food resources would most likely lead to a rise in global conflict.
Photo via The Climate Reality Project
So why don't the Republicans in Congress care about these facts? Honestly I can't answer that, because I really don't know. My guess, from the language that I have seen from the Republican congressmen and women themselves, is that they feel the US is being asked to pay too much--as it's currently set to give about 3 billion dollars. Yes, this is a lot of money, what astounds me though is that the United States is the world’s largest historical emitter of carbon dioxide. This has undisputedly resulted in the destruction of the environment and thus, the livelihoods of vulnerable people across the globe. Obviously we did not do it alone, but we should absolutely take responsibility for our fair share of environmental damage--which happens to be a lot. The fact that some Americans actually think it is not our responsibility to clean up after ourselves, nor do they think we should work with the rest of the world on a global solution to a problem we've all contributed to, truly disturbs and disgusts me.
Photo via The Climate Group
Fortunately, I'm not the only one. Those of us who feel a responsibility to our environment--or more accurately, our home--and to future generations, need to come together and make our voices heard. Many of the best climate solutions which have not yet been made will be invented by today's youth, and we must empower ourselves. We are the next generation of leaders and we absolutely can make a difference.
Today, instead of just getting upset about the headlines, I decided to make a difference. Here are some things I did, and you, yes YOU, can do to make a difference in regards to the climate debate:
1. Attend a Climate Movement March
Today I signed up to attend the Global Climate March taking place in NYC this Sunday, 29 November to encourage New York Mayor de Blasio to take action on climate change. Check out the People's Climate Movement (PCM) to find out if there is something happening in your area. Don't see anything? Organize one yourself! I'm serious, you can absolutely contact PCM and they will help you out with the materials, you just have to organize the event--a great leadership experience you could put on your resume.
2. Educate Yourself on the Basics - Climate 101 with Bill Nye
I've educated myself on the basics of Climate Change so when I encounter climate change deniers I can talk to them about the facts. Bill Nye and The Climate Reality Project have put together a really great video that quickly and easily explains the basics. I've watched and shared it with my social networks because it's important to separate fact from fiction and end the denial of climate change.
Click here to share with your networks
3. Stay Up-To-Date
I also read a lot about what's going on in the climate change debate and what solutions are being proposed so I can be prepared to explain when people ask, because they will ask (and should!). For example In a Washington Post op-ed earlier this year, George P. Shultz (Ronald Reagan's secretary of state from 1982 to 1989) proposed a similar solution to James Hansen's (perhaps the world’s foremost climate scientist) simple idea: If the US and China tomorrow agreed to apply a gradually rising fee on their carbon dioxide emissions, including imports, that would instantly motivate anyone that wanted to trade with them—basically the entire rest of the world—to sign up. Not that complicated, right?
Photo via The Climate Reality Project
4. Speak Up! - Use your voice.
Finally, I wrote this article. And while I'm guessing it will only be read by perhaps a few hundred people, I'm hopeful that the men and women who chose to read an article specifically about climate change are already pretty invested in seeing some change happen in the near future. I'd rather have a few hundred readers who will actively translate even one piece of advice I've given in this article into reality than thousands of readers who browse and move on with their day. Here's hoping that you're one of the good ones!
M.A. Public Policy & International Affairs. Currently working at United Nations in New York. Loves Feminism, Fashion, Tech & Politics. #SideHustles: (1) Fashion and Lifestyle Blogger (2) "Woman in Tech" Building Websites & Coding (3) Career Strategist for Millennials (4) Contributor at Mogul (5) [...]