Young people are increasingly sounding the alarm about climate change being the greatest threat to global prosperity and development. Rising temperatures are fueling environmental degradation, natural disasters, weather extremes, food and water insecurity, economic disruption, conflict, and terrorism. Sea levels are rising, the Arctic is melting, coral reefs are dying, oceans are acidifying, and forests are burning. Due to human emissions of greenhouse gases, the international community is on a warming trajectory that will leave the world irrevocably changed.
In its simplest form, Climate change is the rise in average surface temperatures on Earth, mostly due to the burning of fossil fuels. While the definition of the term does nothing to reveal the dangers lurking in the shadows, climate change has been tagged the most urgent threat of our time – and for very valid reasons.
No corner of the globe is immune from the devastating consequences of climate change. Extreme weather events and accompanying natural disasters, such as floods, droughts, heat waves and wildfires, are becoming commonplace as the effects of climate change tighten their grip on the planet. It is clear that business as usual is not good enough.
Climate change is a major threat to international peace and security. The effects of climate change heighten competition for resources, fueling socioeconomic tensions and, increasingly often, leading to mass displacement. It also threatens the effective enjoyment of a range of human rights including those to life, water and sanitation, food, health, housing, self-determination, culture and development.
Unfortunately, the people who are worst affected by climate change are not only those with the least capacity to adapt to it, but those least responsible for it. The world’s richest nations are the most responsible for the climate crisis, yet the effects are being felt first and worst by the poorest nations and the most vulnerable peoples and communities.
The time is now to take responsibility for our actions. The world needs a 45% reduction in emissions over the next 10 years to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels but is not currently on track to meet the goals set out in the 2015 Paris Agreement on Climate Change.
Political leaders have an obligation to prevent the foreseeable adverse effects of climate change. Doing nothing but pay lip service to the climate change agenda will get us nowhere. It is clear that business as usual is not good enough. As the infinite cost of climate change reaches irreversible highs, now is the time for bold collective action.