The first step towards solving climate change is understanding of it. While I was at COP23, I had the opportunity to do just that; I broadened my knowledge of the issue by hearing panels and discussions given by politicians, researchers, subject-matter experts, climate action leaders, and members of the general public. I also interviewed many of them to learn more. Each of these conversations provided me with new perspectives on climate change as an interdisciplinary and global issue.

Below are quotes that I heard during the conference, each of which I feel shows a diverse outlook on issues and potential solutions regarding climate change, yet agrees upon similar needs that we must meet in order to put aside our differences and reach informed decisions:

Governor of California Jerry Brown emphasized that climate change is interdisciplinary; in order to solve the issue of climate change, the world needs not only scientific evidence and understanding from the public, but also political agreement both between and within various countries. The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) is one step towards international compromises, but cities and states within the United States must also come to a consensus on the issue (“High-Level Opening of Global Climate Action”):

California Governor Jerry Brown speaks at the “High-Level Opening of Global Climate Action” panel at COP23 on 11/13/17

“I don’t want to call it war, but it is combat… this is clever political striving, manipulation, all the dark arts of politics, that are engaged here. Dealing with the climate, dealing with greenhouse gases, is not for kids. It takes political will against your most powerful allies and players in the economy, and its takes technical competence from engineers, scientists, and others.”

Kate Brown, the governor of Oregon, also emphasized the importance of coming together on the issue. She said that climate change will have effects on everyone, so it is critical that everyone take a stand on the issue. By doing so, we can be more efficient and effective at solving the problem (“Climate and Clean Energy Policy in the U.S.: State Leaders Speak Out”):

“I totally believe in the power of ‘we.’ All of us, together, can have a greater impact than all of us working alone.”

Deputy Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) Ibrahim Thiaw noted that in order to come together and meet such a consensus, the world needs support from the public, rather than just politicians and other leaders. The first step towards doing so, he said, is climate change education. While we cannot guarantee that we will be able to change one’s opinions, we can do our best to give the knowledge necessary to make informed decisions (“How science can help accelerate near-term climate ambition”):    

Ibrahim Thaw spoke about climate education during the “How science can help accelerate near-term climate ambition (WWF Pavilion)” panel on 11/15/17

“No one should say that they don’t know or understand the science [behind climate change]. The might say that they chose not to do anything about it. But they shouldn’t say that we didn’t inform them of what was going on.”   

Kate Gilmore, the United Nations Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights spoke about why children, especially young girls, are at high risk for facing the negative implications of climate change. From a loss of food security to an extreme vulnerability during violent conflicts and extreme weather conditions, many children bear a large portion of climate change’s effects, and as such, Gilmore and other panelists, including Bjorn Freiberf and Claire Jacklin, youth engaged with the Youth Advisory Panel at Plan International Germany, emphasized that youth should play a larger role in climate negotiations and action than they currently do (“Child Rights, Climate Change, and Climate Action”):

“Children have the right to not just be protected because they are especially vulnerable but to also have a say in what happens to mitigate and adapt to climate change because they are humans too.”

Shalvi Shakshi, the Fiji National Climate Change Speech Competition Winner, delivers her final message at the “Child Rights, Climate Change and Climate Action” panel on 11/15/17

Shalvi Shakshi the ten-year-old winner of the Fiji National Climate Change Speech Competition, and she gave an inspiring and emotional speech on how she, as a child, as well as her family, friends, and other community members were particularly vulnerable to the effects of climate change because they live on the small, developing island nation of Fiji. She concluded with a final call to action to speak out against climate change (“Child Rights, Climate Change, and Climate Action”):

“My message to everyone is, please, let our words rise, not the sea level.”

Despite President Trump’s executive decision to pull the United States out of the Paris Agreement, major corporate leaders emphasized how businesses can still take strides towards sustainability and can continue to have a positive impact on the environment. Lisa Manley works as Senior Director of Sustainability for the company, Mars, Inc., a corporation that manufactures popular chocolate brands such as Dove, Milky Way, and Snickers. With such a large consumer population, Mars, Inc. has an enormous opportunity to influence the environment, leading it to source all electricity for national operations to renewable energy sources, particularly from wind power (“Walmart and Mars, Inc.: The Business Case for Action on Climate”):

 

 

 

 

 

“I think the business community has skin in this game. Each corporation has a carbon budget, and we need to be working to manage that carbon budget in addition to being part of the conversation to decide how to move forward. My hope is that in years to come, we’re going to see more and more businesses in the U.S. be ‘all in’ or ‘still in.’”

Salaheddine Mezouar, the president of COP22 from the Kingdom of Morocco, addressed the global scale of climate change. He said that though it is unfortunate that we must deal with the issue of climate change, it will also allow countries to come together in solidarity (“Closing Plenary of the High Level Roundtables on Climate Action for Zero Hunger”):

Salaheddine Mezouar addressed the need for immediate climate action at the “Closing Plenary of the High Level Roundtables on Climate Action for Zero Hunger” on 11/14/17

 

“[Climate change] is a mission that brings together all countries in the world. It’s a very noble mission, and this is going to be a winning endeavor.”      

 

Read more about my experiences at COP23 here, and listen to a few thoughts from others at COP23 below:   

In my personal interview with him, Marco Springmann, a researcher at the University of Oxford, discusses adaptation and mitigation to agricultural shifts caused by climate change. 

In my interview with him, Nicola Cantore, a researcher at Nagoya University and industrial development officer for the United Nations Industrial Development Organization, comments on the economic benefits and consequences of using organic farming as a climate action strategy: 

In my interview with him, Alessandro De Pinto, a senior research fellow at the International Food Policy Research Institute, discusses the impact of agriculture on food security and malnutrition:

This is a recording of climate-themed music performed by musicians at COP23:

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