Alongside several of my environment-passionate friends, I recently set up a National Town Hall for the newly created Youth Climate Action Team hub located in the DMV area. Given the current unprecedented situation, we hosted this event virtually via Zoom, which gave the team the opportunity to open the event worldwide. Thus, I reached out to Inger Andersen, the United Nations Undersecretary-General and the United Nations Environment Programme Executive Director, who at the time was located in Kenya, to speak in our National Town Hall on the topic of Covid-19 and climate change. Additionally, we included speakers including Sophia Kianni, the founder of Climate Cardinals; Zamir Ticknor and Tallulah Costa, directors of the Virginia Youth Climate Cooperative, and Angel Nwadbia, a Black Lives Matter activist to speak on issues regarding environmental racism. By July 8th, we had about 96 people from all around the world, including from Europe, on our sign up list, surpassing our initial goal of 60 sign ups.
Here are several topics that Inger Andersen presented regarding climate change:
Inger Andersen shared with us a diagram representing three categories of the greatest environmental concerns. The three interrelated categories were: the climate crisis, the ecosystem crisis, and the health crisis. Below are several facts and ideas about these three crises.
Climate Tipping Points
According to Inger Andersen, we have stabilized earth’s systems for about three million years, staying below the two degrees tipping points. Once the earth reaches a temperature of three or four degrees, the human population will experience drastic changes. These changes include the amount of rainfall, variation in ocean oscillation patterns, and a change in wind patterns. Here are several tipping points that have generated the most concern:
- West Antarctic Ice Sheet: The melting of this ice sheet can result in several meters of increase in global sea level, exacerbating natural disasters like hurricanes.
- Atlantic Ocean’s Circulation: The slowdown of global ocean circulation in the Atlantic Ocean poses as a threat towards the climate and weather of North America and Europe.
Over the past four months, the earth has experienced a significant global reduction in carbon dioxide emissions. Although going through a pandemic is not the answer to extirpating carbon emissions, COVID-19 has brought to us an image of what changes we are capable of to protect our earth. In fact, global emissions decreased by 17% daily, and emissions in individual countries decreased by an average of 26% percent. Even a short period of time with stay-home regulations can drastically put a halt to the rapid increase of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere. However, while COVID-19 demonstrates the potential we have to ameliorate the effects of climate change, it is also a premonition of what is to come (read here: COVID-19, an Ecosystems Crisis – National Town Hall Part 2).
Keep in mind that cannot be distracted by the positive environmental-effects of COVID-19, but instead, we should continue our efforts to improve the climate crisis. To conclude her speech, Inger Andersen said that “every action matters” and that not experiencing an immediate result of an action does not mean that the impact has not been made. “We can’t negotiate with nature because nature will be fine… but will humans?” ~Inger Andersen
Click HERE for part 2: COVID-19, an Ecosystems Crisis – National Town Hall Part 2
Make sure to check out the Youth Climate Action Team DMV hub at @ycatdmw on Instagram!