The international community faces a number of challenges that vary, depending on the world`s regions. EU countries have to deal with integration processes, youth unemployment, immigration outside the union and the cost of energy amongst other challenges. Countries in America, Asia, Africa, the Pacific, etc also have their own issues to deal with.
However, irrespective of countries` geographical locations, the issue of climate change is set to be a common challenge that will have to be addressed by everyone at the peril of future generations. From polar bears in the Arctic regions that helplessly watch the rapid shrinking of sea ice to inhabitants of islands in the Pacific and Atlantic, climate change is going to be a threatening issue, now more than ever before.
Although most victims of climate change do little to contribute to greenhouse gas emissions, they are unfortunately the first to be affected. Islanders in the pacific have contributed less than 0.03% of current global greenhouse gas emissions but are the first to be threatened by the consequences of rising sea levels.
In an effort to counteract the consequences of climate change, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) negotiated at the United Conference on Environment and Development that was held in Rio de Janeiro in June 1992. The objective of the treaty was to "stabilize greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropocentric interference with the climate system".
Since 1995 the Conference of the Parties (COP) and the UNFCCC have been meeting annually to promote the climate change agenda and to seek long-term solutions to a low carbon and climate-resilient future. The 20th session of the Conference of the Parties took place from 1 to 14 December in Lima, Peru and convened leaders from all over the world, Inter-governmental organizations (IGO), non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and agencies of secretariats of the United Nations.
As the session was ongoing, participants were alarmed by flooding news coming from South Asia. At the end of 2014, the media was full of reports about floods in South Asia which indicates that consequences of climate change are ever increasing.
In Sri Lanka, 292,000 people were affected by flooding and most of them took refuge in relief centers away from the flooded areas. The same thing was reported in Malaysia and Thailand as severe flooding continue to hit Southeast Asia with more than 180,000 displaced and 18 people killed. (http://floodlist.com/asia)
The consequences of climate change have also been felt across Europe as we conclude the year 2014. Southern and central Europe have seen more frequent heat waves, forest fires and droughts as the Mediterranean is becoming drier. In urban areas where 4 out of 5 Europeans live, people have been exposed to heat waves, flooding or rising sea levels.
During the conferences of the parties in Lima, the United Nations Environment Program organized a multimedia photo exhibit titled "Where will we go?" by photo journalist Kadir Van Lohuizen. Over a period of three years Kadir had been closely looking at the global consequences of rising sea levels caused by climate change. (Source: http://unep.org/ Video diary of Day 10 at Lima COP20)
He said that his project was finding out where climate change is happening or where it will be happening in future. "We have also been looking to the fact that people might have to relocate which will be an incredible issue in decades to come", noted the Dutch photo journalist. Kadir has been in many places around the world where he was able to witness first hand urgent situations in Papua New Guinea and other areas in the Pacific.
"This is a global issue and the reason why we want to include USA and Europe in our project". Kadir argues that the problem is not only about the Pacific and developing countries in East Asia. He noted that the issue affects the United Kingdom in East coasts and other places in the US such as Miami and Boston. "The real question is where people have to go to?"
For over twenty years, the international community through the UNFCCC had been engaging in negotiations to halt this trend. The process seems endless while climate change consequences are rising every year. Instead of taking serious actions to change the status, the world`s biggest polluters - China, U.S and India are driving carbon dioxide level to high record.
In the year that just ended, the world pumped an estimated 39.8 billion tons of carbon dioxide into the air by burning coal, oil and gas. "This is 778 million tons or 2.3 more than previous year", said Glenn Peters a Norwegian scientist member of the Global carbon Project international team that calculate global emissions every year.
In a blog post at Chinadialogue.net, Dr. Glenn argued that China now emits almost 30% of global carbon-dioxide emissions which is more than the US and European Union combined. It is unfortunate that despite over 25 years of climate negotiations, greenhouse gas emissions are increasing and are set to be 65% above the levels in the 1990.
Dr Glenn noted that although world leaders met in New York in September 2014 to break the political deadlock on climate change, policies are not going to be sufficient to keep global warming to less than two degrees above the start of the industrial revolution.
Apparently world`s leaders gatherings haven`t produced significant outcomes to halt climate change consequences on our planet. The question is what citizens of the planet earth should do at least in their respective communities. If nothing changes the future of our planet is certainly going to be characterized by frequent natural disasters.
Citizens, businesses, NGOs among other organizations from all corner of the globe can`t just helplessly watch as our planet head to a disastrous destination and should instead play their role. If local actions throughout the world are encouraged, our planet will benefit from worldwide climate friendly actions.
Momentum for change, an initiative spearheaded by the UN Climate Change secretariat might be a good starting point as we wait world leaders to implement climate friendly policies. This initiative encourages citizens around the world to take actions that reduce carbon emissions. It shines a light on the enormous groundswell of activities underway across the globes that are moving the world towards a highly resilient, low carbon future.
Hollywood actor and climate champion Mark Ruffalo challenges everyone to take transformative climate actions. He argues that climate change negotiations can be serious, complicated and slow. "You don't need to wait for this process but can instead take action". The actor calls everyone to implement solutions to climate change that transform the environment, economies and livelihood of communities.
These actions are dubbed by the UN Climate secretariat as lighthouse activities. The secretariat argues that they are some of the most practical and replicable examples of what people, businesses, governments and industries are doing to tackle climate change.
During the 20th session of the Conference of the Parties, the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon was introduced to one of such actions by the Peruvian chef Gaston Acurio. The chef made vegetarian crevices salad using eco-friendly stoves designed in Peru. "These enhanced stoves emission rates are three times smaller and require half the amount of wood which is a contribution to the environment", explained the Peruvian chef.
The lighthouse activities such as the above mentioned in Peru are what can at least help the world to adapt itself to the rapidly changing environment. Each year Momentum for change recognizes concrete actions that are being implemented in different parts of the world.
While the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference is scheduled in France, world leaders have to bear in mind that there is no time for lengthy negotiations but for concrete actions. During the just concluded conference in Peru, Kadir Van Lohuizen sent a warning signal through his multimedia photo presentation that in the future there will be a lot of cross-border migration and climate refugees as a result of global warming. I guess prevention is better than cure. #Government