In one of his speeches, UN Secretary-General A. Guterres noted: “Humanity is waging war on nature. This is suicidal”. Indeed, this is how it is, and this is our bitter truth.
The impacts of global warming and climate change are adverse and irreversible. Loss of biodiversity, destruction of ecosystems, an increasing number of natural disasters and weather anomalies, threats to human health, and extinction of entire species ... which will certainly affect and already affect the sustainable development (and progress on it) of the countries of the world. According to the IPCC, warming of the planet by 1.5 °C could put 20-30% of species at risk of extinction, and with temperatures rising above 2 °C, most of our ecosystems will face immense stress.
Therefore, I would like to devote today's story to show: 1) the connection/interlink between nature and humans, and show the very destructive, but also the creative role of humans in the life of our planet, namely from the point of view of the greatest challenge for all mankind - climate change, and 2) how at different levels we as a society, and especially, young people should and can act today.
The climate has always changed. Several natural factors influence climate change. But, alas, and as it was precisely stated by M. Thatcher at her speech at the UN in 1989, it was the human impact that led to unprecedented scale and rate of greenhouse gas emissions into the air, which is something new for the planet ... at least for the last 800,000 years, and ever since the planet's formation... The amount and concentration of greenhouse gases emitted from the use of fossil fuels by humans are not diminishing, and we successfully continue to contribute to the warming of our planet. Thus, the concentration of carbon dioxide has changed naturally over the past 800,000 years, but only in the range from 180 to 290 parts per million. But, these natural variations are nothing in comparison to the tremendous growth that has taken place since the start of the industrial revolution around the 1750s. And, today's carbon dioxide concentration of about 400 ppm is already about 40% higher than the pre-industrial concentration (280 ppm in 1750), which itself was close to the highest ever detected in recent 800,000 years old (Bennett, 2016). Incidentally, the latest IPCC AR 6 says that it is clear that human influence has warmed the atmosphere, oceans, and land - and this (for a second!) is the conclusion from climate scientists from all over the world (IPCC, 2021).
In this way, we understand how significant is the role of humans and their activities in influencing the climate system. In this case, destructive...or a human destroying...
And then a question arises: what can be done with this? Which side am I on? The one who makes the problem or the one who solves it and wants to solve it?
And here, I will attempt to show you a piece of the big, (complex) multi-sectoral and multi-level, yet very interesting picture of climate action - and precisely the critical and much-needed role and participation of youth.
(Will tell you why young people in particular, but a little later)
For instance, (among multiple examples at different levels), since 2009 there has been a global UN youth climate change conference (COY), which annually brings together members of the official youth constituency of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) - YOUNGO. And this year’s 16th UN Youth Conference on Climate Change (COY16) was completed a few days ago at the Scottish city of Glasgow right before the COP26. The main outcome of the conference was the formation of the global youth climate statement which was just submitted to the COP26 presidency (also happening now in Scottish city of Glasgow). The global youth statement that urges the world leaders at COP26 “to once and for all provide the necessary policy framework to win our fight for 1.5°C” (COY16, 2021), has 15 thematics based on the inputs from all over the world, where voices of thousands of youth were included, and signed by 40.000 youths. COY16 was officially endorsed by UNFCCC, COP26 Presidency, and the UN Secretary General's Youth Envoy - that way making it the official youth event in the run-up to the UN climate talks (that very COP26).
Now comes the most interesting part!
The youth of Kyrgyzstan did not remain aloof from all these efforts of the youth of the whole planet and for several years now they have been actively, systematically, and with great enthusiasm building the youth climate movement of the country (starting from the Youth Climate Change Forum in 2019 and on).
In the summer of 2021, a youth team of more than 20 young people from all over the country fully prepared and held the very first local youth climate conference in Kyrgyzstan and even in the region of Central Asia, which was officially endorsed by YOUNGO/UNFCCC - the so-called Local UN climate change conference of youth (LCOY Kyrgyzstan) and prepared a national youth statement where voices of youth from all 7 provinces of Kyrgyzstan were collected and sent to the COY16 and COP26 platforms.
The LCOY team consisted of representatives of various youth, environmental, student organizations (SKGE, CAY4W, Global Shapers Bishkek, YVO Leadership, and many others), climate activists from all over the country, students of various universities (AUCA, KRSU, KGUSTA, KNAU, etc.), COY16 country coordinators from Kyrgyzstan, SDG ambassadors. So the event became absolutely "youth and for youth", and also adhered to all 10 principles of LCOY events.
More than 700 youth representatives from all over the country have applied for LCOY, more than 300 participants, more than 1000 young people were covered through our social media campaign. LCOY Kyrgyzstan 2021 has become a unique platform where we managed to unite a wide variety of young people and discuss the risks, opportunities, and consequences associated with a changing climate, in particular for our country.
After completing the national LCOY level, our team realized that this is just the beginning and we do not want/cannot stop there and, perhaps, in the near future we will try to expand even more as a team and hold a regional conference and discuss climate issues and most importantly action with young people of Central Asia. A youth delegation of two people was selected through a global competition to represent Kyrgyzstan at COY16.
Indeed, it can be said this LCOY Kyrgyzstan 2021-COY16-COP26 line, where youth of Kyrgyzstan was active, is the first ever time when youth of our country learnt closely about national and global decision-making processes, and actually became part of it. And, yet, this is just the beginning!
Obviously, climate action is not limited only to organizing or participating in such events. Interestingly, even the banal sorting of waste in your home, school, and country is already an example of the contribution to mitigation and adaptation to the consequences of climate change. And there is an ocean of various other examples of climate advocacy and action! But the most effective at the level of any individual and the first step in action for the fight against climate change, as well as available to everyone, is to be curious and learn about climate change on one's own, and to be proactive in actively educating and engaging fellow citizens into climate action. Getting involved in climate action and finding local solutions is not difficult and everyone can find his/her way!
Now, are you ready? To act for the climate and save our wonderful planet? That way become a human who creates?
P.S. At last, I would like to give credit to the outstanding German naturalist and explorer Alexander von Humboldt, who was the first one to speak about human-induced climate change, and start a column of interesting facts about him:
- It was him who discovered human-induced climate change in 1800 and then in 1831.
-For the remainder of the money allocated by Emperor Nicholas I for Humboldt's expedition across Russia (1829), which he (the scientist) returned, a network of first weather stations was later created in Russia.
And now theee last!!!
Why youth? It is simple! Because it is today's youth who will have to deal with the consequences of climate change tommorrow, particularly, because of the decisions taken by world leaders today.