LIVE FROM MADRID: EVERYTHING AND YET NOTHING HAS CHANGED
Updated: Jan 8
Don't look back; we're not going that way. Will Charouhis, Founder of Forces of Nature
Two weeks of climate negotiations ended on Sunday afternoon without enough action to save our planet. Currently, the world is on track for 3.2C of warming, which will eventually sink coastal cities, and destroy agriculture across the globe. There will not be enough food and clean water for all of us, and 275 million people will be displaced from their homes due to rising seas. Sadly, the work that needed to get done at COP25 did not. When it came time for writing the agreements necessary to preserve life as we know it, there was too much grammatical debate about where the commas go, and not enough redlining of emission outputs.
So I left my first COP in Madrid with disappointment, and actually with surprise.
On my trip home, I re-played COP’s response to the climate crisis in my mind. This is the greatest crisis to ever face humanity. Our response to this crisis will shape the future of humanity. Twenty-five years ago, some nations were not democratic, but that is no longer the case-most nations across the world are now ruled “by the people.” Twenty years ago, there were still people who denied the science, but the denial of the science isn’t as marketable as it once was. Even 10 years ago, mass production of electric cars and large battery storage didn’t exist, but solutions are now available. And 5 years ago, we were not experiencing the widespread effects of climate change that we are now—the last 5 years were the hottest ever recorded, and increasing influences of climate change on wildfires, hurricane intensity, and coastal flooding are the worst the world has ever seen.
So where does that leave us?
One, we’ve got the world’s greatest problem.
Two, we’ve got the power to fix it.
Three, we’ve got the “know how” to fix it.
Four, if we don’t fix it, we will not all survive.
And we’ve finally got the world’s attention. A climate activist was Time’s Person of the year! More than 7.5 million people have taken to the streets in protest, twice in the last 3 months! True, climate is not on the front pages, where it needs to be, but more and more people are coming around to the science.
It’s 2020 in just a few days. Almost everything and yet nothing has changed.
So why can’t we get this thing done? What explains the lack of decisive progress on human-driven climate change?
--I was lucky enough to attend my first COP with the National Wildlife Federation, the largest environmental nonprofit organization in America. Natalie Walker and her team are doing vital work on the ground-every day-to protect our environment. We owe them a debt we cannot repay for their good care of our world, and the protection of us all. It is people like these, who believe in hope and opportunity, that are our best chance.
--We’ve got to start with ourselves. Anyone can make a difference—as an activist, a politician, a scientist, an engineer, an artist, an investor, or simply-mostly-as an engaged planetary citizen.
--we’ve got to vote.
It is impossible for our unnatural industrial civilization to avoid great disruption to the natural earth. Our progress, much celebrated, was never going to go unchecked. Nothing in life ever does. At this point, it is too late to avoid degradation of our environment and loss of some of our population due to climate change. But the best news I heard out of COP-the message of hope-is this: While it is too late to stop climate change, it is not too late to slow it. Every action we take will slow the effects of global warming incrementally, giving us time to adapt to the changes, and therefore give us a better chance for survival. The question is how does civilization make it through the inevitable change to our planet?
Do we have what it takes? I hope so, but I guess we’ll see pretty soon. 197 countries will try again next year at COP26 in Glasgow, Scotland. The differences between Spain and Scotland are only 363 days, 1,166 nautical miles, and one U.S. Presidential election away. But 275 million lives hang in that balance. We don't have the year to lose.
Together we are unstoppable youth calling for immediate action to stop climate change. One of the people. By the people. For the planet. Because there is no planet B. We’ve all just got to do something.
Will Charouhis, Founder of Forces of Nature