COP 23

Shining a Spotlight on Global Climate Action

From Europe to Fiji: How National Identity Shapes Perception of Climate Change

This November, I had the extraordinary privilege to attend COP 23 of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change a.k.a the UN Climate Change Negotiations in Bonn, Germany as a representative of Emory University.

This unbelievable event draws distinguished diplomats, politicians, activists, and interested students, like myself, from around the world. Everyone knows (I hope.) what the world accomplished in 2015 when countries gathered in Paris to create the Paris Agreement—an unprecedented feat of collaboration from 197 countries with the common objective of keeping warming below 2°C  (re: small island nations under water, extreme weather events, you get the picture, it’s not pretty).

Following the initial creation of the Paris Agreement, the talks have shifted to focus on the implementation of this ambitious agenda. My pass enabled me to access the Climate Action zone— an exhibition space for individuals and organizations dedicated to innovative solutions for climate change. They promoted solutions ranging from mitigation and adaptation to technology and media efforts.

I learned about work that reaches across sectors (public, private, nonprofit) and levels (national, state, city, local) as well as between countries and communities. But I made it a priority to place a special focus on individuals. Individuals across the world who are taking action. Individuals who are STILL IN.

In the United States, the We are Still In movement, unites subnational efforts by cities, universities, companies, and communities to take action.  This campaign demonstrates the the potential for outsize impact of local stakeholders. Yet, it’s message is largely confined to the unique circumstance of federal inaction in the United States.

As a result, I partnered with Chasing Coral to use their We are Still In photo campaign as an avenue to highlight diverse and global perspectives on the We are Still In movement at COP 23 in Bonn. I asked people to write why they are “still in” on a sheet of paper and photographed them holding their handwritten sign. The conversations I had with these people gave me further insight into how global perspectives on climate action differ.

As I wandered through the conference hall (a series of exhibitions for each country on display), I wondered how national identity influences an individual’s perception of climate change.  How do these individuals see climate change and what are their motivations to take action?

The following series of 5 blog posts will focus on how climate perception is shaped by national circumstance. Naturally, a sampling bias arises in interviews, as those attending the COP are likely people who:

  1. believe in climate change.
  2. recognize the urgency of the issue.
  3. be mobilized to make a difference.

I predicted that trend would arise regarding their individual motivations for action as a product of their national identities.  From discussions with these impressive people, I attempt to compare their climate perceptions and assess how national identities impact those perceptions. My conclusions are significantly supplemented by outside research on climate perceptions as well as information collected at side events at the conference.

I invite you to learn from my experience at COP 23!

Learn about global perspectives on the urgency of climate action.

Explore multimedia components that allow you to see the face and hear the voices of these amazing activists.

These stories make a compelling argument for why the United States government and concerned or disengaged Americans must take a stand and join as we, as a united human family fight the effects of climate change.

I hope what you find here will inspire you to take action.

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COP 23


Climate Change in Africa: A Foreign Concept & A Daily Threat

In northern Nigeria, desertification plagues the land.

Lake Chad, the source of water for 50 million residents of this region lost 90% of its water mass in the last 45 years, shrinking from 25,000 km2 to 2,500 km2.

Drought leaves the fulani herdsman, who are dependent on the survival of their cattle to migrate east in search of food, water, and a new livelihood. Arriving in the east without resources or a stable source of income, former herdsmen are met with desperate conditions. Boko Haram, Al Qaeda, and other terrorist groups see these people as ideal prey for recruitment to their organizations.

In the west, erosion (exacerbated by deforestation, increased land use, and population growth) leads to landslides that sweep away children, homes, and entire villages. In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, one landslide took 40 children with it. With urban population growth, deforestation, and increased rainfall (all consequences anthropogenic climate change) these incidents will become more frequent.

But how do people who experience events like these in developing nations perceive the urgency of climate action? I thought that if people were seeing the consequences mentioned above every day, they would be mobilized to take action….right?

Wrong. What I learned from interviews and further research suggested an important consideration. Due to a lack of climate literacy in developing nations, few people are actually even aware of the concept of climate change. An obvious barrier to taking action.

Anthony Leiserowitz’s team at the Yale Program on Climate Communication found that education level is the strongest predictor of public awareness of climate change.

I had failed to think of the fact that experts and activists from the developing world who were in attendance at the Climate Conference in Germany are not an accurate reflection of the general public’s awareness of climate change!

Most Africans perceive climate change through noticing changes in temperature and weather patterns, impacts that affect seasonal growing cycles, agricultural productivity, and other impacts, but they cannot put a name to the phenomena causing these changes.

However, Leiserowitz confirmed that Africans are aware of climate change perceive it as a greater threat to themselves and their families than people in most other countries.

The impact it has on the livelihoods of Africans is both a salient issue and a daily struggle. This led me to conclude that the felt impacts of climate change may actually be a stronger influence to inspire action than the mere awareness of the human influence.

This idea was supported by my interview with Prince Goodluck Obi of Nigeria. Prince Goodluck is the head of two prominent organizations dedicated to protecting the rights of children; including United Nations of Youth Network-Nigeria (UNOY) and the Global Alert for Defense of Youth and the Less Privileged (GADYLP). He promotes climate education in Nigerian schools, by starting green clubs and offering tree planting opportunities for young students in order to make them responsible environmental stewards. He strives to educate youth about the challenges of climate change and inspire them to create a better future for Nigeria.

“My commitment as a climate action activist will help to make the world a better place to live in as we clear the challenges confronting climate action!”

Hear Prince Goodluck’s inspiring story in the podcast below: