World leaders, experts call for urgent action on climate change
On the opening day of the United Nations 68th General Assembly, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called for the gathered assemblage of world leaders to join in a more sustainable future.
“A low-carbon path beckons – a path that can create jobs and improve public health while safeguarding the environment,” Ban said. “There is opportunity amid this peril – a chance to change the way we do business, plan our cities, fuel our homes and factories, and move our goods and ourselves.”
The UN chief’s remarks kicked off a week of climate talk at United Nations headquarters and other high-level meetings throughout New York City, all underscoring the importance and urgency to act to stop climate change now.
Former US Vice-President and climate change expert Al Gore, told a worldwide audience viewing the Social Good Summit, both in-person and online, “We are at a political tipping point. We are facing new weather and climate conditions.”
Demanding that a price be placed on carbon and pollution, Gore likened the behavior of the corporate polluters to the tobacco industry. “It’s absolutely absurd to treat the sky as if it’s an open sewer,” he said. “We must fight climate change denial…We must not let companies lie to us like the tobacco industry.”
During his speech at Social Good, which he later echoed to a high-profile audience at the Clinton Global Initiative, Gore also pointed out the human cost of climate change, which is caused primarily by emissions from the developed world, yet disproportionately impacts the world’s least developed countries.
Droughts, famines, and crop failures have all been linked to changing weather patterns in least developed countries around the world, according to Gore and other climate change experts. Among them, Jody Williams, chair of the Nobel Women’s Initiative stressed the impact on women in LDC’s at her own Social Good talk which focused on the global south, women, and climate impact.
“We are running out of time when it comes to climate change,” Williams underscored in her talk. “On the front lines are women in developing countries.”
At the UN, talk focused on the Pacific Islands where rising waters and higher temperatures threaten the very existence of several small nations, including Tuvalu and the Marshall Islands. The Manjuro Declaration, presented this week during the UN General Assembly, was authored by the small island nations and calls for immediate action from all member states to stop climate change and help preserve their homelands.
Marshall Islands President Christopher Jorebon Loeak took his message beyond diplomacy and to the public forum, authoring an op-ed published this week in the New York Times to bring attention to his nation’s plight as well as speaking with students at Columbia University.
“Earlier this year, I was forced to declare a state of disaster for our northern atolls after an unprecedented drought left thousands of our people without food or fresh water,” Loeak wrote, “Just six weeks later, a giant ‘king tide’ hit our capital, Majuro, flooding the airport runway, some surrounding neighborhoods and even my own backyard as the waves crashed over a thick, protective sea wall—the second devastating climate disaster in two months.”
Speaking to college students and future leaders at the World Leaders Forum at Columbia University, he also sought to underscore the reality of climate change in the small island states.
“For some, climate change is an important part of the issue—but one of many and distant threats,” Loeak told the Columbia University audience. “In the Marshall Islands, climate change has already arrived.”
“Our islands are who we are—not just our culture, but our personal identity,” Loeak added. For his people in the Marshall Islands, simply moving somewhere else is not an option. “We would rather go down with the island.”