Finn: Climate change needs real attention

Taylor Finn

“I challenge you to bring to the Summit bold pledges. Innovate, scale-up, cooperate and deliver concrete action that will close the emissions gap and put us on track for an ambitious legal agreement through the [United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change] process.” This passionate remark was made by U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon last week in regards to the upcoming Climate Summit this September in New York.

These are words that environmentalists have been waiting to hear for some time. Historically, climate change seems to be an issue that is continuously swept under the rug. International relations scholars have theorized for years as to why countries keep ignoring this ever-pressing problem. Many of their conclusions seemed to be extremely intuitive and sensible, the first of which is that in order to have a passion and desire to make big changes, leaders have to place a higher value on the future. The general population would have to expand its thinking and begin to see the value in sacrificing certain things today to preserve our planet many years down the road.

Another problem, is that not everyone seems to be on board with the idea that climate change is in fact an issue. The science is slapping people in the face and every day it becomes increasingly obvious that the planet in most definitely being affected by the modern lifestyle, yet many chose to not believe.

These are obviously difficult problems to face, and we have been trying to come up with an international solution since 1997 when the Kyoto Protocol was put into place. However, little progress has been made. The words of the secretary-general give me hope that perhaps leaders will put aside their petty promises and weak plans of action this year and sit down at the table, willing to compromise some of today’s conveniences and put forth the money to make real change happen.

Not only do the world’s leaders have to be willing to compromise, but humankind in general also needs to understand that to make any substantial change, we too will have to sacrifice. In that fact lies yet another obstacle. How do you convince people all around the world, each with different beliefs, that we should all give up a few of our luxuries to hopefully one day save the planet? That is a hard sell, one in which even leading scientists are struggling to do.

Climate change is without a doubt one of the most difficult coordination problems that currently exists. It requires a group effort — and by group, I mean the entire planet — and sacrifice, not to mention a pretty hefty price tag. The summit in September is most definitely a step in the right direction, and I was pleased to see that leaders are stepping up and demanding that this issue be taken more seriously. It is about time that we take climate change off the back burner and make it a top priority.

The political scandals, the economy and even wars will all be much less important when we are trying to prevent coastal cities from becoming engulfed in the ocean or dealing with the destruction that the changing weather patterns will soon cause. It is time to look at the bigger picture, and I think the general-secretary agrees. Just because climate change is a difficult challenge and one that will be costly to fix does not mean we shouldn’t address it head on and find solutions. We are an innovative species that has solved a multitude of difficult issues in the past, and I think now has to be the time to deal with the problem of climate change, and what better way to start than in New York this September.