Jane Hoffman

Junior, Santa Catalina School
This essay is one of four winners of the 2020 High School Essay Contest of the World Affairs Council of the Monterey Bay Area

Confronting the Climate Crisis

An existential threat that is both one of the most pressing issues of the modern era and one that oftentimes goes unacknowledged by many on the world stage? When addressed as a hypothetical, this situation sounds ridiculous. However, this modern conundrum becomes increasingly pressing every day: revolving around the issue of climate change. Despite overwhelming evidence of rising sea levels, (which, according to NASA, occurs at an average increase of 3.3 millimeters each year), and a massive increase in average global temperature (NASA reports that the five hottest years in recorded history have all occurred post-2010), not every nation is working with the urgency needed to alleviate the effects of and to stop the climate crisis. In 2015, nearly 200 nations signed onto the Paris Agreement, an international effort designed to lower global temperature rise to a figure only 2 degrees Celsius above the average global temperature prior to industrialization. The Agreement also provides stipulations and guidance for the Nationally Determined Contributions of different countries (NDCs), which are individual climate plans for various nations, with a focus on reducing carbon emissions and combating the ripple effects of climate change.

However, the Paris Agreement is no longer enough to keep the world in check and safe for future generations. A UN report from 2019 establishes that the NDCs described in the Paris Climate Accord are no longer sufficient, as new data has revealed that current patterns indicate a rise in average global temperature of 3 degrees Celsius by 2100, with a continued rise in the years following. Reports from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change also describe the dramatic impacts that an increase in global temperature above 1.5 degrees celsius will have on the world, including more severe extreme weather events, droughts, and loss of habitat for many species of animals.

In order to solve this pressing issue, unprecedented levels of international collaboration will be required. Nations must expand their commitment to lowering their carbon emissions, by decreasing reliance on fossil fuels and increasing research and usage of clean and renewable energy. It has been so inspiring to see the climate activism of young people such as Vanessa Nakate and Greta Thunberg in recent years, and through collaboration amongst citizens, nations, and world leaders, it will be possible to stop the dangerous rise of global temperatures and ensure the earth as our home for generations to come.