We Must Change, We Can Change, We Will Change – Takeaways from Al Gore’s Climate Reality Leadership

Every fortnight, we hand over the blog to one of the London Shapers, to give you a flavour of what they do, how they think and what's really going on in our hearts and minds. Today's piece comes from Luís Torres, MBA Candidate at the University of Oxford and Co-founder of the Amazon Natural Capital Institute


During my childhood in Manaus – a Brazilian metropolitan area that lies in the heart of the Amazon rainforest – my father had to split his time between the city and small municipalities in the region. As a consequence, I spent many days and nights travelling in the rainforest, appreciating the nature and often witnessing – though without truly understanding – social and environmental challenges associated with deforestation.


As I grew up, I learned about the relationship between those challenges and climate change. The UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) estimates that 24% of the global greenhouse gas emissions come from Agriculture, Forestry, and Land Use. My contextual understanding combined with my later knowledge of these facts triggered my passion for climate issues. I translated this into dedication and commitment to the cause, which eventually led the World Economic Forum to recognise me as a Global Shaper.


As a Global Shaper, I have the opportunity to represent the voice of youth locally and globally at a number of occasions. Last month, I had the privilege of receiving training on climate leadership from Former US Vice President Al Gore at the Climate Reality Leadership Corps in Berlin, Germany.


Mr. Al Gore Addressing the Amazon Rainforest at the Climate Reality Leadership Corps in Berlin

In partnership with the Climate Reality Project, the World Economic Forum convened 50 inspiring Global Shapers from all over the world for 3 days of insightful discussions on how to catalyse global solutions to the climate crisis by making urgent action a necessity across all levels of society.


Global Shapers at the Climate Reality Leadership Corps in Berlin

As a newly certified Climate Reality Leader, I left Germany with a curious mix of feelings. Whilst I was concerned by the alarming body evidence on where we might be headed, I was relieved to see that the situation is not yet irreversible should we act now.


Ultimately, I had 3 key takeaways from the training:


1. We must change. It’s getting hot – faster than we anticipated. And the heat will bring catastrophic consequences.


The graph below shows the global average land and ocean temperature anomalies every year from 1880-2017.


Data: US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, 2018

We can see it happening: global surface temperatures in each of the last three decades have been successively warmer than in any preceding decade since 1850.


2017 was the 41st consecutive year with a global temperature above the 20th century average.


As the world gets warmer, the extra heat increases evaporation and intensifies the water cycle, increasing the likelihood of extreme weather catastrophes. Since 1980, worldwide extreme weather events have more than tripled, as illustrated below.


Data: US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, 2018

Increasing levels of heat-trapping greenhouse gases – such as carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide – in the atmosphere are causing global average temperatures to rise, and the message is clear: we must change.


2. We can change. We still have some control over it – we can mitigate and adapt.


We currently spew 110 million tons of manmade global warming pollution into the thin shell of our atmosphere every 24 hours. Yet as clean energy, sustainable agriculture techniques, and technologies such as carbon capture and storage (CCS) emerge and go mainstream, policy makers and financial institutions are equipped with the necessary tools to shift from business-as-usual models and effectively mitigate the impacts of global warming.


As President Obama said, “we are the first generation to feel the effect of climate change and the last generation who can do something about it”.


3. We will change. We are already standing for climate solutions. And I am confident we will continue doing so.


In the 2015 Paris Agreement, every nation in the world agreed to work together to achieve net zero greenhouse gas emissions by mid-century.


Although President Trump announced in June of 2017 his intent to withdraw the US from the Paris Agreement, the earliest date at which any country can leave the agreement is November 4, 2020, the day after the 2020 US Presidential election, so there is still hope.


Moreover, in response to President Trump’s decision, several states, mobilised by public demand, formed the United States Climate Alliance. Currently, the member states represent together 40% of the US population and the US’ overall GDP, at over $7 trillion combined. The goal of the alliance is to bring states together to reduce emissions 26-28% below 2005 levels by 2025, in compliance with the Paris Agreement.


This shows us that regardless of internationally recognised pledges, the real climate action is up to local governments, businesses, communities and, ultimately, individuals like us who stand to make climate solutions a reality.


People’s Climate March, Washington DC, 2017

The People’s Climate March, which took place on the 100th day of Mr. Trump’s presidency and brought more than 200,000 activists to Washington DC and tens of thousands more at over 370 sister marches across the US, was a great demonstration that we will change.


Certain that we must change and that we can change, I am delighted to have become a Climate Reality Leader. Whilst I am optimistic that together we will be the voice of reality that will address the climate crisis, my optimism is contingent upon our immediate action, as we approach a scary point of no return.

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