Climate Change: The Most Pressing Crisis of Our Generation

The UN Secretary General, Antonio Guterres, has called climate change the most pressing issue of our time. He’s not wrong. Millions are already affected and have even lost their lives to the devastating weather patterns caused by warming global temperatures, glacial melting, drought, and wildfires.

This year, on the 74th Anniversary of the founding of the United Nations, the United Nations Association of the United States of America (UNA-USA) celebrated this momentous occasion with UN Day on October 24th in UNA-USA chapters all around the country. Four of DIAL’s staff members joined in this celebration and traveled locally and further afield to discuss the climate change crisis with UNA-USA members.

Coby Jones traveled to Tempe, Arizona to speak at the UNA-USA chapter at Arizona State University, the largest university in the United States. After an impassioned speech on the ways advocates and change-makers can get involved in climate action, Coby answered questions from the student audience who were very passionate about climate change and how it will affect their futures. The bright, young students asked many questions from, “Do you think world peace is possible?” to “What does your self-care routine look like?”. The event also included presentations from the UNA-USA chapter leaders at Arizona State University on how make a difference in their community at large, not just the student body.

Allana Nelson joined the Blue Ridge – Virginia chapter of UNA-USA, based in Charlottesville, VA. There, she spoke to a multigenerational audience about why focusing on the climate crisis now is so important, and why it should matter regardless of age. Some attendees participated in the Climate Strikes of the 1990s, while others are currently shaping their careers around climate action. Discussions primarily focused on what we as individuals can do to make a difference, and why the upcoming generation of young people should instill us with hope.

Claudine Lim joined the inaugural UNA-USA event at Jefferson University in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. She spoke to a group of undergraduate students and Jefferson University Staff about the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals, the growing climate crisis, and how to act responsibly in the face of the issue. As this was the first-ever UNA Chapter event at Jefferson University, Claudine encouraged students to seize it as an open opportunity to set the tone and momentum of future Chapters, urging them to move beyond the echo chamber and use action to progress the SDGs on their campus.  After her speech, Christiaan Morssink, CEO of the United Nations Association of the Greater Philadelphia area, followed up to detail Philadelphia’s role in the quest for a sustainable world.

Danielle Dhillon visited the United Nations Association at The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C. to speak with students and faculty. Discussions afterwards ranged from China’s critical role in the climate crisis to opportunities for students to get involved with the United Nations after college. The speech was combined with an expo event where all the multicultural groups on campus — such as the Arabic Club, the German Club, and the Filipino Organization of Catholic University Students — had booths with food, decorations, and information on their representative country’s or region’s involvement with the United Nations. The event also featured a special dance performance by the CUA Student Organization of Latinos.

In the speech all four of DIAL staff members gave on UN Day, there were many pieces of advice on how to combat climate change. The speech read:

We must fight against actions that set our progress back; against policies that would allow new logging in Alaska; and against proposals that would weaken fuel economy standards for cars and trucks. We must fight against the Administration’s efforts to repeal the Clean Power Plan; against the allowance of new coal leases on public lands; and against negligence toward innocent people who are harmed by the climate crisis already. We must fight against policies that fail to preserve a future for our youth; and against avoidance and ignorance. And, perhaps most importantly, we must fight to stay in the Paris Climate Agreement.

Climate change threatens current and future generations, but there is hope. The United Nations is committed to achieving the 17 Sustainable Development Goals, but we know that none of the goals, from no poverty to improved health care, can be accomplished without first addressing SDG 13 Climate Action. Utilizing digital technology will be key to achieving these goals so that future generations may live in a safer, healthier, more equal world.