Politicians, scientists, world leaders, and others constantly speak out about the perilous effects of climate change and other environmental problems. Despite the constant chatter, there has been a lack of substantive political action to remedy the situation.
Scientists have repeatedly warned about the urgency with which world leaders must act, given the seriousness of climate change. While exact estimates differ, the world’s temperature is expected to rise precipitously over the next few decades if current greenhouse gas emission trends continue. Extreme weather, rising sea levels, melting ice caps, and prolonged droughts are expected to become the norm if inaction on climate change continues – which, as a report released in September 2012 details, could result in the deaths of 100 million people and cut the world’s gross domestic product by 3.2%. Climate change is expected to be particularly harsh on developing countries, whose lack of infrastructure makes them more susceptible to droughts, crop failure, disease, water shortages, and other problems brought about by climate change.
These ominous warnings have not been met with a great deal of political action. Greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise. Many green energy sources are still impractical and expensive. In the United States, the world’s second largest producer of greenhouse gas emissions, the population is skeptical about human involvement in climate change. Uncertainty about the economy has likely made many citizens skeptical of regulations and government-funded efforts to address climate change.
The future livelihood of our planet will ultimately depend on the ability of world leaders to address the problem of climate change at national, regional, and international levels. While transitioning towards a low-carbon sustainable economy may be challenging and difficult, it will undoubtedly be far less challenging than the problems we would have to address if current greenhouse gas emission trends are to continue.
The World Affairs Council is sponsoring three programs in the upcoming month that will address the gap between talk and action with regard to climate change and other environmental issues. While the exact details of each program are different, there is a common theme throughout the three programs: What can leaders do to bring the world out of its rut of inaction when it comes to dealing with environmental issues?
The International Visitor Program is hosting two international delegations in early October that will address environmental and sustainability issues. October 7-10, a group of visitors from Iceland will journey to Seattle and discuss issues of sustainability, urban development, and citizen collaboration in environmental issues. October 8-13, two visitors from Australia will also come to Seattle and visit with alternative energy startups, nonprofit foundations, and citizen advocacy groups and discuss climate change and other environmental issues.
Finally, on October 25 at 5:30pm, there will be a public reception and discussion entitled “Global Affairs Gridlock” with David Victor, a professor at the University of California, San Diego. Victor will talk about the lack of international policy to mitigate climate change, and what steps can be taken to reverse this trend. More information about this event is available here.
Post written by Adam Saul, International Visitor Program Intern