First of all I would like to introduce myself. I’m Andrej Csizmadia born in small town of Nové Zámky in Slovakia, currently studying at the University of economics in Bratislava, Faculty of international relations. I’m 22 years old and besides my studies I’m also active as member of the biggest student run organization, AIESEC, with committee in Bratislava. AIESEC was the place, where I “met” SDGs for the first time. I guess, that would be enough about me, because this blog post is not going to be about myself.
First things first – what are SDGs? SDGs (Sustainable development goals), otherwise known as Global goals, are agenda and call to action of the United Nations for the upcoming 14 years, until the year 2030. They are successors of Millennium development goals, which lasted for 15 years from 2000 – 2015 and these goals build on their success. SDGs came into force in 2016 and they were signed by more than 190 countries all around the world. They focus exactly on the challenges (I want to avoid a word problem, because it creates in people negative associations, while challenge doesn’t) which we currently face as the humanity – hunger in world, wars, possible extinction of many species, bad access to education and sanitation in many parts of the world and so on…
There are 17 Goals in total, but for me the most personal and the most important one is #SDG13 – Climate action.
The good way how to start is to define what climate change basically is. In the past it was usually named as global warming, but this definition is not appropriate, because it is not only about warming of the planet and the rise of the temperature. According to NASA, global warming refers to the long-term warming of the planet. Global temperature shows a well-documented rise since the early 20th century and most notably since the late 1970s. Worldwide, since 1880 the average surface temperature has gone up by about 0.8 °C. Climate change encompasses global warming, but refers to the broader range of changes that are happening to our planet. These include rising sea levels, shrinking mountain glaciers, accelerating ice melt in Greenland, Antarctica and the Arctic. These are all consequences of the warming, which is caused mainly by people burning fossil fuels and putting out heat-trapping gases into the air. The terms “global warming” and “climate change” are sometimes used interchangeably, but strictly they refer to slightly different things.
Climate change is visible all around us, there is no country in the world, that is not experiencing the drastic changes of climate. It is not only visible, but we, also animals and plants can feel it. Plants react in a way, that they slowly shift their blooming times and animals migrate into northern areas of continents, because of the very hot temperature around the equator and sub-tropic areas. Last year was the hottest one in the history of measurement of the temperature of the world and according to UN, the annual average losses from earthquakes, tsunamis, tropical cyclones and flooding amount to hundreds of billions of dollars, requiring an investment of US$6 billion annually in disaster risk management alone. The goal #SDG13 aims to mobilize $100 billion annually by 2020 to address the needs of developing countries and help mitigate climate-related disasters.
During this year (however, not only during this one) a lot of glaciers and ice melted – especially in Arctic around Northern pole. This liquid water flew into the Atlantic Ocean, which affected the Gulf stream. Stream, which is key for Europe, because it warms up the whole continent with water from Caribbean area. According to Professor Stefan Rahmstorf of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany the northward flow of warm surface water and the southward flow of deep, cold water has slowed by between 15 and 20 % over the course of the 20th century with the biggest changes happening in past years. Because the freshwater is lighter than the salt, ocean water it stays on the top of the surface, which blocks the regular water from the stream. You can imagine as slowdown mechanism and also one of the affects of global warming and mainly climate change.
Another reason, why I stand up for the #SDG13 is, that we should not take this planet for granted and leave it also for our next generations. With the current trends of increasing the global temperature, where several scientist are already predicting temperature rise bigger than the target of 2°C, the shape of the Earth can change drastically. The most endangered areas are close to the oceans and seas, where, according to United nations lives more than 40 % of human population (in areas less than 100 km from the ocean). Animals and plants can not adapt that quickly as we, humans can. I believe, that every person in the world should take a look on his / her lifestyle and consider making some changes to maintain our at least in a way, how it looks like now. Because so far, we have not discovered any other home in the universe.
I believe, that we still have time to change the course of the events and take back what we did to the environment and nature. We have the technologies here already available, it is just up on us, if we will really use them or not. We have the progress and science and all the resources. Besides the climate change, there should be another change – change in us, humans.
What I would suggest to battle climate change is mainly to constantly follow the Paris agreement, which was signed by 195 countries in December 2015. It is the first-ever universal, legally binding global climate deal, which can help us battle the rising temperature and other effects of climate change. The goals of this agreement are not that high, but the main problem lies in countries, which produce oil and multinational companies, which gain revenues from selling oil on world market. The other problem lies also in the application of progressive technologies, mainly eco-driven cars, which in the main parts of the world is not that successful.
I would also suggest to start using carbon tax. This would put disadvantage on regular cars and it would prefer the use of “green technology ” in automotive industry. Again, one of the biggest problems lies in the lower revenues, which oil companies would gain. According to Gregory Mankiw, a carbon tax is the best option for curbing US emissions. In my opinion, it makes sense to tax activities, which have negative effect on environment and society and put advantage on activities, which are not that harmful for countries and mankind. Now what’s carbon tax? Carbon tax is a collection of taxes that increases the cost of activities like burning coal or buying gasoline that pump carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.
Other thing, which I think would be useful for the society is to change, how we deal with the groceries and our consumerism style. Currently, in a lot of countries, groceries can not be given to charity and people in need, when they have the expiration day. Big multinational grocery chains are also trying to sell fruits and vegetables, which do not have the “perfect” shape in very attractive way, thanks to good marketing campaigns. This way a lot of food is not going to be thrown away, just because is does not look that attractive. With these two small solutions we can fight not only the hunger in world, but also lower the production of crops, fruits and vegetables. Agriculture is in the top 3 spots, where the most water is being used.
One of the last things, which I would recommend to young people is to watch “Before the flood” – a movie by Leonardo DiCaprio, which points out in a popular way the results of the previous activities of mankind and also suggest possible ways how to deal with it. Big group of people can this way be more informed about the possible consequences of our current life style. Education of climate change is needed in nowadays world, because people like to follow the speeches and ideas of powerful people, who not always have the right view on discussed topics.
Faculty of International relations