Celebrating the Power of One in Fight Against Climate Change
Suleiman Khan is a freshman student at Montgomery College Rockville. He is an international student from Saudi Arabia who is studying medicine. He aspires to be a doctor, more specifically a general surgeon who can help people in third world countries. He is planning to attend University of Maryland within the next year to continue his bachelors degree.
I have always had the feeling that my life was lacking in a way. That I was not doing enough of something. Yet, I could not figure out what that something was. It was a void that needed to be filled.
I remember when climate change was only a word to me. I remember when recycling was only a chore to do.
I remember all this so well because it was only fours months ago that I started to care about what climate change actually meant.
My sociology professor, whom I now consider to be a friend, first formally introduced me to the concept of climate change. At first, I thought that climate change was just a part of my sociology class—something that we would be done with after a few classes. However, that was not the case.
After several weeks of discussing the topic, I realized that climate change was more than that to my professor. For him, it was a passion and he felt an obligation to make his students also feel passionate about it.
I come from a country that is considered one of the richest in the world. A country where temperatures rise high enough to cook an egg on the sidewalk. I was raised in Saudi Arabia.
Climate change has never been a topic on the tongues of the students of Saudi Arabia. I cannot recall once ever hearing about climate change from my teachers, friends, classmates or family. This tells me that there is a huge population oblivious to what is happening around the world.
As a country that produces most of the fossil fuel distributed throughout the world, it is no surprise that climate change is never discussed in Saudi Arabia. That would be like admitting that the Saudi government has left a huge carbon footprint.
Since I only had a rudimentary understanding of climate change, I began researching more about it. I came across several talks on the topic by people I had never heard of before. One of them stood out to me. When talking about climate change, this person had a look on her face that I did not see on others. She had a look that was very familiar to me. In no time at all I remembered where I had seen that look before. It was the same look my professor had when he spoke about climate change. It was the look of passion.
This person’s name is Rachel Kyte, who is the World Bank’s principal advocate for raising global awareness of climate change. Ms. Kyte has given many talks about climate change over the years, and is helping inspire a social change in the world. Her speeches are inspirational. I remember thinking, how can I be like this person?
A week later, I was granted an opportunity that comes once in a lifetime. Have you ever wished you had the chance to meet someone and were granted that chance? My professor gave me that chance. He had sent me an invitation to attend the Connect4Climate screening of Years of Living Dangerously at the World Bank. The film was a preview of a new television series on climate change.
I could not believe how lucky I was. I immediately accepted the invitation and on the day of the screening I arrived at the World Bank a little bit ahead of time in the hope that I would be able to talk to Ms. Kyte. Unfortunately, I was not able to find her then. I was ushered to a seat in the auditorium, where I waited eagerly for the talk to begin. I sat straighter than I usually do and became stiff as a board.
While waiting I realized that there are a lot more people than I thought who are interested in the cause as of climate change. I realized that I was not fighting for lost cause. I felt supported.
The event started with World Bank President Jim Yong Kim stating facts about how he and his organization are trying to deal with climate change. After his talk, he invited three people on stage for a discussion about the importance of climate change and what we might expect to happen to the world if nothing is done to combat it. Ms. Kyte was moderator of the discussion.
The film that followed was something that can only be described as a dream. I could not believe what I was watching. It portrayed the world we live in the today, and the catastrophes that are happening all around us because of climate change. The movie contained many famous people who are also interested in the battle against humans’ constant greed, which is killing the very planet we live on.
The movie screening ended with a round of applause from the audience. I on the other hand had a hard time looking up. I was extremely emotional. The movie had a lot of elements that would have made a stonehearted man break down in tears. I managed to compose myself. I was determined to get a word in with Ms. Kyte.
After wriggling myself between reporters, I finally managed to reach her only to be dumbstruck. I had a small speech prepared on how much she has inspired me but was only able to stutter a bit. Somehow, I managed to compose myself and was able to say a few words to her about that. I was also able to pluck up the courage to ask her if she would be photographed with me. She was happy to oblige.
After leaving the auditorium I had a funny feeling in my gut. Walking past a glass window I saw a smile on my face that looked a bit out of place. After a few minutes I was able to put on a more socially acceptable smile.
I made my way to the small feast our hosts had put together for us. I was greeted by my professor and one of my classmates. My professor was also surrounded by two of his former students. As soon as I was introduced to them I felt an instant connection form between us. We shared the same cause and had the same inspiration.
After leaving my professors side I was struck with a new realization. I realized that the people who had attended the screening with me were not only from the U.S. There were people from China, Poland, India, Italy, Ivory, Coast, South Africa and even a fellow Saudi Arabian.
To see that there were people at the event from all over the world helped encourage me to stand firm and pursue my cause for as long as I my bones and muscles will allow me. To see a fellow countryman at the event was evidence enough that these people managed to get the word across the world. More and more people were becoming aware of our cause.
Suddenly I knew what I could do to help. I knew that I had to spread the word, to inspire as many people as I can. I decided that I would take on my professor’s legacy and enlighten the minds of people about the dangers of climate change.
I left the World Bank a new person. I left with a new purpose in life. I left with a cause.
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By Dolf Gielen and Morgan Bazilian
John Kerry helped bring the world into the Paris climate agreement and expanded America's reputation as a climate leader. That reputation is now in tatters, and President-elect Joe Biden is asking Kerry to rebuild it again – this time as U.S. climate envoy.
Energy Is at the Center of the Climate Challenge<p>The <a href="https://science2017.globalchange.gov/chapter/1/" target="_blank">effects of climate change</a> are already evident across the globe, from <a href="https://theconversation.com/100-degrees-in-siberia-5-ways-the-extreme-arctic-heat-wave-follows-a-disturbing-pattern-141442" target="_blank">extreme heat waves</a> to <a href="https://science2017.globalchange.gov/chapter/12/" target="_blank">sea level rise</a>. But while the challenge is daunting, there is hope. Solar and wind power have become the <a href="https://www.irena.org/publications/2020/Jun/Renewable-Power-Costs-in-2019" target="_blank">cheapest forms of power generation globally</a>, and technology progress and innovation continue apace to support a transition to clean energy.</p><p>In the U.S. under a Biden administration, long-term national climate legislation will depend on who controls the Senate, and that won't be clear until after two run-off elections in Georgia in January.</p><p>But there is no shortage of <a href="https://www.bloomberg.com/features/2020-biden-climate-change-advice/" target="_blank">ideas for ways Biden</a> could still take action even if his proposals are blocked in Congress. For example, he could use executive orders and direct government agencies to tighten regulations on greenhouse gas emissions; increase research and development in clean energy technologies; and empower states to exceed national standards, <a href="https://www.reuters.com/article/us-autos-emissions-california/defying-trump-california-locks-in-vehicle-emission-deals-with-major-automakers-idUSKCN25D2CH" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">as California did in the past with auto emission standards</a>. A focus on a just and equitable transition for communities and people affected by the decline of fossil fuels will also be key to creating a sustainable transition.</p><p>The U.S. position as the world's largest oil and gas producer and consumer creates political challenges for any administration. U.S. forays into European energy security are often treated with suspicion. Recently, France blocked <a href="https://www.wsj.com/articles/frances-engie-backs-out-of-u-s-lng-deal-11604435609" target="_blank">a multi-billion dollar contract</a> to buy U.S. liquefied natural gas because of concerns about limited emissions regulations in Texas.</p><p>Strengthening cooperation and partnerships with like-minded countries will be critical to bring about a transition to cleaner energy as well as sustainability in agriculture, forestry, water and other sectors of the global economy.</p>
Creating a Global Sustainable Transition<p>How the world recovers from COVID-19's economic damage could help drive a lasting shift in the global energy mix.</p><p>Nearly one-third of Europe's US$2 trillion economic relief package <a href="https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2020-07-21/eu-approves-biggest-green-stimulus-in-history-with-572-billion-plan" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">involves investments that are also good for the climate</a>. The European Union is also strengthening its 2030 climate targets, though each country's energy and climate plans will be critical for successfully implementing them. The <a href="https://joebiden.com/clean-energy/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Biden plan</a> – including a $2 trillion commitment to developing sustainable energy and infrastructure – is aligned with a global energy transition, but its implementation is also uncertain.</p><p>Once Biden takes office, Kerry will be joining ongoing <a href="https://www.un.org/en/conferences/energy2021/about#:%7E:text=The%20overarching%20goal%20of%20the,2030%20Agenda%20for%20Sustainable%20Development.&text=Accelerate%20delivery%20of%20United%20Nations,related%20issues%20at%20all%20levels." target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">high-level discussions on the energy transition</a> at the U.N. General Assembly and other gatherings of international leaders. With the U.S. no longer obstructing work on climate issues, the G-7 and G-20 have more potential for progress on energy and climate.</p><p>Lots of technical details still need to be worked out, including international trade frameworks and standards that can help countries lower greenhouse gas emissions enough to keep global warming in check. <a href="https://www.carbonpricingleadership.org/what" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Carbon pricing</a> and <a href="https://www.csis.org/analysis/how-can-europe-get-carbon-border-adjustment-right" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">carbon border adjustment taxes</a>, which create incentive for companies to reduce emissions, may be part of it. A consistent and comprehensive set of national energy transition plans will also be needed.</p><p>The global shift to <a href="https://www.irena.org/publications/2019/Jan/A-New-World-The-Geopolitics-of-the-Energy-Transformation" target="_blank">clean energy will also have geopolitical implications for countries and regions</a>, and this will have a profound impact on wider international relations. Kerry, with his experience as secretary of state in the Obama administration, and Biden's plan to make the climate envoy position part of the National Security Council, may help mend these relations. In doing so, the U.S. may again join the wider community of countries willing to lead.</p>
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By Maria Caffrey
As we approach the holidays I, like most people, have been reflecting on everything 2020 has given us (or taken away) while starting to look ahead to 2021.
We Need More Than Listening<p>By now we have all become sadly accustomed to the current administration sidelining scientists, most prominently Dr. Anthony Fauci, because the facts they provide do not fit with the political rhetoric of the moment.</p><p>I have <a href="https://www.csldf.org/2019/08/22/csldf-helps-climate-scientist-maria-caffrey-fight-for-scientific-integrity/" target="_blank">my own history</a> of filing a scientific integrity complaint with the National Park Service (which falls under the Department of the Interior) after senior ranking employees attempted to censor one of my scientific reports. I know all too well the damage and pain that these actions cause, not just for the individual scientist, but also because these <a href="https://www.ucsusa.org/resources/attacks-on-science" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">attacks on science</a> over the last few years have undermined sound, evidence-based decision making.</p><p>President-elect Biden has repeatedly said that he will <a href="https://thehill.com/homenews/521638-trump-biden-will-listen-to-the-scientists-if-elected" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">listen to the scientists</a>. While this is certainly a welcome change, listening can only take us so far. This past week Lauren Kurtz from the <a href="https://www.csldf.org/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Climate Science Legal Defense Fund</a> and my colleague <a href="https://www.ucsusa.org/about/people/gretchen-goldman" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Gretchen Goldman</a> published <a href="https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/ten-steps-that-can-restore-scientific-integrity-in-government/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">an article</a> listing 10 actions the new administration should implement to show their commitment to strengthening government science:</p><ol><li>Clearly prohibit political interference and censorship.</li><li>Protect scientists' communication rights.</li><li>Acknowledge that attempts to violate scientific integrity, even if ultimately not fruitful, are still violations.</li><li>Protect federal scientists' right to provide information to Congress and other lawmakers.</li><li>Commit to incorporating the best science as part of agency decisions.</li><li>Elevate agency scientific integrity policies to have the full force of law.</li><li>Publicly release anonymized information about scientific integrity complaints and their resolutions at every agency.</li><li>Institute an intra-agency workforce, potentially under the White House <a href="https://www.ucsusa.org/sites/default/files/2020-09/strengthening-science-and-si-at-ostp.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Office of Science and Technology Policy</a>, to coordinate scientific integrity efforts across agencies, foster discussion of policy improvements, and standardize criteria for policies across agencies.</li><li>Strengthen whistleblower protections.</li><li>Ensure that policies cover all actors who will be dealing with science.</li></ol>
Time for Action<p>I have spoken to many scientists, particularly federal scientists, who are eager to turn the page so they can hurry back to the work they had been doing before this administration, but I urge caution in assuming that things can be "normal" again.</p><p>Before Trump, I naively thought the scientific integrity policies established during the <a href="https://obamawhitehouse.archives.gov/blog/2016/12/19/scientific-integrity-policies-update" target="_blank">Obama administration</a> would be sufficient. I never imagined that any administration could so willfully ignore and attack expert advice and evidence that is intended to protect us and our public lands.</p><p>I have personally witnessed how hard our federal scientists work. They put in long hours with minimal pay (far less that what they could get if they worked in private industry) to pursue one simple goal: to make things better for the nation.</p><p>We need stronger scientific integrity policies to protect these people and their work. But more than that, we need stronger scientific integrity laws because they also benefit society.</p>
By Andrea Germanos
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