Climate change is the defining story of our time. Morocco World News has signed on to an international effort to provide the coverage this issue desperately deserves. Here’s why we care.
Rabat – Media coverage is taking climate change by storm this week. It makes sense – the climate crisis affects us all, and real-life challenges such as rising sea levels, freshwater scarcity, and increasing natural disasters force the challenge into the discussion.
But let’s be real. The media, especially from my native U.S., has not done justice to the most important story of our time. A scientific story, a human story, has often been presented as a political story. Climate deniers have long been granted equal voices to the 97% of scientists who agree on climate change.
Morocco World News is taking part in Covering Climate Now, a global initiative including over 250 news outlets who have pledged a week of solid climate coverage leading up to the September 23 UN Climate Action Summit.
Everyone at MWN is taking on a role, and we’re proud to be part of solution-based journalism, raising awareness. We understand our responsibility to use our voices to accurately cover the climate crisis and are committed to doing our part for humanity’s habitat.
Journalists are not the first to say “enough is enough.” The climate strike movement led by Greta Thunberg and Extinction Rebellion has amassed millions of participants from every corner of the globe. Youth voices, from Thunberg’s native Sweden, to Jerusalem where Israeli and Palestinian teens have protested side by side, have forced the international community to turn their faces towards the stark reality of the climate crisis. Youth, alongside older generations, will participate in the movement’s climate strike kicking off this Friday in over 1,000 cities worldwide.
As sea levels rise, the tides of climate justice turn.
Why we should care about the climate crisis?
This begs the question, why is everyone making so much noise? In my 20 years of climate activism, I’ve noticed that people usually address ‘the environment’ as a separate entity. In reality, we are all part of a complex ecosystem. Climate change isn’t just about planting trees and preserving coral reefs. It’s about ensuring a prosperous future for humanity and all life on Earth.
Let’s look at the science from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the intergovernmental body whose reports inform policymakers on climate science. IPCC publications informed Paris Agreement negotiations on the critical need to curb fossil fuel emissions and limit global warming to 2°C above pre-industrial levels.
Inaction’s consequences were dire enough to bring 196 countries to a consensus on climate change. The world acknowledged that the climate crisis is an imminent threat, and that it’s caused partly by human activity. Following a request from governments, a 2018 IPCC report explored projected consequences between limiting the temperature increase to 1.5°C – a non-binding goal from the Paris agreement – and the pledged 2°C cap. Some differences in a future of 1.5°C vs 2°C:
– 10 million fewer people would be forced from their homes due to rising sea levels.
– 117 million fewer people would experience water scarcity.
– 23% less of the world’s population would be exposed to severe heat waves at least once every five years.
One point to absorb like a healthy Amazon drinking in CO2: Scientists involved in the report agreed that science, technology, and funding can allow the world to meet this goal. The task will be nearly impossible, but with enough political will, we can succeed.
Climate justice and human rights are inextricably linked
This science also shows that climate change is a human rights issue. So does response by global leaders. Earlier this week, Kumi Nadoo, Secretary General for Amnesty International, released a request to 30,000 schools worldwide. He asked that they allow youth participation in the September 20-27 climate strike, highlighting climate change’s weight in human rights:
“The climate emergency is the defining human rights issue for this generation of children. Its consequences will shape their lives in almost every way imaginable. The failure of most governments to act in the face of overwhelming scientific evidence is arguably the biggest inter-generational human rights violation in history.”
Climate change doesn’t discriminate based on borders, but reports increasingly highlight vast inequalities in climate crisis’s effects. Climate change will have–is already having–a more severe impact on the world’s most vulnerable people. This includes demographics such as island nation residents, those already living in poverty, and women and children. A UN Special Rapporteur recently released a report detailing the climate crisis as a “climate apartheid.”
Climate change has also been termed a “threat multiplier” for conflicts. The Pentagon, even under a climate-denying President, places great importance on national security in a changing climate. Climate change does not cause conflict, but it can exacerbate contributing factors to shape devastation. Many experts have strongly linked Syria’s civil war and the rise of ISIS to resource shortages exacerbated by climate change.
Increasing numbers of people are displaced both internally and beyond borders due to climate-related challenges. In 2019, for the first time ever, the UN Security Council discussed the threat of climate change on increasing migration pressures. They did so because this challenge is only growing in magnitude.
Without peace, there can be no development. The climate crisis isn’t just about protecting endangered species and preserving coral reefs. It’s about adapting, mitigating, and shifting the way we live, consume, and govern to safeguard the future of human prosperity.
Climate justice means awareness, solutions, and better life for all
The climate crisis may seem overwhelming and insurmountable. Recent stories show how people around the world, especially children, are facing anxiety and depression in the face of an existential crisis. It’s true that we’re facing an unprecedented global challenge. But many scholars and professionals across all fields and sectors see opportunity in climate crisis solutions.
If ignored, the climate crisis will have catastrophic impact. If addressed properly, the climate crisis could fuel a transition to an even more prosperous world than we enjoy now.
Impact investing increasingly shifts how the world’s wealth is entrusted to enterprises and projects that protect our natural environment and prioritize human well-being. The Green New Deal outlines how a radical sustainability shift will provide jobs, social services, and improve quality of life for all Americans, and for those around the world affected by our consumer behavior.
The Global Commission on Adaptation recently released a report on the “triple dividend,” explaining how investment in disaster risk management can yield major financial gains by avoiding economic losses, encouraging innovation, and providing social and environmental benefits. We’re talking trillions between 2020 and 2030.
The climate crisis is an opportunity to review the way we live and to improve strained systems. Humans face an unprecedented challenge. As of 1880, temperature patterns and atmospheric CO2 concentrations were in sync with hundreds of thousands of years of historical fluctuations. In the blink of an eye in the course of human civilization, industrialization altered the fabric of human activity.
Over thousands of years, humans weren’t traveling the world by airplane, harnessing the power of plastics in advanced medicine, able to turn a dial to heat their homes during winter. When I asked my 93-year-old grandmother what, in her lifetime, has improved, I expected a romanticized answer. As someone who grew up on a farm and rode a horse to school, I thought she might be upset by encroaching urban jungles and political hatred spewing on TV. But she responded, “Everything.”
We’ve benefited from industrialization in almost every facet of life. The industrial shift now requires another unprecedented systemic change. I strongly believe that our globalized community – people innovating medical care via smartphones, people on track to explore Mars – is up for the challenge.
Climate crisis in Morocco
This week I spoke with COP24 President Michal Kurtyka, and with President and Founder of the Moroccan Youth Climate Movement, Fadoua Brour. I explained the Covering Climate Now challenge, and asked what they thought I should highlight in terms of introductory climate discussion. Neither answered “emissions projections.” Both told me it’s important to look at climate change in light of the issues we see on the ground. Linking climate and employment was Brour’s first reaction. Kurtyka emphasized waste, water scarcity, and urban air pollution.
Morocco is not a historic polluter. Yet Morocco, and the MENA region at large, is set to suffer some of the greatest effects of climate change. Desertification, rising temperatures, and water scarcity are already affecting agricultural production, Morocco’s biggest source of GDP and employment. It is very likely that climate change contributed to the recent floods in southern Morocco that claimed at least 25 human lives.
Morocco faces a major challenge adapting to a changing climate, and placing emissions mitigation measures within its rapid development. Per international consensus, developed countries, who built their success on exploiting fossil fuels – often extracted from the developing world and leaving devastating legacies in their wake – have a responsibility to help developing countries progress sustainably. This means enabling technology transfers, and it means honoring financial commitments. This is called North-South differentiation. King Mohammed VI has repeatedly called for greater follow-through with these responsibilities.
Looking at solutions
Morocco is a leader in addressing climate change through a renewable energy shift. The kingdom ranked second worldwide in the 2019 Climate Change Performance Index for its trajectory to curb emissions. According to Climate Action Tracker, it is one of only two countries on Earth on track to curb emissions to the 1.5°C limit urged by the IPCC.
But there is still a long way to go. The struggle will require combining top-down approaches with bottom-up approaches. It will require overhauling the global energy system. All humans are stakeholders, and all stakeholders will need to engage. It is widely argued that one of the best things to do about climate change is talk about climate change.
On behalf of Morocco World News, I invite all readers to join this conversation.