CLIMATE CHANGE AND THREAT TO GLOBAL PEACE: THE ROLE OF YOUNG PEOPLE
1st Prize in 22-24 age group
by Chiahanam Nwobodo from Nigeria
Climate change. Conversation about it is all over the internet, and newsfeeds on Facebook sometimes come with tags linking to articles related to the concept. The media repeatedly engages in discussions about it, with analysts presenting their facts and figures. Yet, it seems we are not doing enough to match the many talks. Climate change is an alteration in the environmental integrity of the ecosystem, causing weather changes across continents of the globe with clear results. In Africa, the Sahara desert is expanding, Lake Chad is shrinking at a very rapid pace, and large numbers of people are bracing for the catastrophic consequences.
Nigeria, where I come from, is in a region where the reduction of Lake Chad is having direct and indirect impacts on the citizens. Northern Nigeria—with states that have close links with the Lake Chad basin—is struggling with repeated episodes of drought and vegetation loss, which has forced Fulani herdsmen to push down south. The increased migration is putting more pressure on the already strained south. Consequently, the news of farmer-herder clashes has almost become the new normal in the country. Villages have been burned down and occupants forced into displacement because of these clashes, which on many occasions claim a significant number of lives.
Climate change is a threat to peace. It is creating new tensions and fueling existing ones. The shrinking freshwater resources, scarcity of arable land for farming, and vegetation loss are a recipe for serious contention within societies. The situation is bound to get worse if a united effort is not made against climate change.
Human activities appear to be at the root of ongoing global warming. Industrialisation has forced us to develop heavy pieces of machinery, a lot of which depend on fossil fuels as a source of energy. Young people, as stakeholders and the leaders of the future, will have to make enough commitments to change the narrative and tilt the balance in favour of our environment, which is currently ravaged by rising levels of greenhouse gases. According to the World Economic Forum (2021), our atmosphere has about 50% more carbon dioxide than it did before the industrial era.
What roles can young people play? What efforts must the leaders of the future make?
The United Nations reports that the world has 1.2 billion people who are aged 15 to 24. It further opines that the number is expected to increase by 7% by 2030. Imagine the voices of 1.2 billion people and the influence they can have on the rest of the world. Representing 16% of the global population is enough reason why youths cannot be ignored. To revolutionise our world to suit the demands of a sustainable future, a passionate effort is necessary—young people have all that it takes to fill the gap! We must choose to be a part of climate action and commit our strength to the struggle for a green transition.
To begin with, young people should stand at the forefront of the conversation on climate change. We cannot appear to be disinterested in a topic that will affect the future we are going to be part of. Young people must actively key into climate change talks and public discussions. World leaders must be made to understand how their policies affect us and our concerns about their steps towards a green economy. We can also leverage the power of social media to get our message across to a wide audience and establish our demands in the most peaceful way possible.
While clamouring for accountability from policymakers, young people should also demand their local environments, such as the schools, places of worship, and immediate community, become more sustainable. We can start by advocating for the use of LED lights, a reduction in the use of plastics, building with green roofs, and a gradual transition to a renewable energy source such as solar panels for electricity generation.
Furthermore, young people can champion an industrial revolution with our talents and skills—which are many! We have so many youths who are now tech-inclined with expertise in diverse programming languages. We should not sit idly by and think that our machines and automobiles will suddenly become carbon-emission-free. Let us use what we have to make what we desire to see. The campaign towards zero carbon is already underway with the emergence of electric engines. But more can be done, as science and technology have shown that there is a means to a sustainable alternative. We just have to find the means, and we can! Young people must begin to make low-carbon-centred career choices.
Beyond the technological approaches to counterbalance carbon emissions, supporting and practising tree planting will draw a good amount of carbon out of our atmosphere. Climate action will not be fully sustainable if tree planting is not factored into the equation. Every young person should develop the culture of regular tree-planting and encourage peers to imbibe the idea.
In conclusion, climate change creates routes for conflict. Global warming is causing serious alterations to climates across the world, leading to a scarcity of basic needs such as food and water and a consequent struggle for the little remaining. If this situation is allowed to continue unabated, global peace will suffer a serious threat, and we could have more emergencies to struggle with. Young people must use the power of their population and the agility of their strength and mental proficiency to drive the world from a dependence on fossil fuels to low-carbon emission sources. The future is ours, and we must be part of its creation.
World Economic Forum (2021). Met Office: Atmospheric CO2 now hitting 50% higher than pre-industrial levels. Retrieved from https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2021/03/met-office-atmospheric-co2-industrial-levels-environment-climate-change/
United Nations (n.d). Peace, dignity and equality on a healthy planet. Retrieved from https://www.un.org/en/global-issues/youth