United Against Climate Change

Chloe Yang ‘23

On September 23, 2019, United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres held a climate action summit in New York City, the location of the UN’s headquarters. Currently, average temperatures across the Earth are at an all-time high; in fact, the last four years were the hottest on record. On top of this, sea levels are rising, causing coral reefs to die and affecting the rest of the ocean’s ecosystems. The life-threatening effects of climate change are now beginning to become clear, as air pollution, heatwaves and risks to food security worsen.


It is indisputable that the Earth’s climate has seen immense changes throughout the past millennia. Additionally, 97% of climate scientists agree that global warming trends over the past century are most likely due to human behavior and many of the leading scientific organizations from around the world have issued public statements endorsing this position. 


However, many argue that the Paris Agreement, a policy framework that aims to address and eventually reverse the negative effects of climate change, has mitigated the impact. At the September 23 summit, world leaders discussed the best course of action under the Paris Agreement; Guterres aims to create a plan that has the final goal of reducing overall greenhouse gas emissions by a total of 45 percent within the next decade, and net-zero emissions by 2050.


Press releases outlined the agenda of the summit: to incorporate all the nations of the world into a common effort to create sustainable development plans. Another key goal of the summit was to provide for the inclusion of women as key decision-makers—according to Guterres, only gender-diverse deliberation through the process would have the capacity to tackle the different issues that will inevitably emerge.


In addition to Guterres’ summit, the UN also held a youth climate summit that began on September 21, a first in the history of climate change regulation. Meant to be a platform for youth climate activists from over 140 different countries to share their perspectives on a global stage, the event was held at the headquarters building as well. Guterres reflects that we are “still losing the race” against climate change, “but there is a change in momentum.”


Climate change is a major environmental problem that shows no sign of slowing in the near future. Sea ice and ice mass are continuing to decrease, the amount of acid in the ocean is increasing, and the sea level is rising at an accelerating rate, indicating a need for reforms concerning the environmental issues that are plaguing the Earth. Regarding global warming, the UN climate summits are only the beginning of the change that this world needs.