Author: Heidi Hudson
All summer, headlines screamed of record-breaking temperatures. Fires erupted in Canada, turning the sky in New York City orange. Maui burst into flames. Air quality regressed from progress gained from years of work. A question that has been hanging in the air for years is now too large to ignore— is the earth warming? Is our climate really changing?
On Wednesday, September 20, the United Nations gathered at their headquarters in New York City to discuss these ever-present and urgent questions presented by climate change. The United Nations are confident that the summit, lead by Secretary General António Guterres, demonstrates a “collective global will to accelerate the pace and scale of a just transition to a more equitable renewable energy based, climate-resilient global economy”.
This event was organized to tackle the regression of progress in climate change and was called the Climate Ambition Summit. Top leaders in climate action spoke at the summit. Intentionally, leaders from the highest global polluters, the United States, India, and China, were not allowed to have speakers to further highlight the importance of taking meaningful climate action. Often, the negative impact of high emissions from wealthy countries have a bigger impact on underdeveloped countries.
Representatives from China and India did not attend the summit, feeding a new idea that ego is what is at the core of action stagnation. Nothing changes because emissions are the business of thriving countries. China, for example, has a thriving factory industry. When forced to face their contribution to the environment, the whole of their economy rides on what other countries are saying should be stopped. Their success as a country is dependent on their industry.
The outcomes of the summit are outlined on the United Nations website and founded around three tracks: ambition, credibility, and implementation. While no concrete pledges were formed, it is clear that there is an intention to bring about change in global emission policies and project funding.
On Wednesday, September 27, just one week after the Climate Action Summit, Hope College held a Critical Issues Symposium where students and faculty explored the importance of pursuing truth in our studies. Former faculty member Dr. Josh Bowman and current engineering professor, Dr. Jeff Christians, tackled a breakout session on climate change. Dr. Christians specifically studies the implementation of sustainable practices on campus and in the city of Holland using his knowledge of engineering and chemistry. In the session, the professors discussed the certainty of what there is to know about climate change and what its true effect is. There is one thing, however, that we know with substantial certainty— climate change is real and it is happening to our world as we eat, sleep, and breathe.
So, what can be done to help our worsening climate situation? The answer is more complicated than you would think. Climate change isn’t something that can be solved locally, yet it requires local action. It is a problem that requires a simultaneous effort. Hope College has implemented its own sustainable practices to contribute: Phelps dining hall features a greenhouse; Kleinheksel Cottage, with the help of the engineering department, has newly installed low emissions accommodations powered by solar panels; reusable silverware and take-out containers reduce waste from styrofoam and plastic dish ware. These are just some of the examples of what Hope College is doing to do their part in implementing change.
Change does not and will not come from one area’s effort. Holland, Michigan can not solve the problem of global warming on their own. In last week’s breakout session, Dr. Christians said, “It has to be local and it has to be a lot bigger than that.” What is happening at Hope is a start. What happened at the Climate Ambition Summit is a start. With local focus and global ambitions, we can hope for a more sustainable future.
Photo credit: Heidi Hudson