Guest Article #94

Connect4Climate – Right Here, Right Now

The movie industry has always had an easy sell with end-of-the-world scripts. The fantastical scenarios of mankind's final struggle for survival – triggered by extreme weather anomalies, epidemics, or meteorite impacts – appear to provide audiences around the globe with the level of emotional comfort that even in the most adverse of circumstances, the human race will find ways to overcome its internal divisions and face a common threat united. So why are we not acting the same way in real life?

Last November, a World Bank-commissioned report on the effects of climate change was added to the ever growing body of scientific evidence on climate change. It argues that a warmer world is no longer a remote scientific possibility, but an imminent threat to humankind if change does not happen right here, right now. In “Turn Down the Heat: Why a 4 °C Warmer World Must be Avoided," leading international climate experts warn that the world is on track to a “4°C world” marked by extreme heat-waves and life-threatening sea level rise. Without immediate action, coastal cities would be inundated, food production severely hampered, and water scarcity amplified. Dry regions would become drier, wet regions wetter. Cyclones would increase in frequency, and the loss of biodiversity hastened. And while these systemic changes would affect everybody, the adverse effects of global warming would also be disproportionally tilted against many of the world's poorest regions.

Over the past decades, climate change awareness has evolved beyond the scientific community into the mainstream. Still, as the state of global climate negotiations demonstrates, coming together around climate change is not as straightforward as launching a rocket into space to deviate a meteorite from its collision path with Earth – as movie directors want us to believe. Even with 97% of scientists agreeing that humans are the cause of the unprecedented increases in greenhouse gas emissions and global temperatures, it was not until last year when throughout the world, including in the United States, extreme weather events brought the climate change back into focus. 2012 was the second warmest year on record – as was the annual increase in carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

With so much research pointing to the endangering effects of climate change, and global solutions still eluding us, maybe a different approach to communicating about climate change is needed to spur global action. Perhaps, part of the solution of tackling climate change and other environmental challenges is to recognize that every global movement is borne out of individual action. Building awareness on climate change and its impact on our lives empowers people and inspires citizen action, leading to collective action and behavioral change.

Recognizing that personal stories can help engage individuals and highlight the link between global issues and individual actions, Connect4Climate (C4C) is striving to use communication to build a participatory, open knowledge platform that engages the global community in climate change conversations to drive local action. Spearheaded by the World Bank, the Italian Ministry of Environment, and the Global Environment Facility (GEF) in collaboration with over 150 global knowledge partners, C4C launched an Africa-focused citizen journalism competition in 2011 that challenged African youth to tell their personal climate change stories. In 2012, the Voices4Climate competition went global and resulted in more than 1000 photo, video, music video, and podcast submissions from 116 countries. The winners of this competition were recently celebrated at the Right Here, Right Now event at the World Bank headquarters in Washington, D.C., joined by World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim and Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Betty Williams.

Since its launch in September 2011, C4C has utilized social media and the web to amplify the voices of young people and local stakeholders in the global climate change conversation, and also launched the C4C special edition Rhythms del Mundo: Africa CD. With half a million followers on Facebook, Twitter, and other social media channels, Connect4Climate is building an ever-growing community of individuals around the world committed to climate change action. C4C's most recent campaign, iChange, is a global video competition that challenges students to create short, sharp, 30-second video messages about climate change that raise awareness, encourage action, and offer new solutions to the climate challenge.

In the words of World Bank President Jim Yong Kim: “What we have to realize is that climate change is not a future threat. It is here with us today. Connect4Climate is important because we have to take this struggle to a different level. This is fundamentally about family values, and it's fundamentally about how much we care about the world we are leaving to our children.”

Join us and add your voice to this critical conversation: Facebook/connect4climate

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