Category Archives: United Nations

Summer “Vacation”

Just after sunrise today, the water here in the Florida Keys is flat calm, glass-like, and the world is still and silent except for the occasional Blue Heron flying by or tarpon rolling in the shallow water. It’s a tranquil scene for sure, but it’s also the start of a busy day here at The Sink or Swim Project in what has been a busy week working on our climate crisis including lecturing, advancing our Florida legal case’s appeal and an incredible prospective plan for Florida and America’s future energy policy that I am excited to share with you very soon. Our climate crisis and the assault we are witnessing on science does not take a summer vacation and thus I’d like to share a couple of upcoming events with you, one that takes place today and one next week, that I’d love you to consider joining me for.

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Today I am very excited to work with my friend Vic Barrett from the Alliance for Climate Education (ACE) who will be hosting a Climate Conversations Happy Hour on ACE’s Instagram account (@acespace). You can join, chat with, and ask us questions at 3pm EST today by watching live here: www.instagram.com/acespace.

Thanks to Vic for both being such a good friend and for having me participate and thanks to Jennifer for your support of our concerns over the climate crisis.

InstaOcean

On Monday, July 13th, I am ever so excited to join The Global Summit, as part of the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals. I will be a panelist along with George Cummings, Ai Futaki, Ombretta Agro’ Andruff, and Jose Luis Sanchez where we will be discussing our work in relation to climate change and our ocean as part of the One Planet – One Team – One Mission panel. I do hope that you can join; register by visiting www.theglobalsummit.org/voices365.

I hope to see everyone at these events and that you’re all having a great and safe summer vacation.

10,800%

Getting 200 of the world’s nations to agree on the steps needed to shift away from mankind’s century-long love affair with fossil fuels to clean, sustainable solutions might be the largest task humanity has ever undertaken together. As hard as I imagine it was to recover from devastating world wars and any number of horrible historic humanitarian crises, these could look small in dollars and the fortitude it will take for the citizens of the world to work together to solve our global climate crisis before it’s too late.

And because of that, the work that the United Nations is doing to address our climate crisis, including the recent Conference of the Parties (COP) in Madrid, is important for many reasons including:

2019 was the year that the University of Oxford’s Oxford University Press named “climate emergency” as its “word” (phrase) of the year after the use of those two words increased 10,800% between September 2018 and September 2019. Five or six years ago when I began my climate change work here at The Sink or Swim Project many people were unaware that earth was warming, much less the key reasons for these changes and their repercussions. As 2020 begins it’s clear that whether from Oxford University, research by Yale University or other sources, people all over the world now know that we have a problem and are increasingly being subject to its impact.

2019 was also the year that the United Nations issued its most recent forecast on earth’s temperatures and whether our society is doing enough, fast enough, to offset the worst impacts of our climate change crisis. In October, 2019 the IPCC illustrated that we are not making the type of progress needed to sufficiently influence future warming including the 2015 Paris Agreement’s goal of limiting warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius. You can review that report by clicking here.

Led by the United States in Paris in 2015, the world’s nations, nearly 200 of them, agreed that society must keep global warming under 2 degrees Celsius versus pre-industrial revolution levels and set a goal to work together to keep temperatures from rising no more than 1.5 degrees. The recent United Nations’ report, and the pathetic results from COP 25 in Madrid, again illustrate just how hard it will be to achieve these goals and the importance that the nations of the world have measurable goals and rules needed to attain them if we are to ever solve this crisis.

What was accomplished during two weeks of climate discussions in Madrid?

Not much.

“Once again, no progress has been made to bring countries more in line with the 1.5 degrees target of the Paris Agreement. Very strict rules are an absolute necessity and old untrustworthy CO-2 credits have to be scrapped. That has not happened in Madrid, the summit ended without a deal.”

Bas Eickhout, European Parliament Member

The United States is the second largest emitter of greenhouse gases in the world today (and historically has been the largest), yet our current President, calling it a “bad deal,” has announced that our country will withdraw from the Paris Agreement this year. Lacking the United States’ vision, deep engagement and leadership in solving the crisis, the world is a different place today than it was in 2015. Words like “failure” and “disarray” are being used to summarize the outcome in Madrid.

I am disappointed with the results of #COP25. The international community lost an important opportunity to show increased ambition on  mitigation, adaptation & finance to tackle the climate crisis. But we must not give up, and I will not give up.

António Guterres, United Nation’s Chairman, December 15, 2019

And while many of the world’s biggest nations – Australia, Brazil and, sadly, the United States – seem intent on “kicking the can down the road” as they say, doing little or consciously overlooking the issue, the people that I talk to at my lectures and other events are intent on learning, are openly wondering about what will happen, craving leadership and increasingly express being worried. I am worried too and the lack of progress at a global meeting on the climate change crisis that draws nearly 200 nations yet gets little done should concern us all.

Speaking of Oxford as I was, the University wrote in November, 2019 that 70% of British citizens live in areas which have already declared a climate emergency.

70% (!).

In one country.

In 2019.

Keeping in mind that the repercussions from our warming climate have only just begun and are about to get far worse without significant action by you and me and our governments, it is not surprising that a recent poll found that 52% of people in the United Kingdom are “very concerned” about climate change. What’s significant about that poll and figure is that just five years ago only 18% were “very concerned”.

People are listening. Reading. Learning.

Sure, the lack of meaningful action in Madrid is disappointing, but there are encouraging signs all around us that a world-wide movement, one often led by the youngest in society, to address this crisis is not only alive and well but growing. Significantly growing. No matter what you hear from politicians in Washington, San Paolo or other places intent on protecting the polluters, don’t overlook the use of the phrase “climate emergency” increasing by 10,800% in a year’s time or that the number of people in an entire country that call themselves “very concerned” about that very same emergency would triple in five years time.

People are starting to see the effects.

They are starting to widely understand that the world must come together to solve this problem.

And we, and by “we” I mean all of us with voices and votes and currency and feelings the world over, are finally on the verge of demanding that all political and business leaders understand the climate emergency and are focused on fixing it.

No more meetings that do nothing. Otherwise those so called “leaders” will need to understand that we will replace them and/or boycott their products and services in favor of those who are serious about solving the issue and that’s not intended as a threat or “big” talk or what-not.

It’s reality.

It’s what 10,800% tells me.

That percentage and these other figures illustrate that we are leaving an era of early education, one of tolerance, and are now entering an era of action because people increasingly know that the “climate emergency” is upon us and that the time to fix the problem has arrived at the dawn of the new decade that is 2020.

The United Nations

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Solving our planet’s climate crisis requires that societies all over earth must evolve from a fossil fuel energy economy to a sustainable one during my lifetime. And for many of the most fragile places on earth and their inhabitants, those most susceptible to rising seas and other risks, the stakes are the difference between survival and extinction.

Every citizen of our planet now faces a crisis that has no boarders, one where people’s language, religion or the color of their skin simply, and thankfully, do not matter. For this reason my recent opportunity to address the General Assembly of the United Nations in New York City was a unique and important chance to draw global attention to the fact that we need all of today’s world leaders to begin embracing change. The type of positive change that our world needs to solve our environmental problems before it’s too late.

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At UNESCO’s invitation, children from all over the world representing their World Heritage Marine sites including some of earth’s most iconic, yet endangered environments, such as Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, Ecuador’s Galapagos Islands and South Florida’s very own Everglades National Park, gathered to ask UN members to join us in pledging their support. The diversity of the children was profoundly beautiful but even more impressive was the passion that these children have for our planet.

#MyOceanPledge Ceremony in NYC.

To be asked to speak on their behalf, both for the children that joined me on stage at the UN in New York and children all around the world was the greatest honor of my young life. My speech to the General Assembly sought to define why these special places are so important but to also illustrate that they are at dire risk. As I shared with the audience that day;

“in our increasingly virtual world, nothing can compare to the majestic beauty of our natural environment, those special places on our planet that touch our hearts and that inspire our imagination.

Such places have had a profoundly important impact on our society for generations but they are also fragile and face many challenges, in some cases even extinction, from risks including coral bleaching, our planet’s climate change crisis, overfishing, pollution from plastics or run off from pesticides to name just a few.”

#MyOceanPledge Ceremony in NYC. #MyOceanPledge Ceremony in NYC.

And we called upon the world’s leaders to join us in taking the #MyOceanPledge by signing a petition that recognizes the environment’s importance to our collective futures. To read more about the petition and why having the world’s leaders join us is so important to all of our futures please click here for Andres Oppenheimer’s timely editorial in yesterday’s Miami Herald entitled World May Not Melt, Despite Trump’s Insane Decision on Climate Change.

Mr. Oppenheimer’s editorial brilliantly recounts a recent interview that he conducted with none other than the United Nations General Assembly President Peter Thomson including his thoughts on President Trump’s short-sighted decision to withdraw from the Paris Climate Agreement. President Thompson knows that the world is serious about solving our climate crisis and he especially knows this based on what he saw and heard from the children and me during the U.N. Ocean Conference. As Mr. Oppenheimer wrote and shared: He said he noticed that movement during the U.N. Ocean Conference held June 5-9, shortly after Trump’s decision. At that meeting, he said, there was a “hugely positive wave” of support for action against climate change, which included “a very big input from America’s civil society, states and cities.”

I noticed it too during my time in New York, at the UN and at the other events leading up to Worlds Ocean Day that we attended. It was everywhere and was what Mr. Oppenheimer quoted Mr. Thompson calling a “tidal wave of support” for action against climate change”.“I think what you’re seeing all the way from Europe to China and in the developing world, indeed everywhere I look, is that people are saying, ‘Hey, this only makes us stronger… I’m confident that people will step up on that. And I remind you that the biggest investors in renewable energy are American investors.”

#MyOceanPledge Ceremony in NYC.

And it was not just ‘talks’ and speeches but people taking action. Important people including heads of state, global business people and many others. People like Prince Albert II of Monaco, the first person to sign our pledge scroll and also someone Mr. Oppenheimer mentioned in his editorial when he wrote: Asked for specific examples of what is being done, Thomson cited the U.N. partnerships with celebrities such as billionaire Richard Branson and Prince Albert of Monaco to petition governments to protect 30 percent of their oceans by 2030. There is already an ongoing U.N. plan to have 10 percent of the oceans protected by 2020, and “I think that’s going to be doable,” he said.’

Delaney Reynolds preso

And speaking of Prince Albert II, here is a picture of my brother Owen and me, along with our friend Sarah Ramos, with the Prince of Monaco just after he signed the petition Mr. Oppenheimer wrote about, #MyOceanPledge. As you can see, he sure does not look too stressed about President Trump’s lack of vision or recent decision.During what was an incredible week in New York I had the privilege to get to know children from Papahanamokuakea, Hawaii; Lord Howe Island, Australia; Seychelles; South Africa; Sudan; the Great Barrier Reef, Australia; and the Wadden Sea, Netherlands among other World Heritage Marine sites. And no matter which amazing place these children live in we all shared the same undeniable bond; a deep love of the ocean and our natural environment.

IMG_3637And speaking of amazing places, the Everglades National Park is the only environment of its type on earth. The Everglades is a treasure chest filled with magical, mystical creatures unique to its enchanting and diverse environment, from its mangrove lined coasts and sandy beaches along our ocean’s shore to its majestic pineland forest and slow moving River of Grass. And it’s a big part of why I was invited to address the General Assembly.

While working on my book on sea level rise, Sink or Swim?, I had the pleasure of meeting and interviewing Everglades National Park Superintendent Ramos last year about the fragility and importance of this special place. Superintendent Ramos was generous with his time and shared a passion for the Park that left me feeling like the Park is in very good hands with a very good man.

Unfortunately, the Everglades is also at dire risk from all sorts of threats including encroaching development, agricultural pollution and run-off, rising seas and more. Sadly sea level rise alone threatens a large portion of the Park from possibly becoming extinct within my lifetime. As I said, it’s also one of UNESCO’s World Heritage Marine sites but its also a World Heritage in Danger site too given the many risks it faces to even have a future.

#MyOceanPledge Ceremony in NYC.

The folks at UNESCO in Paris saw a TEDx Talk I’d given a couple of years ago and, thus, invited me to address the General Assembly and have the honor of representing the Park and our region. And, if that was not enough, I was even able to be joined on stage by my brother, Owen, and our friend, Sarah.IMG_3684I have countless memories to share with you in future blogs about the outstanding children that joined me in New York, the time that we spent with people like Sylvia (‘Her Deepness’) Earle at The Explorers Club (only one of the coolest places you could ever hope to visit) and the truly exceptional people at UNESCO. I promise to share stories and pictures about all of those things and a lot more in time but, before I end this blog, allow me thank a few special people who were the reason I was honored to be asked to address the General Assembly.

#MyOceanPledge Ceremony in NYC.

Thanks to UNESCO, The Explorers Club, the Government of Flanders, Stefan and Irina Hearst, The Khaled bin Sultan Living Oceans Foundation, Dr. Fanny Douvere, Robbert Casier, Vanessa Lucot, Nolwazi Mjwara, Taylor Butz from the UNESCO World Heritage Center, Alison Barrat and Elizabeth Rauer from the Living Ocean Foundation, and Joel Sheakoski (for your amazing pictures).To each of you, thank you from the bottom of my heart for the work you do literally all over the world every day to protect some of the most important places on earth.

Thanks to Mom and Dad for facilitating the trip for Owen and me, much less introducing me to New York for the first time. I know that the entire experience was a bit overwhelming so thanks for not crying too much while we were on stage!IMG_3649Thanks to my #1, my not so little, little brother Owen. Thanks for standing outside the theaters with me to get autographs in the rain but mostly, thanks for standing on stage with me in front of the world and for always supporting my passions and dreams.IMG_3639And lastly, allow me to give a special shout out and thanks to the incomparable and ever so kind Pedro Ramos and his lovely daughter, Sarah. Pedro, it is my distinct honor to know you and to know that such a perfect steward of the environment is helping protect the Everglades. Its habitats, animals and I could never thank you enough.

OK, its time to get back to work on local solutions. Despite the circus that’s in Washington right now all of us have important work to do in our local communities, the regions and towns we live in, and in our states. If you’ve read this far then I would ask you to start local, stay local and find ways to make a positive change in your community. That’s my plan and I hope it’s yours too.

IMG_3689 #MyOceanPledge Ceremony in NYC. unnamed
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