SDG #13: Climate Action

Planet Earth is ever-changing but without taking the proper action, we won't be here much longer.

We have the resources, knowledge and ability to adapt and create a healthy world for all.
The question is: Are we willing to embrace change and create this world?

I am! Take me directly to the easy actionable steps!
Written by Jess Lohmann and Harkiran Bharij

Sustainable Development Goal #13: Climate Action

Rising temperatures on our beloved planet Earth pose a challenge to our livelihoods and ultimately to our own survival which is why the United Nations created the Sustainable Development Goal #13: Climate Action.

Since global warming affects all life on Earth, unfortunately, many in a negative way, it’s one goal that I feel we need to solve immediately!

In this article, I will provide the challenges we face as well as progress that has been made and some easy and practical steps you can take to help reduce your carbon footprint which will ultimately help reach this goal.

Eco anxiety is real, just like climate change, and my intention is not to overwhelm or scare you, but to offer the facts as well as inspiration to take easy action.

Because we have the resources, knowledge and ability to tame the monster we created.

And if we inherit an eco-friendly mindset and work together, we can create a healthy world for all life on Earth for our future generations.

Power to the people who care and act!

UN Sustainable Development Goal #13: Climate Action

SDG #13: Climate action

“Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts”

Source: United Nations

 The Challenges

Since the mid 20th century, we have seen a huge rise in the Earth’s temperature. This increase is projected to be 95% or greater the result of human activity. Global temperatures are expected to rise as much as 3.2°C by the end of this century.

Data gathered from NASA proves that increased levels of greenhouse gases caused by carbon dioxide and other gases being trapped in the Earth’s atmosphere is warming our planet. We’ve been emitting these gases more and more since the beginning of the industrial revolution in 1760 which has also led to a huge rise in our population, making things even more challenging.

What’s at stake when the Earth gets warmer:

  • Melting ice: The extent and thickness of the the Arctic sea ice has tremendously declined over the last few decades. Glaciers are retreating around the world. Greenland lost as average of 279 billion tons of ice per year since 1993 while Antarctica lost about 148 billion tons. Snow is melting earlier in the year and the amount of snow has decreased over the past five years. The polar bear is the mascot of climate change for this very reason as he needs arctic ice to survive.
  • Flooding: As with the heat, the same with rain. Global warming increases the risk of frequent and heavier rainfall, snowfall and other precipitation. More flooding will also cause people to eventually move to safer and higher areas.
  • Sea level rise: Because of receding glaciers and melting ice sheets on land (contributing 66.6%) and the expansion of warmer water temperature (contributing 33.3%), the global sea level rose about 8 inches (20 cm) in the 1900s. Since 2000, that rate has nearly doubled and is accelerating each year. 2.2 billion people (roughly 39% of the world’s population) live within 100 km of a coast, hugely increasing the number of climate migrants seeking new homes.
  • Coral bleaching: Water temperature changes cause algae to leave coral reefs. This threatens the survival of the reef which negatively impacts the entire marine ecosystem.
  • Ocean acidification: When the pH levels in an ocean decrease over a long period of time, this is called acidification. This mainly occurs when there’s an increase of CO2 in our atmosphere.
  • Heat waves: If you think the summer of 2019 was hot, just wait 10 years from now! Heat waves will become more frequent and severe around the world. Long periods of extreme heat kill the elderly, children and other susceptible people as well as cause mental health issues in humans. Not only that, they cause devastating forest fires, higher energy costs from air conditioning and power outages because of a higher energy consumption and infrastructural damage, such as buckling roads, bursting water lines wasting precious water, exploding power transformers causing fires, etc.
  • Depleting wildlife habitats: Plants and animals need a certain climate just like we do. If they can’t take the heat, they have to migrate. Some species are able to move because they’re more adaptable, but others, such as Koalas, are not. They are stuck in their burning forest in Australia. This will certainly drive more species into extinction.

Sources: NASA and WWF

If we fail to reach SDG #13: Climate Action, upcoming generations won’t be walking on the same planet that we live on today.

Life on Earth will be very different.

Five Targets

The UN set five targets for the Sustainable Development Goal #13: Climate Action:

  1. Strengthen adaptive capacities against climate related hazards and natural disasters.
  2. Incorporate climate-related measures into legislation and policies.
  3. Improve education and awareness towards climate change.
  4. Mobilize $100 billion to help developing countries combat climate change.
  5. Promote mechanisms for climate-related management in developing countries, focussing on women, youth and local communities.

Source: United Nations

The Progress

Even though the global community is far from meeting either the 1.5 or 2°C targets set by the Paris Agreement, some progress has been made:

  • Global greenhouse gas emissions of developed countries have declined by 6.5% between 2000 and 2018.
  • Financing climate action had an increase of $584 billion (17%) from 2013 – 2014 to 2015 – 2016 due to private investments in renewable energy.
  • Investments in climate related activities across sectors has overtaken those related to fossil fuels.
  • Climate related financing provided by developed countries to support developing ones has increased by 14% in 2016, reaching $38 billion.
  • Because of travel bans and economic slowdown due to the pandemic, air quality has improved temporarily.
  • In 2018, some local governments of 55 countries have implemented a local disaster risk reduction strategy.
  • As of March 31, 2020, 185 countries and the European Union reported their first national contribution.
  • In 2019, at least 120 of 153 developing countries committed to formulate and implement National Adaptation Plans (NAPS). NAPS help countries achieve the global goal on adaption under the Paris Agreement to enhance adaptive capacity, strengthen resilience and reduce climate change vulnerability.

Source: United Nations


Fun and Easy Actionable Steps

Since much more action is needed to reach this goal, each and every human on this planet is called to step in and take action.

This may seem overwhelming and it will be if you try to do everything all at once. Please do NOT do that!

Take these and other suggestions step-by-step, starting with something easy. Each small step can make a big difference in the grand scheme of things.

Taking climate action starts with a positive mindset. Let your creative juices flow and have fun with it!

The key here is to remember that you are not alone. This is a communal effort, so please involve your family in the planning and decision making process. Especially your children no matter how old they are. These are activities your entire family can enjoy together.

Fun and easy things you can do:

  • Set a goal according to your passion and skills: To help you focus on what you’re most passionate about and combine that with your talents, you will be more motivated to continue and really make a positive impact. For instance, if you like to ride your bike, leave your car keys or train ticket at home and bike whenever you can. If you like to paint, paint the world you want to live in and post this on your social media channels so that you can spread awareness to inspire climate action. Look at how Allison Luci has raised $21k for animal sanctuaries with her beautiful paintings. If you like to write, write about the importance of trees who reduce CO2 in our atmosphere. If you want to start a business, become a social entrepreneur who helps combat climate change in your day-to-day business and giving back strategy.
  • Reduce consumerism and waste: Do I really need that new dress, iGadget or beauty item or do I just want it to make me feel better? Ask yourself this question before you make a purchase. Rethink, refuse, reduce, reuse, repurpose, recycle. Turn that drab bar stool from the 60’s into a cool seat for your guests in the kitchen. Patch those unwanted holes in your jeans if they’re not hip enough. Exchange items with your friends. What may be your trash may be someone else’s treasure. Kids also don’t need 20 gifts for Christmas. A few gifts from the heart that help strengthen your bond as a family are worth their weight in gold.
  • Make your own products: To help reduce or eliminate consumerism, waste and chemicals used on your body as well as save money, you can easily make your own products. There are a ton of recipes online to test out. I’ve been making my own deodorant, lip balm, hand cream and household cleaners for a few years now and they are the best products I’ve ever used! There is an initial investment of essential oils and other ingredients you may not normally use on a daily basis, such as arrowroot starch, shea butter and essential oils, but they last forever. I’ve yet to replace anything in three years and it looks like I could have another ten to go!
  • Ask your teacher/school to add Climate Change to the curriculum: There’s nothing more powerful than education. If you’re already talking about climate change in school, can you think of a way it could be optimized or developed further? Does your school provide an student-lead activity group for climate action? Would you be able to start one?
  • Get involved with your local government: Since local governments are currently being pressured to combat climate change, activity groups are being established by the citizens to meet with government officials to help set up an action plan. Possible activities and events include cleaning up the city/forest/beach, planting trees, informing residents and students at school, etc. Get involved and lend a helping hand.
  • Vote for politicians who care: There are those who care about our environment and those who don’t. As a US expat living in Germany, it was extremely painful to watch my country go on a different path during the four years with a president who placed absolutely no value on life on Earth. We need people in power who understand how important nature is for our wellbeing and livelihoods. Vote and advocate for them.
  • Support an organization: Research climate action-related organizations to find the one that fits your values. If you can, volunteer your time. This will give you valuable experience for your resumé as well as increase your knowledge on this subject. If it’s not a local organization, you can search for one in the area you are most concerned about. For instance, forests, especially rainforests, are extremely important for decreasing CO2 levels, so search for an organization working locally to help protect a rainforest. Before you donate, please find out as much information as you can. You want to support organizations that are fully transparent about how your money will be spent. They should provide this information on their website. You can also check their credibility on sites such as Charity Navigator and Charity Watch. You can also become a member of an organization such as 1% for the Planet or B1G1 that performs this kind of vetting research. It cost a yearly fee but may be worth your time in research.
  • Start the conversation: Everyone has a network of business partners, friends and family. Learn and talk about ecocide, “mass damage and destruction of ecosystems – harm to nature which is widespread, severe or systematic” and become an Earth Protector. As soon as we all understand that protecting our home is as important as protecting each human being (think of genocide) and any individual or company who commits this horrific crime on our home will face consequences, is when we will be able to create change on a global level.
  • Start your own project: Use your creativity and passion to start a project in your neighborhood. Sixteen year old Greta Thunberg started ‘Fridays for Future’, worldwide movement to put pressure on government officials to implement more climate action in 2018. How did she start? She skipped school and sat in front of the Swedish parliament every Friday with a handwritten sign that read: “School strike for climate”. If you need help, rally your friends and family to pitch in. Greta definitely didn’t do all this work on her own.
  • Consume consciously: Assessing whether you really need to buy something is important as mentioned above. However, you still need stuff. To help people and our planet, please take the time to research how the products in question were made and who made them. An ethical company is fully transparent about how they make their products and how they run their business. Support those that are making a viable effort to reduce their negative impact in this world. Please be warned about greenwashing which is the act of twisting the truth to make it sound like a company is making an eco-friendly effort when in fact, they’re still performing acts of environmental destruction. Support your local farmers and business owners instead of clicking on that ‘Buy Now’ button on Amazon. Read labels and research ingredients and materials. Any polyester or plastics in clothing send small plastic microbes to our oceans via our washing machines. These plastics are eaten by marine life which ultimately kill them prematurely. Read more about plastics in oceans in this article featuring Sustainable Development Goal #14: Life under Water.

Your contribution, however small, is a step in the right direction and is very much appreciated.

Read about the other Sustainable Development Goals for Nature

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