We have the means to limit climate change: the choice is ours

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© UNESCO/P. Chiang-Joo

“Responding to climate change is far more than a technical and political issue. It is an ethical issue” explained UNESCO’s Director General, Irina Bokova, emphasizing the need to empower the people who are already experiencing impacts during the outreach event “Raising Awareness of Climate Change: the key findings of the IPCC Fifth Assessment Report”. The event, organized jointly by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and UNESCO’s International Hydrological Programme (IHP) on 7 December 2015 at UNESCO headquarters, focused on translating science into practical solutions and on the potential of education and awareness-raising as powerful drivers for change.

The IPCC Assessment Reports provide a scientific basis for governments at all levels to develop climate related policies, and they underline the negotiations underway at COP21 in Paris. The Fifth Assessment Report concludes that human influence on the climate is clear, and the more we disrupt our climate, the more we risk severe, pervasive and irreversible impacts. “More importantly, the latest assessment report reaffirms the hope that we have the means to limit climate change and build a better future” stressed the Chair of the IPCC, Mr. Hoesung Lee. “The choice is ours”, added the IPCC Vice-Chair, Youba Sokona. The outreach event was organized with this in mind, and the next assessment report will place a greater emphasis on solutions.

UNESCO and IPCC share the conviction that science, when communicated effectively, is a powerful tool to engage all stakeholders and empower people. “We are convinced that sustainability begins on school benches” said Irina Bokova. “Education is the best way to spread new ways of seeing the world, new ways to act as citizens”. Through its mandate in science and education, and as the coordinator of the Global Action Programme on Education for Sustainable Development, UNESCO is in a unique position to foster the social transformation needed towards greener societies.

The first sessions of this full-day event focused on the presentation of the key messages and findings of the latest Assessment Report, including the physical science; impacts, adaptation and vulnerability; and the mitigation aspects. Journalists and media representatives were invited to participate in a session dedicated to communicating on scientific assessments and telling science based stories.

The afternoon allowed for a rich debate on translating science into action, i.e. facilitating the use of key scientific findings for policy- and decision-making. The conclusions of technical reports such as the climate change Assessment Reports must be communicated through clear, actionable messages.

The final session was dedicated to climate change education and education for sustainable development, as an investment in the younger and future generations, who will certainly have the biggest impact on climate change mitigation.

Education, science and culture are our best tools towards sustainable development” said UNESCO’s Assistant Director General for Natural Science, Flavia Schlegel, as she closed the meeting.  UNESCO and IPCC, together with scientists worldwide, will continue to play a vital role in establishing the scientific basis for the sustainable management of our natural resources, and in sharing knowledge as widely as possible.

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