Every year, the United Nations holds an event with the most nondescript, opaque, meaningless name: the Conference of Parties. Most of the time, it takes place somewhere super far off — this year’s wrapped up last week in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt.
This annual climate change conference, now in its 27th year, has continued to fail our communities and our children in ways we can’t ignore.
If your basement has ever flooded, leaving you with soggy furniture to replace; if violence seems to spike in your neighborhood at the height of summer; if your child has asthma attacks that scare you half to death — you should be paying attention to this climate conference.
This year, negotiators failed to reach an agreement that could keep the world from getting 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit hotter than it was before humans started burning tons of fossil fuels. That might not sound scary, or even that interesting, But the D.C.-area has seen three times as many floods in this decade compared to the last two. Since no one can seem to agree to stop burning fossil fuels immediately, that number will only go up as the seas rise and storms hit more and more frequently. Neighborhoods that rarely flooded before could see water in the streets dozens of times a year.
Does your home have flood insurance? It will only get more expensive as the risks increase.
Burning fossil fuels causes higher levels of air pollution. Volunteers with the Washington Interfaith Network have found hundreds of gas leaks all over the city, some of which are concentrated enough to potentially explode. They’ve also started testing the air inside homes using gas stoves and have discovered that some kitchens reach unsafe levels of nitrogen oxide within an hour. Gas is just one kind of fossil fuel that creates air pollution linked to asthma and other respiratory issues.
Conversations about climate, especially at the international level, can feel as far away and opaque as the Conference of Parties in Egypt. In fact, many people, including some government leaders and the more than 600 fossil fuel lobbyists that attended COP27 last week, want it to feel like that: it means they can get away with more, because we’re not watching. But these global decisions hit us hard at home.
We can’t let COP28 and COP29 and COP30 pass by without letting our leaders know we’re watching and listening. They need to hear, through our votes and our voices, that we want to save our planet and provide help to communities at home and around the world who will feel the brunt of the disaster we’ve already created.