Climate change: Humankind’s greatest challenge

Our species is confronting its greatest challenge in the long history of humankind: trying to ensure our survival and that of the myriads of animals and plants.

Without united action by governments and their citizens across the globe, the consequences of a changing climate – largely caused by human activities – will lead to an upheaval in the lives of billions of people on a scale the world has never experienced.

Researchers in universities around the globe are playing a key role in revealing what is happening and explaining what needs to be done to prevent the looming catastrophe. In many cases, it is their students who are most active in tackling a serious problem before the situation becomes even worse. Not surprisingly, either, because it is their lives and their children’s lives that will be most affected by the decisions we make today.

In this special edition of University World News – the first given over entirely to one crucial issue – our contributors describe what they and their institutions are doing to shift human attitudes from one focused on consumption to that of sustaining this precious planet so that the generations that follow us will still have lives worth living.

In the opening essay to this edition, Dr Jacqueline McGlade, chief scientist of the UN Environmental Programme, explains how UNEP is embarking on a wide-ranging shift towards working with all countries, especially in the developing world, to expand their analytical capacities and to help make their own information and scientific knowledge more accessible, across language regimes and up-to-date.

Meantime, our report on the European Union and its 28 members illustrates how an astonishing number of countries can collectively agree on sustainability goals and carry them out: a remarkable demonstration of united action by the majority of countries on a single continent.

The many programmes set up and operating by the UN and the EU offer some hope that enough nations can change the actions of their citizens to stop our Earth from losing its unique and irreplaceable treasure: life itself.

Photo: The new Stockwell Street sustainable development at the University of Greenwich