MOSCOW — A former ambassador to the United Nations, former adviser to President Barack Obama and former member of the National Security Council told a Moscow audience Wednesday evening that everyone must do their part to rise to the challenge of climate change.
Samantha Power, who served as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations from 2013-17, was chosen as the keynote speaker for the University of Idaho’s annual Borah Symposium.
The symposium centered around how the climate influences conflict in the world, and Power told the hundreds of people at the UI Pitman Center on Wednesday that climate change is “the defining issue of our time.”
“I saw firsthand the nexus between climate and national security,” she said.
Among her long list of diplomatic and humanitarian achievements, Power has been a war correspondent covering the Yugoslav wars, served as special assistant to the president and senior director for multilateral affairs and human rights on the National Security Council and wrote a Pulitzer Prize-winning book called “A Problem from Hell: America in the Age of Genocide.”
She said more countries today are experiencing some form of violent conflict than the world has seen in the past 30 years, largely because conflicts are lasting longer than before. Power said climate change has become an important driver in conflict. As an example, she said a major drought became one of the catalysts for the genocide in Darfur in the early 2000s, as conflict grew out of a lack of resources.
Drought was also a major contributor to the war in Syria, as that conflict was sparked by large populations moving to the urban areas to try to survive the change in climate.
She said about 7 million people in the world have been displaced because of major weather events, and there will be even more climate refugees in the coming years. As an ambassador to the U.N., Power said she met several ambassadors from island nations terrified of what will happen to their countries’ population as water levels rise.
Locally, Idaho is experiencing the effects of climate change. Power said Boise is warming at twice the rate of the U.S. average and is among the fastest-warming cities in the country. UI researchers, she said, predict that Idaho can expect higher temperatures, more wildfires and fewer below-freezing days at ski resorts in the future.
Power said the government has not been doing its part to address climate change. Notably, the U.S. withdrew from the Paris climate accord under the Trump administration.
But while people may be frustrated at their government, Power said climate change is one of the rare challenges where each person can do their part to fight it.
She said 21 states are attempting to meet the Paris climate accord despite the federal government’s actions. She said in Norway, six out of 10 cars sold are electric or hybrid. In Morocco, about one-third of the energy the country uses is renewable.
She said everyone can contribute to solutions if they start making small changes.
“There is always something we can do,” she said.
Power said while everyone feels small in the face of climate change, it is important people overcome their fear of trying to meet the challenge. She referred to a saying that her family uses often.
“Feel the fear and do it anyway,” Power said.
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