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I am the woman who took Okezue Bell to COP 27 and then I was more, By Ngozi Bell

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The 27th Conference of the Parties COP 27 was held from July 7 to July 18 in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt. This United Nations Framework Convention brought together more than 100 heads of state and governments, and over 35,000 participants that represented key parties for a series of high-level meetings, many important side events, key negotiations, roundtables, and press conferences. Every continent was represented and just about every country, both small and big nations. For the first time in its history, a children and youth’s forum was featured as a key entity, and the initiative of climate justice was brought to the forefront. Additionally, there was a large scale cross pollination of ideas and people via numerous pavilions that showcased climate action, solutions, trends and initiatives across different sectors around the world. 

The UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres gave the welcome address and in clear words declared that reducing emissions drastically was an immediate necessity. Some of his exact words were “The world still needs a giant leap on climate ambition…….The red line we must not cross is the line that takes our planet over the 1.5-degree temperature limit………”. He also urged the world not to relent, saying  “in the fight for climate justice and climate ambition; we can and must win this battle for our lives”. 

At the end of it all by the end of the deliberations on Sunday November 20, they concluded with a historic agreement to establish and operationalise a loss and damage fund. Though not all together new. This is a big deal, and if operationalised, a big win for climate justice!

So much of the talk was about the youth, their ability to impact things and how crucial it was to involve them and truly there were a lot of young people at the conference, none quite as young as Okezue Bell (www.okezuebell.com ). It was sheer delight to watch the 16-year-old make it from round table talk to conversations in a couple of forums and with international figures and celebrities, to TV interviews and a radio interview. 

In between, were numerous conversations and discussions with important leaders from Nigeria, Kenya, Poland, other parts of Europe, Africa, North America, Middle East, Asia and so much more. Seeing these people recognise his value without prompting was notable and certainly a win on their sides. He effortlessly engaged several young people at the youth forums, was introduced by many who wanted his interest and work in climate change to be known, his learnings broadened and his participation more impactful. It was interesting to see this grand movement through the lenses of watching Okezue Bell at COP 27. It became clear to me that to involve as many young people as possible was not only a good idea it was a necessary activity. It is a world that they should be in, grow in, lead in. They needed to participate in framing it for better. They needed to help stop the problems from decimating their world further. They could bring great innovative solutions because they are unencumbered, and given that they did not cause the problem per se, but could just as quickly become culpable or solution providers. They had the ability to quickly help reverse bad climate outcomes because of their sheer numbers and natural adversity to bad habits. They had much to gain if they helped fix it as fast as possible. They also understand the value of intergenerational engagement much more so than the generations before them. Empowering, involving, and engaging youth starting as young as possible, will make the Climate Change approach to issues a game changer in every way!

Climate Change before COP 27

Before this trip, COP and Climate Change were distant ideas, though certainly on my radar but removed from my more immediate care abouts. Surely trying to impact the world through my work in technology, entrepreneurship and the myriad of things I do was enough not only to keep me busy but in step with the right priorities. Just like many who might consider pocketbook issues that put food on the table more critical and not having much in common with the “luxury” of pursuing climate change. The truth is that so much of what we don’t know about climate change is at the core of the details that we must know.

Adverse Climate change impacts three core things – Economies, Life and Living, the Future.

At COP 27, I saw hearts unfold as some worked with resolve, many years under their belt yet still believing. Some showcased the damages of climate change recounting personal stories in video or by oral rendition. Some showing technical details of damage measures in vegetation, land, foliage, oceans, rivers, marine life, neighborhoods, countries, regions, air/water quality, deaths, illnesses and diseases. It was intense to see, troubling to know but with a sigh knowing that we can collectively help. That the most vulnerable need not suffer in silence because activists can take up their cause, that poor nations need not choose between swathes of condemned lands plus the people impacted and continuing life-giving national initiatives to just survive the dignity of nationhood. That the problem is so big and required so much and that sometimes the biggest offenders were the hardest to hold responsible. That the most important mission and perhaps the only real mission here in this fight is that it must be one big global movement with many national and sub-national actions, and it ultimately must preserve life. Not everyone needed to be on board, but enough people must drive the  cause.

Adverse Impact on Economies:

Greenhouse gas effect caused by flaring, fossil fuel and other emissions cause warmer temperatures, sea levels rise affecting marine and aquatic life, reduced air and water quality and pollution, sea levels rising can sometimes cause floods. Extreme weathers impacted by the change in climate can cause forest fires, affect vegetation, require more resources to yield less productivity in agricultural, forestry, fisheries and tourism. Climate activities like drought, hurricanes, severe thunderstorms, and pollutions can cause damage to infrastructure, supply chains, property and human health through direct and indirect impacts. These and much more have direct impact to economies from restoration to mitigation to prevention.

 The impact of climate change is expensive, long and arduous. According to Morgan Stanley, from 2015 to 2017 climate activities cost the US $415B, Texas alone suffered losses of $175B due to Hurricane Harvey. For smaller economies this is a significant part of their GDP. Experts estimate that if global temperatures rose by 4.5-degrees by 2100, the US could suffer an annual loss of $520B, however, keeping the temperature to an increase of no more than 2.8 degrees would save he US $220B annually in loss from hurricanes and forest fires etc. In addition, countless labour hours will be lost, tourism would be impacted for many countries, floods and extreme rains could destroy both human and livestock by drowning, starvation, and erosion. All these impact, new, existing and future businesses and the financial markets that support them. The need to be climate proof, have climate insurance and other tools would become necessary to business health thereby raising the cost of setting up, running and using the products of a business. This will drive up cost of goods, further debilitate supply chain issues and then adversely impact the supply-demand ratios

Adverse Impact on life and living

Erosion, hurricane, forest fires devastate vegetation, change topologies and many times wipe out communities. This means that people are dislocated, there is potentially more movement into cities causing over crowding and infrastructure strain. Demand chases pricing up and resources become harder to access and more expensive. Rising heat could kill many directly and indirectly because of the impact to their habitat and survivability. 

The most vulnerable are sometimes left to deal with the aftermath of polluted waters, air, and land. Drought leads to lack of food, starvations and many diseases associated with malnutrition. Healthcare systems are over run as diseases rage. Many displaced who were once middle class find it difficult to retain their economic status and fall into economic ruin. Floods and rains could wipe away swathes of people in much larger numbers than we have seen in recent times. Nations not used to such phenomenon unprepared will suffer even more. Nigeria recently saw a 23-state flooding that killed over six hundred people – the scale was unprecedented (the worst in a decade), while the circumstances of the flooding could have been curtailed, the consequences of it was a climate shift -consider this devastation 603 people dead, 2,400 people injured, 200k homes destroyed, 1.4 million people displaced. Now granted much of Nigeria’s devastation was man made because every year Cameroon which lies along Nigeria’s easter boarder, releases accumulated waters by opening its dam with the expectation that the water running down stream is interrupted by a twin dam built on the Nigerian side to curtain flooding.  Nigeria did not fulfill its part of the deal but had gotten away with it because the rains were never bad enough to significantly disrupt lives and livelihoods. However this time with unprecedented rainfall the rivers had swollen significantly and there was no wall to forcefully stop the flow so it ended up wrecking the lives of millions of people, while taking hundreds of lives with it. Texas saw a similar thing with Hurricane Harvey that took nearly one hundred lives, most of the deaths occurred outside the flood zones when a makeshift dam broke, and water flooded many homes miles away and destroyed livelihoods and lives. Both because of unprecedented weather conditions.

 Kenya is experiencing unprecedented drought causing starvation in ways never experienced before. Nations like Pakistan, Indonesia, United states and so many have seen increased flood actions due to large and more frequent volumes of torrential rainfall. Disease carrying bugs like mosquitoes become more prevalent causing more incidents of malaria, dengue fever, west Nile virus and so much more, equivalent issues also appear around the world. Bottomline is that people suffer!

Adverse Impact on the future

Once society becomes frail or is retroactively battling issues, that translates to a bleaker future. A future that is harder to plan on. Think about all the opportunity for greening the planet in the way we live, with opportunities for new infrastructure, new methodologies, new sources of power, creating resiliency, policies that move faster on the “Green New Deal”. New businesses and innovations and new jobs and opportunities, new streams of income and finance and so much more. An adverse climate effect erodes all of that, such that recovery efforts consume so much resource that it becomes impossible to innovate or develop and enjoy the benefits that are possible in the opportunities we have to retard adverse climate effect today.

The United Nation Climate Change mandate is to not to exceed 1.5 degrees in temperature rise of the world, this is in direct response to avoiding these big impacts. 

COP 27 opened my eyes to climate change and the reality of our planet, watching Okezue Bell turned me to the urgency of my role today and taking consistent action no matter how modest reminds me that I have a place in this big fight. Whether you believe in climate change or not, it is happening, the evidence is there and facts don’t lie, but what is more important is your response to this question “how can you help?”, just look around you and you will know!

About Ngozi Bell

Take a listen to this podcast Say It Skillfully® OUR VOICES – Ngozi & Okezue Bell, Carpe Diem! Tuesday, April 5, 2022 (voiceamerica.com)

Inspiration, Hard Work, Innovation. These three foundational elements anchor Ngozi’s core belief that manifesting the extraordinary is always within reach. Inspired by her mother A.C.Obikwere, a scientist and author, she learned the privilege of living at the edge of important encounters and dedicating herself to robust and perpetual learning. Ngozi’s background is a combination of Physics, Engineering, Venture Capital/Private Equity, regulations, and business where she has managed over $1B in cumulative revenue. Ngozi is a speaker, storyteller, and writer on a diverse set of topics including AI, iDLT, ML, Signal Processing, iOT, women, entrepreneurship and more. She contributes regularly to VOA, has been a TEDx speaker and is published on tech and non-tech platforms. She is a champion of STEM, women, youth, art and the Africa we must engage. Ngozi is an adjunct professor of Physics and management with work

experience in Asia, Europe, Africa, Middle East, and North America. She is a founder of a number of a number of enterprises and host of the podcast Stem, Stocks and Stews (https://anchor.fm/stemstocksstews-podcast).

Https://www.LinkedIn.com/in/ngozibell/
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