Sparking a Conversation on Climate Change: Superstar Ellie Goulding told me how we can “light it up, up, up”

United Nations Secretary General António Guterres recently described climate change as “an unprecedented and growing threat to peace and prosperity.”

Despite the urgency of this threat, climate change can often seem abstract and intangible—something far removed from our everyday lives and a problem to tackle in the distant future. But the fact of the matter is this: Climate change is upon us now, and, as young people, we must engage in substantive discussions on this critical global challenge. One effective way to approach conversations on climate change is to share how it’s currently affecting the well-being of people worldwide.

As we have seen with the devastating 2017 hurricanes—storms that are exasperated by the effects of global warming—there is a very real human cost of climate change. From wildfires and heat waves to droughts and famines, the effects are manifesting across the globe. Recent medical research has found that millions of people worldwide are already suffering from climate change’s negative impact on health. For example, rising temperatures quicken the spread of infectious diseases, unpredictable crop yields worsen hunger for the world’s most vulnerable, and allergy seasons are lasting longer.

Changes in climate also have implications regarding mass migration. The UN Refugee Agency reports that an average of 21.5 million people have been forcibly displaced by sudden weather-related hazards (like floods, storms, wildfires, and extreme temperature) each year since 2008.

So, to make the conversation about climate change real, urgent, and tangible, we must root our discussions in the ways that environmental changes are already threatening our health and ways of life.

As part of the United Nations Foundation’s annual Global Leadership Dialogues last month, I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing superstar singer, songwriter, and record producer Ellie Goulding about her climate advocacy on Facebook Live. Later that evening, I presented Ellie with the UN Foundation’s 2017 New Voices Award. From championing Earth Hour to engaging children on climate change through her collaboration with Sesame Street, Ellie has leveraged her unique platform to put the spotlight on the very pressing issue of climate change. Watch my interview with Ellie here!

I want to  share something Ellie said during our conversations that really stood out to me. Ellie and I discussed how important it is for people to understand the pressing nature of climate change, but she emphasized that it’s only through optimism and hope that we will successfully galvanize people to act on climate change.

Now is the time to act and engage in the climate change conversation.

Here’s how you can be a climate champion:

Join the United Nations Foundation and Climasphere’s new #EyeOnClimate Instagram campaign. The campaign will document firsthand experiences of climate change and create a digital conversation around innovative solutions via social media. In addition, #EyeOnClimate will fuel momentum for the upcoming UN Climate Change Conference in Bonn (COP23), where 197 countries will create guidelines for implementing climate action.

Participate in the #EyeOnClimate Campaign:

1. Follow @UNFoundation and @Climasphere on Instagram.

2. Share an original photo on Instagram of a climate change impact or solution.

3. Write a caption describing the photo and how it relates to you.

3. Use the hashtag #EyeOnClimate. Be sure to set your account to “public.”

Munira Khalif is the 2017-18 U.S. Youth Observer to the United Nations, a program that was launched in 2012 by the United Nations Association of the USA (UNA-USA) and the U.S. Department of State to increase youth engagement in global affairs. As the U.S. Youth Observer to the UN, Khalif will represent American youth at the 72nd UN General Assembly in New York and other UN events throughout the coming year, traveling within the United States and overseas to share her impressions and experiences.