Negotiators from around the world will meet in Paris at the end of this year to try to forge a new global climate agreement. The process leading to the Paris talks underscores the need for immediate action on multiple fronts to address the threats climate change poses to national security, economic health and human well-being. 

Impact at home

Everyone will be touched by climate change, and some regions are already feeling the effects. Scientists project increased water scarcity, which could exacerbate drought conditions such as those being felt currently in California.

"All of us as individuals need to make informed choices and find practical ways to limit our environmental footprint."

Cities like Boston, New York and New Orleans have already felt the brunt of increasingly erratic extreme weather events. Rising sea levels are damaging vegetation and crops in low-lying countries like the Pacific island nation of Kiribati, and could make them uninhabitable by the end of this century.

Protecting ecosystems

Conservation efforts have shown that protecting nature is essential to sustained economic growth and development. All of humanity needs healthy rivers, abundant fisheries and vital ecological systems.

One of the most immediate and effective strategies can be found in the protection of natural ecosystems. Conserving mangroves, salt marshes and seagrass beds, for example, helps to shield coastal communities from tidal surges resulting from sea level rise and major storms. Preventing tropical deforestation reduces carbon emissions, in addition to providing long-term benefits to biodiversity and strengthening the resilience of local communities to a changing climate.

Efficiency strategies

Of course, investing in nature is just one piece of the equation when it comes to mitigating and adapting to climate change. We also need to maximize energy efficiency, and increase and diversify our use of renewable energy.

Every sector of society—government, business and the public—will be impacted by climate shifts and they all need to contribute.

Governments must adopt and implement bold commitments. Businesses worldwide need to join the growing number of corporate leaders who recognize that the long-term success of their companies depends on conservation of nature and the services that it provides to people.

All of us as individuals need to make informed choices and find practical ways to limit our environmental footprint. We also need to make our voices heard and the use of social media has empowered our society, especially our youth, with that ability.

Standing together

We are at a critical point in human history. Although the stakes have never been higher, I am optimistic that we have the motivation and ability to meet the challenge of climate change.

We are on the verge of a shift in our values as societies begin to remember that their well-being is tied to nature. It is in our self-interest to work together to identify and invest in solutions.