The Congreso Internacional de Cambio Climatico (International Congress on Climate Change) took place in Huelva, Spain last May 10-12, with the theme “Finding Solutions.” There were many sessions tackling different topics on how we can all find solutions to climate change. Here are 5 things I have learned from the conference:


  1.  We need to redesign our systems 

    Leyla Acaroglu, sociologist and designer, talked about the importance of disruptive design. “Destruction is about intent,” she said.  Design is the powerful silent social scripter that influences the world — from architecture, to urban spaces. But along with design, we need to remember that everything is interconnected and that we move in systems.

    “We either change the system or reinforce the system by the choices we make,” Leyla said. Leyla stressed the importance of our everyday decisions and choices, reminding us that the market is only as powerful as what the public consumes. Making conscious decisions can create ripples of change.

    One system we need to change is our linear model of economy, where we take, make, and waste.

  2. There is hope for the future — but only if we act now

    Gavin Schmidt, director of NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies, started his presentation with what we already know: climate is changing at alarming rates, and we are sure to go past our 1.5 degrees of target. However, Schmidt reminds us that we can still do something about our future, if we choose to.

    “The future is not certain. Depending on how we choose to deal with this problem — whether we have aggressive mitigation measures or we burn everything and go on business as usual — the difference between the two, that’s what we can control. It’s not too late. The next chapters in the  climate story had not yet been written, and it’s the choices we make now, individually, in our cities, in our states, in our countries, in the European Union, internationally — it’s those choices that will determine how the story goes.” he said.


    3. Cities are a big problem — but also hold big solutions

    Did you know that 55% of people live in cities? In 1990, there were only 10 mega cities in the world, now we have 28 megacities. Cities are the center of economic activities, production, and consumption. Cities also consume 80% of energy and generate 49% of emissions.

    Eduardo Verano, gobernador del Departamento del Atlantico (Colombia), said that, “Climate change is a reality we have to face. It forces us to think of the ways we are governing.”

    In order to rise to the challenge, cities need to become more sustainable and resilient.

    4. Communicating Climate Change is more difficult in a post-truth world

    As if communicating climate change is not difficult enough, the proliferation on fake news makes it all the more difficult. There is a paradox we now face: we have never consumed this much information, and yet do not trust the media from where we get the information we consume.

    However, journalists believe that this is all the more reason to communicate climate change and scientific facts better.

    “Media has an impact on population. We are influencers,” says Gema Ruvuelta de la Poza, science communicator.

    “We need to be part of the debate,” says Ilza Maria Tourinho Girardi, Brazilian journalist.

    Jose Maria Montero Sandoval, journalist, reminds us not to focus on single events like floods or typhoons but on the deeper aspects of climate change, and clarify to our audience what their participation is in finding solutions.


    My main take away from the conference is this: Climate change is a problem where all of us need to take action. No one is exempted from ensuring that we still have a liveable planet to live on in the future.