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Youth UN adviser says climate change needs to be treated like COVID-19: 'An emergency'

Sophia Kianni, an youth climate activist recently hired by the United Nations as an adviser, is calling for governments to implement pandemic measures to fight global warming.

A youth United Nations (UN) climate adviser is calling for world leaders to treat global warming with the same mandates used to fight the COVID-19 pandemic.

Sophia Kianni, who is the UN's youngest adviser, said in a tweet earlier this week that more than 80% of the global population is being "impacted" by climate change and that it warranted an emergency response.

"Remember when we treated COVID-19 like an emergency?" Kianni tweeted Monday evening. "Well it’s time to do the same for climate change, over 80% of the world's population is being impacted from Climate Change!"

Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, governments implemented wide-reaching mandates and economic shutdowns, which led to massive job losses and supply chain problems, in an effort to prevent further spread of the disease. Such shutdowns were heavily criticized for their negative impacts on the global economy and education outcomes.

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However, actions taken to defeat the pandemic — such as limiting travel and forcing individuals to stay at home — ultimately curbed carbon emissions and energy consumption, a priority activists have pushed. In 2020, the U.S. emitted 4.6 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide, a staggering 11% year-over-year decline and the lowest level since 1983, according to federal data.

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"If we can think about how to prepare for climate change like a pandemic, maybe there will be a positive outcome to all of this," CoolClimate Network developer Christopher Jones told NBC News in 2020 amid COVID-19 shutdowns. "We can help prevent crises in the future if we are prepared. I think there are some big-picture lessons here that could be very useful."

"This is a huge opportunity for countries that import fossil fuels which can save trillions of dollars by switching to a clean energy economy in line with the Paris Agreement," energy strategist Kingsmill Bond added months later. "Now is the time to plan an orderly wind-down of fossil fuel assets and manage the impact on the global economy rather than try to sustain the unsustainable."

Kianni, who is also the founder of the international climate group Climate Cardinals, meanwhile, made headlines last year after she delivered remarks at the UN annual climate conference in Egypt. During the speech, she blasted world leaders for continuing to allow new oil and gas leasing, calling for more aggressive actions to combat global warming.

Kianni didn't respond to a request for comment.

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