The Time is Now! We are all Greta Thunberg!
School kids around the world are taking to the streets demanding that the older generation extend and/or rethink their efforts to tackle climate change; the young generation sees that issue as the major threat to their future. The teenagers of today will still be alive to carry the climate impacts of tomorrow, like sinking coastlines and cities, droughts, floods, heatwaves, crop failures, wildfires, and will have diminishing range of options to deal with the legacy of inaction on cutting carbon emissions.
The international dimensions of the climate problem, such as differential regional vulnerabilities and responsibilities, are well researched, but the intergenerational dimension justifies far more attention.
The “School Strike for Climate” movement was first started by Swedish teenager Greta Thunberg, who began her strike outside the country’s parliament in Stockholm in August 2018 and has said that she will continue to strike until Sweden is aligned with the goals of the Paris Agreement - UNFCCC (The Paris Agreement is an agreement within the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, dealing with greenhouse-gas-emissions mitigation, adaptation, and finance, signed in 2016. Wikipedia). Since then, her singular action has spread into an international climate movement, organised by young people around the world. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Greta_Thunberg
There certainly is an age gap in environmental politics. As a regular contributor of Enviroblog.net I have clearly seen over the years, that unfortunately the majority of people in my age group have opinions and attitudes that can only be regarded as either profoundly selfish or willfully ignorant. They don't see the push for an energy revolution as vital to protect the environment and future generations, but rather an unwelcome disruption to the status quo. Why don't they think about the well-being of their grandchildren? Putting their collective heads in the sand will not suffice.
It’s not easy being an environmentalist. For the most part, you find yourself swimming against the tide, although this is changing slowly but surely. What do we have in common? I would argue: a caring nature, conscientiousness, a concern for current and future well-being, informed by knowledge. In short, wisdom. Needless to say that I feel ashamed for my generation with a lack of wisdom towards the environmental issues compared to the “School Strike Movement” of today. Those young people are the ONLY hope we have to save our one and only planet! There is no planet ‘B’!
Is it possible to care *too* much? I don't know. There is a cost to be paid – that’s for sure. We will confront accusations of hypocrisy; being a spoilsport; a ‘buzz-kill’. If we are honest, there is a kernel of truth there. Discarding your principles at times when it is inconvenient, arguably, means they weren’t principles at all – more like a strongly-held preference. But not doing so still makes you an outlier in society generally. There’s an inflexibility evident that some will read as condescension (rightly or wrongly). But the new “movements” give me hope. https://www.enviroblog.net/post/the-problem-of-being-an-environmentalist
Here are some important facts: UN Framework Convention on Climate Change Convention entered into force on March 21, 1994, and now has near-universal membership. It has been ratified by 197 countries. It represented the first time there had been universal recognition that there were a global warming problem. It called for:
"The stabilisation of greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic (human) interference with the climate system".
The Agreement states:
"Developed [countries] should continue taking the lead by undertaking economy-wide absolute emission reduction targets. Developing [countries] should continue enhancing their mitigation efforts, and are encouraged to move over time towards economy-wide emission reduction or limitation targets in the light of different national circumstances."
The idea is that a one-size-fits-all approach wouldn't be fair when wealthy industrialised countries are in a better position to move towards renewables without jeopardising their economies (plus they've been polluting for longer).
National Geographic, exactly 5 years ago in October 2014, published a poll stating: “New research finds a generation gap on energy issues as millennials show greater concern about climate change.
Two-thirds of young adults (aged 18 to 34) say they’re inclined to vote for a political candidate who supports cutting greenhouse gas emissions and increasing financial incentives for renewable energy, according to an online poll of 2,105 U.S. residents by the University of Texas at Austin. In contrast, just half of seniors (aged 65 or older) say they would lend such support.
Unlike seniors, the majority of millennials say they’re willing to pay much higher prices to protect the environment. About 56% of young adults take this view compared to 20% of seniors.”
What has happened in those 5 years in our major developed countries? How has the Paris agreement affected countries reaction to the growing threat of global warming?
Think our political leaders aren’t beholden to fossil fuel interests? Think they collectively support and promote renewable energy sources with the urgency and on the scale it deserves? Think again.
According to the IMF, fossil fuels subsidies in 2019 globally remain at a staggering 5.2 trillion dollars. https://www.vox.com/2019/5/17/18624740/fossil-fuel-subsidies-climate-imf
Just imagine if this was transitioned to solar, wind, tidal, geothermal, ecologically-appropriate hydropower and so on.
Corruption and Crony Capitalism (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crony_capitalism) have ensured our civilisation remains addicted to oil and coal, in particular, much like a drug addict.
Watch the following video “Global Energy Production by Source 1860 - 2019” - Timeline of global primary energy production, measured in terawatt-hours (TWh) per year. Ranked by source: coal, biofuels, crude oil, natural gas, hydro power, nuclear, solar, wind.
The intention of those agreements are good, but how did countries react in reality? For example: Australia - my adopted country 35 years ago, when the future looked bright and promising to be living on that continent with endless possibilities; at least so I believed at the time.
Sadly and disappointing - there is another side to Australia today…what about Climate Change? Global Warming? Deforestation? Pollution?
Australia has one of the highest per capita emissions of carbon dioxide in the world, with 0.3 percent of the world’s population it produces 1.3 per cent of the world’s greenhouse gases.
Unfortunately the Australian Government still ignores the scientific facts of Climate Change.
Australia is vulnerable to the effects of global warming projected for the next 50 to 100 years because of the extensive arid and semi-arid areas, an already warm climate, high annual rainfall variability and existing pressures on water supply.
Yet, amongst the top countries in the world - developed and developing - Australia ranks in the top 15 (e.g. http://www.globalforestwatch.org/countries/overview) for broad-scale land clearing – killing tens of millions of native animals (including threatened species) and wiping out endangered forests and woodlands. Urbanisation, mining, fires, logging and agricultural activities are few of the causes of deforestation. Historically, Australia has one of the highest rates of tree clearing of any developed country. Currently 1,000 animal and plant species are at risk of extinction, including the Koala.
The following statement in an article from “News.com.au” from September 2018 drives home the point:
AUSTRALIA, you’re being “irresponsible to the extreme” !
That’s the harsh message from leading scientists across the country, not just for our “confused, divided and backwards” government but for the everyday Aussies who believe climate change scepticism and refuse to acknowledge the state of “emergency” we face.
Scientists have slammed the federal government for its “deliberate negligent failure” to take action to reduce Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions over the last few years.
So why are “environmentalists” important ?
An environmentalist is a supporter of the goals of the environmental movement, "a political and ethical movement that seeks to improve and protect the quality of the natural environment through changes to environmentally harmful human activities".
Environmentalism works to correct the damage done as well as prevent future destruction; even with the combinations of legislation and improved corporate behavior, nonprofit organisations still play a significant role in achieving environmental goals.
In terms of improving how environmentalists are perceived, it’s also important to concede when critics make a valid point. Instances of this a few and far between nowadays, as tribalism and political partisanship corrodes our discourse. Dismissing a conservative viewpoint out of hand, truly held and based on facts, is just as bad - and indicative of lazy thinking - as the astoundingly stupid argument that environmentalist are “greenie” communists.
I think history will judge us kindly, hopefully. Let’s try not to alienate those who would be friends and allies in the movement. The only movement that can save the world.
Further reading (earlier blogs):
Climate Analytics, Feb 2019 (viewed 4.10.2019)
https://climateanalytics.org/blog/2019/livin-in-the-future-delaying-climate-action-and-intergenerational-justice/ (Article also available in German language)
MR online, 2019 (viewed 4.10.2019)
NationalGeographic, Oct 2014 (viewed 4.10.2019)