Last week, millions of people all around the world gathered to protest against the lack of action on climate change. The core of the movement was fueled by an unusual protest of children, sparked by 16 year-old climate activist Greta Thunberg.
We described in great detail why such a march is justified, and why children have every reason to feel that they’ve been wronged by adults — doomed to deal with the consequences of climate change for their entire lives. This is not to say that just because the kids are out in the street, we should listen to them; that’s hardly the point. You can make an honest argument that children may not grasp the full extent of the situation and are too naive for such a problem.
But here’s the issue: the requests put out during the climate march are actually more in line with the science than what politicians are using.
This is what’s truly embarrassing about this event. The world’s youth seems to have more scientific and moral clarity than the world’s leading politicians.
Let’s look at things one by one. The main request behind the climate strike is urgent action against climate change. This is perfectly in line with all scientific projections, which find that without urgent action, we will cause catastrophic and irreversible damage — damage from which the entire planet (ourselves included) will suffer. The Paris Agreement, the best global plan we have at the moment, has been criticized by many scientists as not ambitious enough. Nevertheless, it’s still a workable framework, which can make a difference, if the world’s countries would play their part.
But they aren’t.
Few if any countries are actually on par with their pledges for the Paris Agreement — again, an agreement which is not the end-all of all our climate woes. To make matters even worse, some countries show little interest in actually following these pledges. Most notably, the current US administration has announced its intention to exit the Paris Agreement.
So the urgent action that scientists are asking for is not happening. We’re not doing nearly enough, and we’re not acting fast enough — we need to do much more.
What else is the climate strike asking for? More education about climate in schools.
Yet again, this matter is perfectly in line with existing science. Numerous studies and surveys have found that most people have an incorrect view of climate change. The meer existence of climate change is being denied, and the scale at which this movement is prevalent is proof enough that we need more climate education in schools. What reasonable person would argue against that?
Of course, there’s one issue which the world’s youth probably fails to understand: that change at this level is extremely challenging.
That’s why they are asking us, the adults, to act. Because they can’t do it — only we can. The science is there, and leaders refuse to take important action. The ramifications are extremely complex, but the essence of the problem is simple.
It’s encouraging to see the world’s youth taking action, but it’s shameful that we got to this point. It’s even more shameful that the protest might fall on deaf ears.
- Perhaps we need to explain climate change to politicians as we would to very small children | Emma White, 2019
- Alexis Papazoglou, Is It Cruel to Have Kids in the Era of Climate Change?, 2019
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- Fermin Koop, What is the Paris agreement? A breakdown on its importance, 2019
- Current Climate Pledges Aren't Enough to Stop Severe Warming, 2017
- Mihai Andrei, Trump puts USA against the world, withdrawing from the Paris Agreement, 2017
- Collomb, Jean-Daniel, The Ideology of Climate Change Denial in the United States