Updated: Jun 15
Do our policymakers have the courage to lead like Greta Thunberg?
Greta Thunberg is an eighteen-year-old environmental activist who has found herself at the helm of climate change activism, driving a youth-led movement to protest inaction against the climate emergency. In 2018, Greta started protesting in front of the Swedish parliament building holding a sign that read "School Strike for Climate.” By the end of that year, #FridayForFuture had garnered support all over the world, with students across the continents skipping school to protest climate inaction. The next year, Greta delivered a searing speech at the COP24, ultimately culminating in the Global Climate Strike in 2019, likely the largest climate strike in history to date.
Greta claims that the only way to reduce emissions on the necessary scale is to make fundamental changes like abandoning existing agreements between governments and companies. She states that the climate crisis cannot be solved within the existing economic systems and that the governments and corporations are not doing enough to solve the crisis. Even if countries are actually able to deliver the promised carbon reductions, we’d still be headed for a global catastrophe.
(Also Read: Who Should Bear Responsibility for Climate Change?)
What is the current climate scenario?
According to the United Nations, to safely avoid catastrophe we need to limit warming to 1.5°C. In the next ten years, global net human-caused emissions of carbon dioxide would need to fall by about 45% from 2010, and global greenhouse gas emissions need to fall by 7.6 %each year for the next decade. (United Nations, n.d.)
According to the Climate Action Tracker, however, current policies in place are projected to result in an increase of 2.9°C. The unconditional pledges and targets that governments have made as of September 2020 would limit warming to about 2.6°C above pre-industrial levels, or at least limit it below 2.8°C. This would help life on Earth stay within planetary boundaries.
Climate Action Tracker also ran an “optimistic” targets scenario analyzing the effect of net zero emissions targets of 127 countries that are adopted or under discussion. Under the optimistic assumption that governments will achieve these targets, the median warming estimate is between 2.1°C and 2.3°C.
Climate Action Tracker also states that there remains a substantial gap between what governments have promised to do and the total level of actions they have undertaken to date. Furthermore, both the current policy and pledge trajectories lie well above emissions pathways consistent with the Paris Agreement long-term temperature goal. (Temperatures | Climate Action Tracker, n.d.)
To combat this crisis would require unprecedented transitions in all aspects of society and sweeping changes, which is exactly what Greta advocates for.
Public response to Greta Thunberg, and why it is important to listen to the youth:
While millions of students around the world were inspired by the Swedish activist, Greta has also been on the receiving end of severe backlash. The striking students have been called truants, alarmists, and poorly informed, and she has even been told to “go away and study economics before lecturing investors”. She has been praised and hailed as a global icon by the people in power, and yet, she says they refuse to take the action she proposes.
Today, there are 1.8 billion young people in the world and they are exceedingly engaged in changing the world (Admin, 2018). As of 2015, close to half a million youth around the world had taken action on climate change 89% of youth respondents said young people can make a difference on climate change. Young people are key actors in raising awareness, running educational program, promoting sustainable lifestyles, conserving nature, supporting renewable energy, adopting environmentally friendly practices, and implementing adaptation and mitigation projects. Youth have an increasingly strong social and environmental awareness, which has the power to transform our societies towards a low-carbon and climate-resilient future. (#YouthStats: Environment and Climate Change, 2018)
(Read Also: Meet The Indian Youth Fighting Air Pollution )
Older generations have failed young people today by ignoring a lot of crucial issues. Where adult politicians have failed, children have had to come to the forefront; Greta Thunberg, Malala Yousafzai, Melati, and Isabel Wijsen. Youth are expected to spearhead innovation and advance nations, and thus, it is not only fair but also exceedingly important to listen to them.
(Also Read: Can youth activism instigate change? )
Admin, Y. (2018, November 19). #YouthNow Driving Change: Online #YouthDay Daily Exhibit. Office of the Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth. https://www.un.org/youthenvoy/2015/07/youthnow-driving-change/
Temperatures | Climate Action Tracker. (n.d.). Climateactiontracker.Org. https://climateactiontracker.org/global/temperatures/#:%7E:text=In%20the%20absence%20of%20policies,the%20end%20of%20the%20century.&text=Current%20policies%20presently%20in%20place,warming%20above%20pre%2Dindustrial%20levels.
United Nations. (n.d.). Key Findings. https://www.un.org/en/climatechange/science/key-findings
#YouthStats: Environment and Climate Change. (2018, November 19). Office of the Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth. https://www.un.org/youthenvoy/environment-climate-change/
#YouthStats: Public and Civic Participation. (2018, November 19). Office of the Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth. https://www.un.org/youthenvoy/polihttps://airtable.com/appiL8OSbyMf9V3gz/tblPBxNMMy97P4Ljo/viwXFvOLdvo0ZKDWW?blocks=hidetical-participation/