In a UK-wide climate strike, students missed school on Friday the 15th of February in protest of political inaction against climate change and global warming. The protest was organised by the Youth Strike 4 Climate movement but thanks to grassroots organisations, there were participants across all towns and cities.
Inspired by weekly protests taking place across Europe, Greta Thunberg first started the school strike movement in August last year. Then 15, Greta protested alone outside the Swedish parliament. Since then, she has remained a prominent figure of the movement.
She was invited and spoke at TEDxStockholm in November 2018 and addressed world leaders at the United Nations Climate Change Conference in December. With many young people stating that the adults aren’t listening, these significant appearances have likely encouraged that action can gain the attention of the politicians.
Organisers claimed that more than 10,000 young people, in at least 60 towns and cities, participated in UK protests on Friday. Often considered a generational issue, young people are expressing their frustrations that the older generation isn’t taking enough action to tackle environmental issues.
“You are not mature enough to tell it like it is. Even that burden you leave to us children.” proclaimed by Greta during her speech at the UN Climate Change COP24.
It is reported now that up to 70,000 schoolchildren each week hold protests in 270 towns and cities worldwide. The movement has split opinion, with many politicians either offering their support or condemnation.
Christiana Figueres, who led the historic 2015 Paris agreement, said that if young people were prepared to protest then adults should take notice and claim responsibility. In comparison, the British PM, Theresa May, said the UK strike would “increase teachers’ workloads and wastes lesson time.”
However, the fact is that more than half of all of the carbon we have emitted into the atmosphere, in the history of humanity, has occurred in the last 25 years. And in these years we have been conscious of the implications of climate change.
And the evidence is growing that its impact is being felt now rather than in the distant future. Originally thought that it was only small islands and coasts which would be affected by enhanced flooding; we are beginning to witness vigorous wildfires being ignited by global warming in mainlands too.
It is usually these issues, alongside natural disasters, which gain the most media attention. But, the UK doesn’t experience these catastrophes which have recently dominated the headlines. At a time when populism is on the rise globally, young people are showing more concern for each other, across the world, than ever before. The UK does have its own issues which are linked to climate change. The Committee on the Medical Effects of Air Pollutants reported last year that 28,000-36,000 premature deaths in the UK could be linked to long-term exposure of air pollution.
There is also the ongoing case of Ella Kissi-Debrah. The nine year old, from London, tragically died in February 2013. Her death has been linked to illegal levels of air pollution near her home.
Amid growing pressure, once considered radical ideas are now becoming more mainstream. The International Energy Agency forecasted last year that the number of electric vehicles globally will increase from 3 million in 2017 to 125 million in 2030. This growth is being accelerated by government decisions to ban sales of petrol and diesel vehicles too. Another example is the growing number of countries implementing a carbon tax. Many economists believe this would be the most effective way of reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
More recently, at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Dutch historian Rutger Bregman had a speech on taxes go viral. He exclaimed on how tax avoidance was the real issue and no one was talking about it.
A landmark report by the IPCC called for urgent action to help mitigate the risk of extreme drought, heat, floods and in result more poverty. The report warned there were only 12 years left of action to limit the global temperature rising 1.5 °C above pre-industrial levels. The Paris Agreement’s aim is to limit this rise to a maximum of 2 °C.
As a population, we are the richest we have ever been but inequality continues to grow. Some scientists predict there will be at least be a minimum of 100 million refugees due to climate change by 2050. Some predict up to a billion. It is evident now that ignoring this ecological crisis will cost more than it will save. There are opportunities for both the first and developing world to benefit from the uptake of making green decisions.
The young people taking part in Friday’s strike called on the government to declare a climate emergency, communicate to the public more effectively and change the curriculum to make environmental issues an educational priority.
There is also a demand for the voting age to be lowered to 16. As young people will be most affected by present policymaking in the future.
All this concern comes at a time as the government prepares to remove subsidies for microgeneration installations such as solar PV on the 31st of March 2019. The Feed-In Tariff scheme pays homeowners and alike for generating green energy. However, this is being controversially removed with nothing official to take its place.
With the uptake of battery storage, more homeowners are seeking to be self-sufficient and provide themselves with more energy security. As gas and electric prices from the grid continue to increase, in contrast, solar PV prices are in decline. Consumers are making a difference whilst protecting themselves with a green investment.