Today there is news of mass student protests around the world, demanding action from politicians on climate change. There is a tremendous energy from young people on actually doing something about climate change; and there should be, because it is their future that is threatened.
I feel ashamed that despite knowing about climate change and the threat it posed for about ten years, my own efforts have not been ambitious enough. I have talked the talk, but not walked the walk nearly enough. These students are showing us how we all ought to have behaved ten years ago.
It’s a positive step towards meaningful change, along with fossil fuel divestment, ending coal power generation, the falling cost of renewables, the electrification of transport. There is hope for substantial change in the decade to come.
But it is balanced by a report from the UN that the arctic is locked in for temperature rises.
“…even if countries manage to cut GHG emissions to the targets outlined in the 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change, winter temperatures in the Arctic will still be 3 to 5°C higher by 2050 and 5 to 9°C higher by 2080, relative to 1986–2005 levels.”Global Linkages: A graphic look at the changing arctic (2019)
What’s really scary about that is permafrost melting. Permafrost contains massive amounts of carbon dioxide and methane locked up. As the permafrost melts, this will be released into the atmosphere, causing further warming. We could be about to trigger a runaway greenhouse effect that dwarfs any emissions output by humans so far. We have tools and technologies to slash our own emissions, we do not have tools or technology to clean massive amounts of carbon dioxide or methane from the atmosphere.
Does that mean we should give up and accept climate change as inevitable? NO! We must fight for every tenth of a degree, because every tenth of a degree makes a massive difference to our children, and their children, and their children. Every tenth of a degree improves their odds of surviving. And that is why the student protests today are so important. Every citizen of this planet needs to stand up and fight against climate change with the same energy and enthusiasm. If there is a protest, join it. If there is not, start one.
We should be fighting for rapid and massive decarbonization. We should be decarbonizing our own life. But as the report shows, we have already missed the opportunity to avoid some of the impacts. So we need to prepare our families and our communities for the impacts climate change will bring. Secure your food supply and your water supply. Build resilience into your community for drought, flood, storm, sea level rise, and migration. Remember we are all in this together.