Sam Gordon Webb
Naked Politics Blogger
Climate change is an undeniable aspect of modern life. With this, young people protested in Central London last Friday, angered by the UK Government’s lack of action in combating its damaging effects.
The facts aren’t pretty. Since 1906, the global average surface temperature has increased by more than 1.6 degrees Fahrenheit (0.9 degrees Celsius). The effects of such a change are multi-faceted. Ice at the earth’s poles is melting at a faster rate, and from 1901 to 2010, the global average sea level rose by 19 cm. That’s a lot!
Furthermore, an increase in severe droughts have led to wildfires, lost crops, and drinking water shortages, as well as testing the ability of ice reliant species, such as penguins, to survive on a rapidly warming planet.
Students demanded action last Friday, having been galvanised by the brave Swedish schoolgirl Greta Thunberg. Her passionate outcry for action subsequently lead to a global movement attracting the attention of over 70,000 schoolchildren from around the world, including London. Thunberg’s protests are well supported, with more than 200 academics having recently pledged their support by writing a joint letter in the Guardian Newspaper.
Thunberg blames her elders. She told the UN IPCC that “We must hold the older generations accountable for the mess they have created.” And say to them “…you cannot continue risking our future like this.”
However, her finger pointing hasn’t been well received by all. Writing in the Spectator, Toby Young begged the question “…if students want to protest about climate change, why not do it on the weekend?” He believes that children are being fed “fake news by this teenage activist”.
Is it true that the UK government doesn’t care about climate change? I think not. In fact, in 2017, Theresa May said that, “It’s Britain’s duty to help nations bit by climate change”. Politicians are easy prey to hunt, however, young people have a reason to be concerned and a right to be frustrated at the lack of definitive action being taken to combat its worst effects.
The Prime Minister at least appears to be singing from the same hymn sheet. Once more, Brexit has become a massive distraction. The government is in total disarray, split irreverently over the issue of Europe and holding onto power by a thread. It would be unfair to conclude that the climate change issue has been ignored or downplayed, but rather discussions have been naturally limited in such a volatile political climate.
On the other hand, the current President of the United States has no trouble voicing his doubt over the matter of manmade climate change. Indeed, the Trump administration have plans to set up a panel, headed by sceptics, to reconsider and to possibly change the government’s position on climate change. The emerging picture in Washington is a disturbing one, especially in the wake of America’s opted departure from the 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change mitigation, spelling the end of America’s willingness to tackle climate change around the world.
“The world is fundamentally one” the Norwegian philosopher Arne Naess famously concluded. Naess coined the term “deep ecologism”, a type of ecological thinking which stresses the equal worth of all living and non-living things. Human beings can’t be separated from the natural world, and thus the natural world must be granted certain rights. Donald Trump’s world view, one in which humans matter more than nature, distinctly contrasts to the world view espoused by Naess and other radical ecological thinkers.
In October 2018 the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) issued a special report on the impacts of global warming. The report found that that limiting global warming to 1.5°C would require “rapid, far reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society” but that it is still possible, using a wide array of technological measures and changes in behaviour, to limit the increase in global mean temperature to two degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.
So there is some hope, but changes must be made. Trump the leader of the free world, is the not the man to lead these changes, and luckily young people have realised this fact. Protesting in London is a means to an end, but it is by no means an end in itself. After all, the planet needs our help and not our fury. So enough name calling, finger pointing and cluster forming. Let’s link arms with our elders, and let’s save our planet together.