The planets temperature has risen by just under 1° Celsius since the 19th century most of which occurred in the last thirty years, sea levels are rising, ice sheets are melting and 2016 was the warmest year on record. These are just some of the many of the consequences from the mammoth problem that is climate change. Each of these problems each spawn an exponential number of knock-on effects. As well as this we are underinvesting in renewable energy, we are still loading are rubbish into landfills and we continuously pollute are lakes, rivers and seas with toxic waste. When will this end?
On the 15th of March 2019 thousands of students amassed in cities all over the world from Dublin to Dubai and from Sao Paulo to Sydney to protest against their government’s failure to tackle climate change. Protests were held in over 120 countries and more than 2000 cities around the world where students lobbied for their future and the future of our planet. It can’t be denied that climate change is the greatest challenge of our generation.
This worldwide march for climate change was started by Greta Thunberg in August of 2018 when she began skipping school every Friday to protest outside the Swedish Parliament, calling on the Swedish government to do more to combat climate change. Thunberg has set the bar high and said her strike wont end until the Sweden starts cutting its carbon emissions by 15% per year. She has now been nominated by Norwegian lawmakers for a Nobel peace prize. She has inspired thousands of students across the world to take action and to advocate for our future.
Many of the protestors called on their governments to uphold the Paris Agreement. The Paris Agreement stemmed from the Paris conference in 2015. It was adopted by the EU in 2016 and has been signed by 195 countries. It is the first ever global legally binding climate deal. The agreement set out clear aims for countries to meet in order to achieve ‘climate neutrality’ by the end of the century. Some of the stipulations include global emissions peaking as soon as possible, transparency and accountability and for governments to meet every five years to review and improve the agreement. Unfortunately, in 2017 Donald Trump announced the U.S, one of the biggest contributors to climate change in the world would withdraw the from the agreement as it would ‘undermine economy’. That said some States within America such as California are making their own strides in attempt to become climate neutral.
Belgium is a great example of a country where the ‘Greta Thunberg Effect’ has made waves. Thousands of students can be seen pouring onto trains on every Thursday morning heading to Brussels to demand action from their government. These strikes have happened every Thursday in Belgium across the country for the past 11 weeks. These strikes have had an effect on the government with a former environmental minister in Flanders Joke Schauvliege resigning from her position after falsely claiming that these strikes were a ruse to eject people from government. There is no conspiracy, students want change. Student demand change.
In Ireland we saw protests all across the country. The main protest was held in Dublin city centre in which more than 11,000 students showed up to lobby the government. The protesters met at Stephen’s Green and marched on Leinster House. The student protesters made a number of demands of the government. They want Ireland to use 100% renewable energy by 2030, for Ireland to no longer use and rely on fossil fuels and they want the government to declare a climate emergency and make the public aware of the severity of this problem. Fine Gael Minister for Climate Action and the Environment Richard Bruton praised the demonstrators however they responded saying they want actions not words. Many of the young protestors where encouraged by their parents and schools to make a stand and go to the protests. Some of their slogans read ‘no more fossil fools’ and ‘the climate is changing why aren’t we?’
The next question we have to ask ourselves is what does the future hold for our planet? What can we do to combat climate change both as nations and as individuals in our own lives? This, I believe, is a real case of practice what you preach. It’s all well and good to go to a protest and skip school however as many of the protests have correctly said actions speak louder than words. It’s imperative that we as countries invest in renewable energy, that we substitute away from fossil fuels, that we stop filling land and sea with our waste, and we work together united to tackle this issue.
We can be certain though that if we stay idle and continue to skirt around this problem the young people of today led by individuals such as Greta Thunberg, will be the ones facing repercussions due to our current world leader’s apathy towards this very serious problem. It is without a doubt the greatest challenge of our generation.
By Sean Cullen – Politics CoEditor