By Keryn Nelson
Thousands of students took to the streets across 60 cities in the United Kingdom, protesting passivity towards climate change by world leaders.
“Unless we take positive action, the future’s looking bleak for those of us that have grown up in an era defined by climate change,” said Anna Taylor of the UK Student Climate Network at one of the protest locations on February 15 2019.
Strike organisers claimed action was being taken in towns and cities from Cornwall through to the Scottish Highlands to influence political leaders to address and derail growing environmental problems.
Taylor said, “We’re running out of time for meaningful change and that’s why we’re seeing young people around the world rising up to hold their governments to account on their dismal climate records.”
The youth’s efforts come in wake of a recent report published by the United Nations. One major prediction, based on studies, is that there are 12 years remaining to avoid the worst effects of global warming, including unprecedented heatwaves, warming oceans, melting ice and droughts.
According to the UN report, ground-breaking action aimed at cutting global emissions by almost half will need to take place within these 12 years, in order to avoid disaster. The ultimate purpose of reducing emissions is to limit global temperature rises to 1.5C above pre-industrial levels. Anything beyond that is believed to have a severe impact on the climate.
Additionally, reports from The Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) says human’s influence on the environment has risen to critical proportions and continue to pose the threat of destabilization on society and the global economy.
Scientists warn that possible outcomes may include: acidifying oceans, topsoil erosion, forest felling and mass loss of species.
It is also believed that as of 1950, floods occur across the world 15 times more than they did before, while extreme temperature events have increased 20 folds, and wildfires by seven.
Professor of Global Change Science at University College London, Simon Lewis told BBC News in an interview:
“Future problems with food supplies could cause price spikes that drive civil unrest, while increases in levels of migration can strain societies. Both together could overload political institutions and global networks of trade.
“This century will be marked by rapid social and environmental change – that is certain. What is less clear is if societies can make wise political choices to avoid disaster in the future.”
Another claim in the IPPR report, which supports the views of the UK protestors, is that politicians and policymakers are failing to grasp the gravity of the environmental crisis facing the Earth.
While frustrations came to a head last Friday in the UK—attracting secondary, primary and college students, as well as other young people—the protest is part of a series of ongoing action throughout the world.
“[It is] time to heed the deeply moving voice of youth,” proclaimed a former UN climate chief who continues to show support for the movement.
Meanwhile, Christiana Figueres, who led the 2015 Paris agreement, had this to say about young people’s mounting concern for their future:
“It is a sign that we are failing in our responsibility to protect them from the worsening impacts of climate change”.
The youth climate change movement began in August of 2018 by 16-year-old Greta Thunberg, who held a solo-protest outside the Swedish Parliament. Currently, it is estimated that over 70,000 young people hold weekly protests in nearly 270 towns and cities worldwide.