With the onset of the autumn chill, it’s hard not to look forward to the climate change scientists’ projection that in three decades time Edinburgh will have the climate of Paris, and London that of Barcelona. Sounds nice, doesn’t it. But it’s the wider implications of the reality that bring us all back crashing to earth. In the UK, the hottest July day was recorded this year, just after the warmest winter temperature of 21.2 degrees at Kew Gardens. But the serious flooding the UK has experienced over the last few years, along with hurricane winds, is a sure sign that something serious is going on.
And it is worse when you look at the situation globally. The average temperature has risen by 1 degree Celsius since the Industrial Revolution, most of it since 1976. It may not sound much, but it is sufficient to have a massive effect on the planet. The ice is melting in Greenland far more rapidly than was previously forecast, and the Bahamas and Mozambique have been devastated by unusually strong storms this year. And what has become abundantly clear is that human actions are at the centre of the ensuing chaos, through a massive rise in carbon emissions and the destruction of vast tracts of forest.
Just as worrying is the ignoring of the issue by some of the most powerful people and organisations in the world. In Scotland the government at least is putting in place measures to ensure that in just a few decades the country will be carbon neutral. But it is a huge concern that other nations are putting profit before the future health of the country. The US pulling out of the Paris Agreement is testament to this worrying trend. And still climate change sceptics, despite the wealth of evidence, use their doubts to fuel profit. So where can those people who are genuinely concerned for the planet turn?
Fortunately, we have an up-and-coming generation who are not afraid to speak out about what is, after all, their future. Following the lead of Greta Thunberg, the world’s youth have a far greater understanding, and concern for, global warming than the majority of their older counterparts. Among the gloomy outlook, the youth provide us all with hope. As Areeba Hamid, senior climate campaigner with Greenpeace UK, said, “From forest fires to heatwaves, almost daily something new brings the stark reality of the climate emergency to life.”
“But as the crises has become harder to ignore, new signs of hope have also emerged. With the likes of the schools’ strikes and Extinction Rebellion bringing both young and old to the streets, we’ve seen the climate emergency thrust to the centre of public conversation as never before. People want action.”
And that is especially true of the young, who see the destruction of the planet we love as the destruction of their own future. On 15 March this year, 1.4 million young people left their classrooms around the world and followed Greta Thunberg’s lead, taking to the streets in protest against governments’ failing attitudes to climate change. It has become clear that climate issues is something that young people care about above anything else.
In the UK, climate change is a compulsory part of the school curriculum. But only to the age of 14, when many students abandon geography for other GCSE subjects. But there has been a move to ensure that every school in the UK has a climate change ambassador, which would ensure that all school pupils have access to the latest information about global trends. On top of this, a UN-sanctioned initiative to improve teaching aids about the topic has been launched. The online course, which is free, provides teachers with the information and tools to speak knowledgeably to students about climate change. And for sure they better have their facts right, as the young are so clued up on the subject.
The worry is that older people, the ones who wield true political power, merely think that they will be long gone before the true effects of climate change come disastrously to the fore. Thank goodness there is an up-and-coming generation which is now determined to ensure that the planet, and they, have some sort of positive future.