The Persistent Fear of a Nearly Irreversible Crisis

by Zach Seymour ’20

The three-year anniversary of the UN’s Paris Agreement going into effect is approaching. This agreement was a resolution between signatories that an effort would be made to ramp up efforts to contain climate change and prevent irreversible damage. The UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has stated that the international community has to restrain global climate change to less than 1.5°C by the end of the century or the effects will be widespread and beyond the world’s ability to contain. At this point in time, the world is on track to reach 3°C by 2100 unless drastic measures are taken by governments, businesses, and individuals around the world.

Young people have seen this crisis and found it their responsibility to speak up and save the future they will have to live in. According to a poll by the Washington Post and the Kaiser Family from September, almost one in four teens from ages 13-17 have taken some action pertaining to the climate change crisis; one in seven have participated in a school walkout. The Global Week For Future was a week of protests inspired by the 16-year-old Swedish climate activist, Greta Thunberg. Over the course of seven days, it is reported that almost six million people worldwide participated in strikes, the largest of which was the walkout on September 20.

The organization of this movement is a testament to the willingness of a generation to stand up for what they find to be a crisis that they cannot ignore. Over 50 percent of teens
surveyed in the Washington Post-Kaiser Family Foundation Poll reported being afraid and angry, less than a third said that they were optimistic about the outcome. There is hope to stay below the detrimental outcome of a 1.5°C increase, but only if the governments and other contributors who agreed to put forward plans to pull back on CO2 emissions step up to the task. Without drastic changes to policies and protocols in the public and private sectors, global climate change will be a crisis that will be
left for the next generation to deal with, even if the ones leaving have already burned the bridge to the solution.