Youth Mobilization to Stop Global Climate Change: Narratives and Impact
2. Materials and Methods
3. Youth Climate Movement
We felt it was important to go. We figured it was going to be mostly old men, sitting around, making decisions that are going to affect our future and the future generation. So we wanted to go as the conscience, as a reminder to those decision-makers, who their decisions would truly affect.
4. The Narrative of Youth Climate Activism
A lot of people, a lot of politicians, business leaders, journalists say they don’t agree with what we are saying. They say we children are exaggerating, that we are alarmists. To answer this, I would like to refer to page 108, chapter 2 in the latest IPCC report. There you will find all our opinions summarized, because there you find a remaining carbon dioxide budget. Right there it says that if we are to have a 16% chance of limiting the global temperature rise to below 1.5°, we had on 1 January 2018, 420 gigatons of carbon dioxide left in our CO2 budget. And of course that number is much lower today. We emit about 42 gigatons of CO2 every year. At current emissions levels, that remaining budget is gone within roughly eight-and-a-half years.
And why is it so important to stay below 1.5° Celsius? Because even at 1° people are dying from climate change because that is what the united science calls for, to avoid destabilizing the climate so that we have the best possible chance to avoid setting off irreversible chain reactions.
Villains and Victims
Since last summer, I’ve been repeating these numbers over and over again in almost every speech. But honestly, I don’t think I have once seen any media outlets or person in power communicate this and what it means. I know you don’t want to report about this. I know you don’t want to talk about this, but I assure you I will continue to repeat these numbers until you do.
Those in power are not only betraying us, and taking away our future, but are responsible for the climate crisis that’s unfolding in horrendous ways around the world.
And if a few children can get headlines all over the world just by not going to school, then imagine what we could all do together if we really wanted to.
You are failing us. But the young people are starting to understand your betrayal. The eyes of all future generations are upon you … (omitted) … We will not let you get away with this. Right here, right now is where we draw the line. The world is waking up. And change is coming, whether you like it or not.
Because this is an emergency, and we will not be bystanders. Some would say we are wasting lesson time. We say we are changing the world. So that when we are older, we will be able to look our children in the eyes and say that we did everything we could back then. Because that is our moral duty, and we will never stop doing that … (omitted) … We will do everything in our power to stop this crisis from getting worse, even if that means skipping school or work … (omitted) … Through history, the most important changes in society have come from the bottom up, from grassroots. And the numbers are still coming in. But it looks like 6.6 million people have joined the Week for Future, the strikes for this [Friday] and last Friday [when demonstrations took place in the U.S. and elsewhere]. That is one of the biggest demonstrations in history. The people have spoken, and we will continue to speak until our leaders listen and act. We are the change, and change is coming.
The EU elections are coming up soon, and many of us who will be affected the most by this crisis, people like me, are not allowed to vote. Nor are we in a position to shape the decisions of business, politics, engineering, media, education, or science. Because the time it takes for us to educate ourselves to do that simply does no longer exists, and that is why millions of children are taking it to the streets, school striking for the climate to create attention for the climate crisis. You need to listen to us, we who cannot vote.
If I live to be 100, I will be alive in the year 2103. When you think about the future today, you don’t think beyond the year 2050. By then, I will in the best case, not even have lived half of my life. What happens next? The year 2078 I will celebrate my 75th birthday. If I have children or grandchildren, maybe they will spend that day with me. Maybe they will ask me about you, the people who were around back in 2018. Maybe they will ask why you didn’t do anything while there still was time to act? What we do or don’t do right now will affect my entire life and the lives of my children and grandchildren. What we do or don’t do right now, me and my generation can’t undo in the future.
My message to the young people of the world is that right now we are facing an existential crisis, I mean, the climate and ecological crisis, and it will have a massive impact on our lives in the future, but also now, especially in vulnerable communities. And I think that we should wake up, and we should also try to wake the adults up, because they are the ones who—their generation is the ones who are mostly responsible for this crisis, and we need to hold them accountable. We need to hold the people in power accountable for what they have been doing to us and future generations and other living species on earth. And we need to get angry and understand what is at stake. And then we need to transform that anger into action and to stand together united and just never give up.
We are now at a time in history where everyone with any insight on the climate crisis that threatens our civilization and the entire biosphere must speak out in clear language, no matter how uncomfortable and unprofitable that may be. We must change almost everything in our current societies … omitted … Adults keep saying we owe it to the young people to give them hope. But I don’t want your hope, I don’t want you to be hopeful. I want you to panic, I want you to feel the fear I feel every day. And then I want you to act, I want you to act as if you would in a crisis. I want you to act as if the house was on fire, because it is.
The science is clear, and all we children are doing is communicating and acting on that united science. Now political leaders in some countries are starting to talk. They are starting to declare climate emergencies and announcing dates for so-called climate neutrality.
You don’t have to listen to us, but you do have to listen to the united science, the scientists. And that is all we ask, just unite behind the science!
How dare you pretend that this can be solved with just “business as usual” and some technical solutions? With today’s emissions levels, that remaining CO2 budget will be entirely gone within less than eight-and-a-half years. There will not be any solutions or plans presented in line with these figures here today, because these numbers are too uncomfortable.
I will also tell you this: you cannot solve the crisis without treating it as a crisis, without seeing the full picture. You cannot leave the responsibility to individuals, politicians, the market, or other parts of the world to take. This has to include everything and everyone.
We demand at this year’s World Economic Forum, participants from all companies, banks, institutions and governments immediately hold all investments in fossil fuel exploration and extraction, immediately end all fossil fuel subsidies and immediately and completely divest from fossil fuels. We don’t want these things done by 2050 or 2030 or even 2021. We want this done now.
Human rights and the climate crisis go hand in hand. We can’t solve one without solving the other. Climate change means people won’t be able to grow food, their homes will come under threat and their health will be compromised. Governments have a duty to protect us, so why are they doing nothing to stop climate change from devastating our lives?
5. Achievements and Limitations
The action of students on climate change has not only forced discussions in many countries about the issue, but has also revealed the weak response of many democracies to the most compelling needs of the population and the planet. This mobilization can contribute to and help inspire a process of reinvigoration of the democratic process.
Education unions stand with the students. We urge governments to make the necessary structural changes for a just transition towards a climate-resilient and low-carbon economy. Climate change is not combatted through the “good behavior” of consumers. Coordinated and sustained participation of students and workers and their representatives may be the first step towards climate justice. We stand by students in the demand for urgent climate action, and a just economic transition.
Conflicts of Interest
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|Country/Date||30 November||15 February||15 March||3 May||24 May||21 June||Week for Future||29 November||6 December||13 December||10 January||17 January||24 January||31 January||7 February||14 February|
|# of Countries||42||48||137||88||137||103||183||164||151||150||149||149||149||149||149||150|
|# of Cities||354||304||2419||685||2044||760||3857||2625||1805||1706||1677||1689||1677||1679||1679||1690|
|# of Events||373||362||2708||861||2516||1004||9034||3731||2737||2559||2504||2515||2494||2501||2495||2510|
|# of People||26,493||10,505||2,289,650||40,101||751,549||60,208||7,335,572||1,158,971||522,341||51,123||1231||907||242||336||462||747|
|Setting||Growing youth awareness of the climate change issue through the acquisition of scientific information|
Greater youth exposure to the negative consequences of climate change
Incongruence between deepening climate crisis and global inaction
|Characters||Victims||The earth, the ecosystem, younger generations, marginalized groups, and weak states|
|Villains||Older generations, the fossil fuel industry, states and their leaders, the media|
|Heroes||Younger generations, climate science, and states (if they reform)|
|Plot||Overarching transformation to stop climate change via the activism of heroes and changes on the part of the villains under pressure from the heroes|
|Moral||Climate change as the greatest existential threat to the earth and to human beings|
Urgency of action and systemic change on a global scale
The need to understand the global climate emergency from a rights and justice perspective
© 2020 by the authors. Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland. This article is an open access article distributed under the terms and conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) license (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/).
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Han, H.; Ahn, S.W. Youth Mobilization to Stop Global Climate Change: Narratives and Impact. Sustainability 2020, 12, 4127. https://doi.org/10.3390/su12104127
Han H, Ahn SW. Youth Mobilization to Stop Global Climate Change: Narratives and Impact. Sustainability. 2020; 12(10):4127. https://doi.org/10.3390/su12104127Chicago/Turabian Style
Han, Heejin, and Sang Wuk Ahn. 2020. "Youth Mobilization to Stop Global Climate Change: Narratives and Impact" Sustainability 12, no. 10: 4127. https://doi.org/10.3390/su12104127