Wednesday November 20, 2019

Students Worldwide Skip School to Protest Government’s Failure against Global Warming

They're angry at their elders, and they're not taking it sitting down

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global warming, climate change
Students from different institutions hold placards and banners as they participate in a climate protest in New Delhi, India, March 15, 2019. VOA

They’re angry at their elders, and they’re not taking it sitting down.

Students worldwide are skipping class Friday to take to the streets to protest their governments’ failure to take sufficient action against global warming.

The coordinated “school strikes,” being held from the South Pacific to the edge of the Arctic Circle, were inspired by 16-year-old Swedish activist Greta Thunberg, who began holding solitary demonstrations outside the Swedish parliament last year.

Since then, the weekly protests have snowballed from a handful of cities to hundreds, driven by social media-savvy students and dramatic headlines about the impact of climate change.

climate change, global warming
Students attend a protest ralley of the “Friday For Future Movement” in Berlin, Germany, March 15, 2019. VOA

Thunberg, who was recently nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize, was cheered for her blunt message to leaders at the World Economic Forum in Switzerland this year, when she told them: “I want you to panic. I want you to feel the fear I feel every day.”

Friday’s rallies are expected to be one of the biggest international actions yet. Protests were under way or planned in cities in more than 100 countries, including Hong Kong; New Delhi; Wellington, New Zealand; and Oulo, Finland.

In Berlin some 10,000 protesters, most of them young students, gathered in a downtown square, waving signs with slogans such as “There is no planet B” and “Climate Protection Report Card: F” before a march through the capital’s government quarter. The march was to end with a demonstration outside Chancellor Angela Merkel’s office.

Organizer Carla Reemtsma, a 20-year-old university student, said social media had been key in reaching people directly to coordinate the massive protests in so many different locations, noting that she was in 50 WhatsApp groups and fielding some 30,000 messages a day.

“It’s really important that people are getting together all over the world, because it’s affecting us all,” she said.

Critics, supporters

Some politicians have criticized the students, suggesting they should be spending their time in school, not on the streets.

“One can’t expect children and young people to see all of the global connections, what’s technically reasonable and economically possible,” said the head of Germany’s pro-business Free Democratic Party, Christian Lindner. “That’s a matter for professionals.”

climate change, global warming
Students hold signs during a rally for global climate strike for future in Seoul, South Korea, March 15, 2019. VOA

But scientists have backed the protests, with thousands signing petitions in support of the students in Britain, Finland and Germany.

“We are the professionals and we’re saying the young generation is right,” said Volker Quaschning, a professor of engineering at Berlin’s University of Applied Sciences.

“We should be incredibly grateful and appreciative of their bravery,” said Quaschning, one of more than 23,000 German-speaking scientists to sign a letter of support this week. “Because in a sense, it’s incredibly brave not to go to school for once.”

Scientists have warned for decades that current levels of greenhouse gas emissions are unsustainable, so far with little effect. In 2015, world leaders agreed in Paris to a goal of keeping the Earth’s global temperature rise by the end of the century well below 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit).

Yet at present, the world is on track for an increase of 4 degrees Celsius, which experts say would have far-reaching consequences for life on the planet.

“As a doctor, I can say it makes a big difference whether you’ve got a fever of 41 degrees Celsius (105.8 Fahrenheit) or 43 C (109.4 F),” said Eckart von Hirschhausen, a German scientist who signed the call supporting striking students. “One of those is compatible with life, the other isn’t.”

Other action

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron have publicly welcomed the student protests, even as their policies have been criticized as too limited by environmental activists.

In France, activist groups launched legal action this week for failing to do enough to fight climate change, citing a similar successful effort in the Netherlands.

climate change, global warming
Hundreds of schoolchildren take part in a climate protest in Hong Kong, March 15, 2019. VOA

In Germany, environmental groups and experts have attacked government plans to continue using coal and natural gas for decades to come. Activists say that countries like Germany should fully “decarbonize” by 2040, giving less-advanced nations a bit more time to wean themselves off fossil fuels while still meeting the Paris goal globally.

Other changes needed to curb greenhouse gas emissions include ramping up renewable energy production, reining in over-consumption culture now spreading beyond the industrialized West and changing diets, experts say.

“The fight against climate change is going to be uncomfortable, in parts, and we need to have a society-wide discussion about this,” said Quaschning.

ALSO READ: The Flamboyant Plastic Waste Boat Reminds The Global Policy-Makers The Urgency To Address Impact Of Plastics on The World’s Marine Environment

That conversation is likely to get louder, with several U.S. presidential hopefuls planning to campaign on climate change.

Luisa Neubauer, one of the Berlin group organizing Fridays for Future, said politicians should take note of the young.

“For the European elections in May, we’re urging everyone to think about whether they want to give their vote to a party that doesn’t have a plan for the future and the climate,” she said. (VOA)

Next Story

Climate Change Would Affect Health Of Indian Children: Lancet

Climate change would hit health of Indian children hard, says study by Lancet

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Children in India will be particularly vulnerable to the ill effects of climate change. Pixabay

Children in India will be particularly vulnerable to the ill effects of climate change such as worsening air quality, higher food prices and rise in infectious diseases, warns a new study published in the journal The Lancet.

Climatic suitability for the Vibrio bacteria that cause cholera is rising three per cent a year in India since the early 1980s, said the report.

“With its huge population and high rates of healthcare inequality, poverty, and malnutrition, few countries are likely to suffer from the health effects of climate change as much as India,” said study co-author Poornima Prabhakaran from the Public Health Foundation of India.

“Diarrhoeal infections, a major cause of child mortality, will spread into new areas, whilst deadly heatwaves, similar to the one in 2015 that killed thousands of people in India, could soon become the norm,” Prabhakaran said.

Through adolescence and into adulthood, a child born today will be breathing more toxic air, driven by the fossil fuels and made worse by rising temperatures.

This is especially damaging to young people as their lungs are still developing, so polluted air takes a great toll, contributing to reduced lung function, worsening asthma, and increasing the risk of heart attacks and stroke.

Later in life, a child born today will face increased risk from severe floods, prolonged droughts, and wildfires.

 

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Children in India breathe toxic air and may develop lung diseases. Pixabay

Most countries have experienced an increase in people exposed to wildfires since 2001-2004 with a financial toll per person 48 times larger than flooding.

India alone saw an increase of more than 21 million exposures, and China around 17 million, resulting in direct deaths and respiratory illness as well as loss of homes, said the report.

“Over the past two decades, the Government of India has launched many initiatives and programmes to address a variety of diseases and risk factors. But this report shows that the public health gains achieved over the past 50 years could soon be reversed by the changing climate,” Prabhakaran said.

The “Lancet Countdown on Health and Climate Change” is a yearly analysis tracking progress across 41 key indicators, demonstrating what action to meet Paris Agreement targets — or business as usual — means for human health.

The project is a collaboration between 120 experts from 35 institutions including the World Health Organisation (WHO), World Bank, University College London, and Tsinghua University.

For the world to meet its UN climate goals and protect the health of the next generation, the energy landscape will have to change drastically, the report warns.

Also Read- Prince Charles Talks Climate Change in India

Nothing short of a 7.4 per cent year-on-year cut in fossil CO2 emissions from 2019 to 2050 will limit global warming to the more ambitious goal of 1.5 degree Celsius, said the report. If the world follows a business-as-usual pathway, with high carbon emissions and climate change continuing at the current rate, a child born today will face a world on average over 4 degree Celsius warmer by their 71st birthday, threatening their health at every stage of their lives. (IANS)