Rising Strike Activism Gaining Momentum
Nearly a year ago, Greta Thunberg stood unwavering on a TED Talk stage and told the audience she had been diagnosed with selective mutism when she was eleven years old, concluding, “That basically means I only speak when I think it's necessary - now is one of those moments.”
What about now has moved Greta and over 4 million people around the world to join the climate strike and speak up for our planet? It is the notion that in this moment, our actions have vast implications for the future that Greta will grow old in, and the future that her children will be raised in.
“our actions have vast implications for the future that Greta will grow old in”
When I picture the future, my overzealous mind flashes images of overly populated cities raging with simultaneous wildfires, hurricanes, acid rain, and drought. I picture an apocalyptic nightmare. Starving climate refugees fleeing to the cities deemed safest from natural disasters. I picture Cleveland, Ohio, as a safe haven settled on Lake Erie, one of the few fresh water resources left. And no one would remember the Cuyahoga River catching fire, and Cleveland would no longer be the butt of climate jokes around the world (an apocalyptic dream, indeed).
And while these are the over imaginative musings of a writer's mind, they are grounded in some scientific fact. Our earth is warming, and our actions do have ramifications for the future.
So what are some of these scientific predictions that people around the world are rallying behind?
While it may seem obvious, global warming also means a change in climate extremes. In 2015, Erich Fisher published a study that examines how 1.5 and 2 degrees Celsius will affect these weather extremes. His study predicts that the threat of hot weather will double at 1.5 degrees of warming, and double again at 2 degrees. For many areas of the world, such as the Mediterranean, Central America, the Amazon basin, and southern Africa, these extreme heat waves may cause severe droughts.
“the threat of hot weather will double at 1.5 degrees of warming”
Parts of the world like southwest Asia and the Persian Gulf would become uninhabitable without permanent air conditioning.
Rising Water Levels
Glaciers are melting and the temperature of the ocean is warming. Both of these contribute to the rising sea levels that are drowning islands like the Maldives. Many models predict that by 2100 sea levels will rise by 8 to 20 inches.
The ocean acts as a massive carbon dioxide sponge, soaking up a portion from the earth’s atmosphere. When the carbon dioxide reacts with ocean water, a weak carbonic acid is formed which reduces the pH of the water. This process of ocean acidification can severely disrupt the oceanic ecosystem.
As microbiologist Michael Kertez told Nature on why he was taking part in the climate strike, “The Brazilian rainforests are on fire, but what’s happening in the ocean is even worse. At some point, the ocean will no longer be able to absorb carbon dioxide from the air, leaving even more in the earth's atmosphere”.
With ocean temperatures rising, so is the threat of hurricanes, typhoons, and tropical storms. Warmer waters provide the energy that forms these storms, and with the projected thermal shift, scientists suspect that we will see higher level hurricanes at an alarming rate. Some scientists believe we are already seeing an uptick in the intensity and frequency of these storms, but others are not convinced.
“scientists suspect that we will see higher level hurricanes at an alarming rate”
This is the future that Greta and millions of children are facing, and they are not willing to sit back while nothing is done to alter this fate.
At the age of sixteen, Greta has rallied over four million troops in the war against climate change, and a large portion of the soldiers in this battle are children.
At the climate action summit this year, Greta addressed the world’s leaders imploring “I should be back in school on the other side of the ocean, yet you all come to us young people for hope, how dare you! You have stolen my dreams and my childhood with your empty words, and yet I am one of the lucky ones.”
The picture science paints for Greta’s future does look bleak, but children who will grow old in other nations in areas of the world like southwest Asia, southern Africa, Central America, the Mediterranean, and the Amazon basin look even more severe.
Thousands of students and adults took to the streets in Brazil to condemn the environmental policies of President Jair Bolsonardo and environment minister Ricardo Salles. Some protesters even created a life size doll of the president with a Pinocchio nose.
Students held signs reading “Não existe planeta B.”
In Kenya, hundreds of protesters rallied to put a halt to plans for a new coal plant.
Larger countries around the world have also been taking to the streets in droves to show their support for Mother Earth.
Many young activists from around the world showed their support for the planet in New York City, where the climate action summit is taking place this week. The theme of the summit is “A Race We Can Win. A Race We Must Win.”
“A Race We Can Win. A Race We Must Win.”
It is a race to 1.5 degrees Celsius. With most leaders backing the plan to cut emissions by 50 percent within 10 years, this race might be one that is never finished. By cutting our emissions by 50 percent in 10 years, we only have a 50 percent chance of ever reaching the 1.5 degree threshold that many climate activists are calling for.
Cutting our emissions by more than 50 percent will be no easy task and will require a great deal of change, but it is our best bet in securing a future for the younger generations. As Greta said in her TED talk last year, “We do need hope, of course we do. But the one thing we need more than hope is action. Once we start to act, hope is everywhere.”
About the Author
Devin is a freelance environmental and travel writer. Her creative spirit and love for the world have just begun to collide, and she looks forward to seeing the good that can come from such a unity.
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