I Don’t Get It: Climate Change Millennials

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Words | Jodie Ramodien

Just picture it. It’s the year 2020 and for a slew of baby boomers climate change is still considered a “debate.” Yet despite this, the younger generation has stepped up and we find ourselves with a new amorphous group known as “climate change millennials.” Who are they? Where the hell did they come from? And, what do they believe?

Climate change millennials or “Generation Greta” as The Guardian has dubbed them, are a passionate collective of young people fighting for the future of the planet. A future that looks increasingly grim. Summarised succinctly by The Conversation, the facts as they stand are as follows: “The Earth is currently experiencing its 6th mass extinction; Australia has just had its hottest summer on record; and experts warn we have just 11 years left to ensure we avoid the misery of exceeding 1.5 degrees of planetary warming.” Extreme events, warming oceans, shrinking ice sheets, glacial retreat, rising sea levels, ocean acidification – the evidence for climate change is unequivocal, so says the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. This isn’t exactly new information. We’ve always known these facts. We’ve known them since our Year 8 geography teacher slapped us with Al Gore’s documentary An Inconvenient Truth. Before that even, when headlines first broke three decades ago about “the potentially disruptive impact of heat-trapping emissions from burning fossil fuels and rain forests,” cataloged here by National Geographic. It was in 1896 when “the scope of warming from widespread coal burning” was first estimated by Swedish scientist Svante Arrhenius. Though he may have been misguided in believing the effects of global warming would be beneficial for colder climates. 

All this begs the question, if we’ve known about the harmful effects of climate change for this long, why has no significant action been taken? Andrew Revkin, who was an environmental and science journalist for the New York Times for thirty years lists the “main culprits” as a “lack of basic research funding,” “industry influence on politics, poor media coverage, and doubt-sowing by those invested in fossil fuels or opposed to government intervention.” In 2017 Scott Morrison brought a lump of coal into the House of Representatives. “This is coal, don’t be afraid, don’t be scared,” was how he started his tirade. “Those opposite [the Labor government] have an ideological, pathological, fear of coal. There’s no word for coal-phobia Mister Speaker, but that’s the mality that afflicts those opposite.” Morrison’s love affair with coal has come to a somewhat ironic conclusion given that both his prime ministership, and Australia, have gone up in flames. This incident occurred after Australia had signed the Paris Agreement in 2016 which pledged to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in order to combat climate change. Our promise was to reduce emissions by 26 to 28 per cent from 2005 levels by 2030. ABC News reports that instead “since 2015 our emissions have been going up year on year. The Government’s own projections show Australia is not on track to meet its current Paris target.”

In addressing world leaders at the 2019 United Nations climate action summit held in New York, 17-year-old activist Greta Thunberg exposed the lackluster effects by nations to combat climate change. 

“You have stolen my dreams and my childhood with your empty words. And yet I’m one of the lucky ones. People are suffering. People are dying. Entire ecosystems are collapsing. We are in the beginning of a mass extinction, and all you can talk about is money and fairy tales of eternal economic growth. How dare you!”

In Scott Morrison’s 2017 rant about coal he argued that: “It’s coal that has ensured that for over 100 years Australia has enjoyed an energy competitive advantage that has delivered prosperity to Australian businesses and has ensured that Australian industry has been able to remain competitive on a global market.” Another fairy tale of eternal economic growth perhaps. 

Greta and the younger generations will directly experience the effects of climate change. Their lives directly depend on the actions we take today. To world leaders she says, “You are failing us. But the young people are starting to understand your betrayal. The eyes of all future generations are upon you. And if you choose to fail us, I say: We will never forgive you.”