Europe’s Striking Climate Kids Show How to Defeat the Far Right

The scourge of climate change is the great unifying issue of our time. The time is propitious for Canadian political parties to adopt the Green Party’s suggestion to establish an inner cabinet of all parties to address the emergency facing us. Tell your MP we need all hands on deck.

Fighting climate change now polls as a top priority among European voters—while most far-right leaders are climate denialists.

Student Climate Strike
German students use a carnival float depicting environmental activist Greta Thunberg during a school strike to demand action on climate change on March 15, 2019. (Reuters / Wolfgang Rattay)

For years, European politicos and others committed to the idea of a united Europe have pined for a popular, all-Europe project that stands for the best intentions of, and the imperative for, the European project. In order to counter the EU’s distant, bureaucratic image—and the blunt the attacks of right-wing Euroskeptics—EU officials have turned to issues that touch almost all Europeans, from digital rights to consumer protection to telecommunications.

But none of these worthy endeavors, among others, have fired the passions of the average European, much less young Europeans.

But now, on the eve of the landmark May 23–26 European Parliament election, such a cause—complete with hundreds of thousands of energized participants—is banging at the EU’s door. Although the striking high schoolers of Fridays for Future (FFF) is not just a European movement but a global one, the students of Europe have found common cause with one another in a campaign demanding tangible political action from the EU to address climate change.

Perhaps unwittingly, the kids have revealed a new raison d’être for the EU beyond the postwar remits of peace and prosperity. As the young people insist, the supranational EU can and must devote itself to leading the global battle to arrest rising temperatures and seas if we expect to slow global warming.

In an open letter to the EU earlier this month, an international group of FFF activists wrote that the EU “holds enormous responsibility, not just for our future, but also for the life of billions of people across the world. Accept this responsibility. Make climate the priority.”

For the EU, the scourge of climate change could be just the ticket to rejuvenate it. On the one hand, it is our age’s most urgent issue. On the other, it is one that the surging far-right parties don’t even pretend to have answers to. When Europe’s radical nationalists deny climate change, as most do, they side with less than 5 percent of Europeans in the EU’s most populous countries. (In Germany, the hard-right Alternative for Germany calls man-made climate change “heresy” and wants to halt the clean-energy transition, and the Brexit Party’s front man, Nigel Farage, ridicules the link between rising temperatures and greenhouse gases.) The national populists have committed a huge blunder—and Europe’s democratic parties should pounce on it by making the kids’ campaign their own. MORE

Young People and Climate Change: Why it’s our Time to Take the Reins

“If the environment is being degraded so that with passing time it produces and supports less, then that impoverishes future generations. It means that the current generation is essentially stealing from the next.” Just as we have issues of justice (or more likely lack thereof) between classes, genders, races, countries – we also have justice between generations–intergenerational justice.


We live at a crossroads in history.

Decades have passed, and people are still saying the same thing. In the 70’s, environmentalists in the baby boomer generation wanted to protect the planet for their grandchildren.

Almost five decades later, and those grandchildren they were talking about had time to be born and grow up, and they’re us.

Carbon dioxide, the most common greenhouse gas responsible for causing climate change via the greenhouse effect, can hang around in the atmosphere for 100 years or more once it gets up there.

This fact of chemistry is what drives the entire issue of intergenerational justice when it comes to climate change.

The last few months of 2018 and early 2019 have seen historic levels of climate activism and public attention. Something seems to have finally shifted.

One of the most inspiring things in the climate space right now is the explosion of youth-led climate activism. From Extinction Rebellion that was recently holding mass protests in London to the Sunrise Movement and the Green New Deal to the School Strikes for Climate movement – it’s in the air.

School Strike for Climate Young people and climate change
School Strike for Climate march, Melbourne, 30th November 2018. By julian meehan on Flickr, Creative Commons license.

And it’s having an effect. The UK Parliament recently became the first in the world to declare a climate emergency.

Across the pond in the US, it’s also the young people that are pushing the climate movement forward.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the youngest woman to be elected to Congress, is making waves by pushing the Green New Deal – an ambitious policy package for transitioning the US to a net-zero economy through a ‘just transition’, investing in infrastructure, jobs and marginalised communities.

This bold proposal – which would have been totally unthinkable just a couple of years ago – is now being pushed right into the mainstream at an astonishing rate. MORE

Trevor Hancock: Move from denial, to protests, to building better mousetraps

There are great opportunities to build a green future. Action is better than despair. We just have to imagine and build a better mousetrap.

Photograph By AP PHOTO

“Stop denying our Earth is dying,” read a poster held by a young woman taking part in a protest by the Extinction Rebellion group outside the BBC headquarters in London recently.

Young people can see what is coming, and they are becoming mad as hell and are not going to take it any more. Greta Thunberg, the remarkable young Swedish woman who routinely talks sense to the world’s leaders, has ignited a series of protests over climate change by young people all over the world.

But while the evidence is clear — and increasing on an almost daily basis — much of our political and corporate leadership in B.C., Canada and around the world is in denial. It was to them that this young woman’s appeal was directed. Troublingly, significant segments of the electorate are also in denial, and are being whipped up by “the Resistance.” Conservative leaders in Canada and around the world and their fossil-fuel and other corporate allies do very well out of the present arrangements and don’t want to see the system changed.

Unlike the older generation that currently make decisions affecting the future, young people have a real stake in that future; after all, they will be there, whereas my generation will not. In fact, arguably, they — not the generation now in power — should be making decisions that will have an impact on their future; they should certainly be fully, meaningfully and consistently engaged in making those decisions.

Perhaps the most effective way to counter denial is simply to show that there is an alternative, it works and it’s better than what we have now — build a better mousetrap, in other words.

But young people can see, I think, that what we face — climate change and more — changes everything, as Naomi Klein’s book title noted a few years ago. And if everything has to change — our values, the economy, our social arrangements, our whole way of life — then there are not only great challenges ahead, but great opportunities. MORE

Corbyn launches bid to declare a national climate emergency

“It is a great first step because it sends a clear signal that we are in a crisis and that the ongoing climate and ecological crises must be our first priority. We can not solve an emergency without treating it like an emergency. I hope the other UK political parties join in and together pass this motion in parliament – and that political parties in other countries will follow their example.” -Greta Thunberg

Labour will attempt to force Commons vote as it is revealed that the government has failed to spend anti-pollution cash


Jeremy Corbyn campaigning with Labour activists for the local elections in Peterborough on 27 April. Photograph: Joe Giddens/PA

Labour will this week force a vote in parliament to declare a national environmental and climate change emergency as confidential documents show the government has spent only a fraction of a £100m fund allocated in 2015 to support clean air projects.

Jeremy Corbyn’s party will demand on Wednesday that the country wakes up to the threat and acts with urgency to avoid more than 1.5°C of warming, which will require global emissions to fall by about 45% from 2010 levels by 2030, reaching “net zero” before 2050.

The move will place Conservative MPs under pressure to back the plan, or explain why they refuse to do so, now fears over the combined problems of air pollution and climate change have risen to the top of the political agenda.

On Saturday night Corbyn said the recent wave of protests were “a massive and necessary wake-up call” that demanded “rapid and dramatic action, which only concerted government action and a green industrial revolution can deliver.” He said that if parliament backed the move and became the first national legislature to declare a climate emergency it would “trigger a wave of action from governments around the world”.

The motion was welcomed by Greta Thunberg, the 16-year-old Swedish climate activist who has criticised the inaction of the world’s politicians. “It is a great first step because it sends a clear signal that we are in a crisis and that the ongoing climate and ecological crises must be our first priority,” she said. “We can not solve an emergency without treating it like an emergency. “I hope the other UK political parties join in and together pass this motion in parliament – and that political parties in other countries will follow their example.” MORE

 

Climate icon Greta Thunberg finds that political change is ‘complicated’

I keep telling you to unite behind the science — make the best available science the heart of politics and democracy.

Young activist tells European lawmakers they need to treat climate change as an ‘existential crisis.’


Swedish climate activist, Greta Thunberg, 16, takes part in a press conference during a plenary session at the European Parliament on April 16, 2019 in Strasbourg, eastern France | Frederick Florin/AFP via Getty Images

STRASBOURG — Turns out that building a global climate change protest movement was the easy part.

Now 16-year-old climate icon Greta Thunberg is getting an up-close look at why politicians are having trouble turning her demands into policy.

“I have learned that anything can happen, but also learned how things work, how complicated everything is,” she told POLITICO on Tuesday about her political learning curve since starting her climate strikes last summer.

“It’s not just pressing a button and something happens, everyone has to agree — I have definitely started to understand more how everything works,” she said after watching the European Parliament’s Strasbourg plenary session from the visitors’ seats.

It’s a path traveled by other protestors who have tried to turn their demands into policy.

“Our house is falling apart, and we are rapidly running out of time, and yet basically nothing is happening” — Greta Thunberg

Her demands go way beyond the EU’s hard-won 2030 climate targets. Those goals reflect a careful balance between national interests, as well as concern about losing competitiveness to other major economies. But that doesn’t cut ice with a campaigner (and Nobel Peace Prize nominee) who sees climate change as the defining issue of our age.

“When I tell politicians to act now, the most common answer is that they can’t do anything drastic, because that would be too unpopular among voters. And they are right of course. Since most people are not even aware of why those changes are required. That is why I keep telling you to unite behind the science — make the best available science the heart of politics and democracy,” she told MEPs. MORE

The world is facing a climate emergency (but, of course, not in Prince Edward County)

Prince Edward Councillors should hang their heads in shame.

Todd Smith photo
Todd Smith, Minister of Economic Development, Job Creation and Trade, whose claim to fame is stifling employment and sustainable development in Prince Edward County by shutting down the White Pines Wind Project that consists of 9 wind turbines with a nameplate capacity of 18.45 megawatts (MW) of emissions-free renewable energy .

Climate emergency?  What climate emergency?

Where is the county’s climate emergency plan? Where is the coordinated leadership to address climate mitigation and to inspire conservation, green growth and climate action? Where is the County’s New Green Deal?

”You are not mature enough to tell it like it is. Even that burden you leave to your children.” @GretaThuberg

While  100+ Cities Commit to Clean with 100% Renewable Energy and cities are leading the fight against climate disaster–not in Prince Edward, where councillors sleep the good sleep after filling potholes. Time for leadership? Not so much.


Save The White Pines Wind Project

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Glaciers and Arctic ice are vanishing. Time to get radical before it’s too late

No one should be annoyed when schoolkids start leaving class en masse or surprised that Green New Deal advocates call for dramatic overhaul of American society. We should be grateful


‘The respectable have punted; so now it’s up to the scruffy, the young, the marginal, the angry to do the necessary work.’ Photograph: UPI/Barcroft Images

Forget “early warning signs” and “canaries in coalmines” – we’re now well into the middle of the climate change era, with its epic reshaping of our home planet. Monday’s news, from two separate studies, made it clear that the frozen portions of the Earth are now in violent and dramatic flux.

The first, led by the veteran Greenland glaciologist Jason Box, looked across the Arctic at everything from “increased tundra biomass” to deepening thaw of the permafrost layer. Their conclusion: “the Arctic biophysical system is now clearly trending away from its 20th century state and into an unprecedented state, with implications not only within but beyond the Arctic.” To invent a word, the north is rapidly slushifying, with more rainfall and fewer days of hard freeze; the latest data shows that after a month of record temperatures in the Bering Sea, ocean ice in the Arctic is at an all-time record low for the date, crushing the record set … last April.

The other study looked at the great mountain ranges of the planet, and found that their glaciers were melting much faster than scientists had expected. By the end of the century many of those alpine glaciers would be gone entirely; the Alps may lose 90% of their ice. From the Caucasus to the South Island of New Zealand, mountains are losing more than 1% of their ice each year now: “At the current glacier loss rate, the glaciers will not survive the century,” said Michael Zemp, who runs the World Glacier Monitoring Service from his office at the University of Zurich.

…For the moment, though, don’t worry about the “effects”, just focus on what it means that some of the largest systems on Earth are now in seismic shift.

What it means, I think, is that no one should be shocked when Extinction Rebellion activists engage in mass civil disobedience. No one should be annoyed when school kids start leaving class en masse. No one should be surprised that Green New Deal advocates are now calling for dramatic overhaul of American society. In fact we should be deeply grateful: these activists, and the scientists producing these reports, are the only people on the planet who seem to understand the scale of the problem. MORE

Thousands of teens join Greta Thunberg’s climate fight in Berlin

Thousands of teens join Greta Thunberg's climate fight in Berlin
Thunberg gathers with students at a ‘Fridays for Future’ demonstration in Berlin. Photo: DPA

Thousands of German youths went on strike from school on Friday, joining Swedish teen activist Greta Thunberg who has taken her protest against climate change to Berlin.
Armed with homemade posters bearing slogans like “It’s getting hot in here” or “Our house is on fire” or “You’re never too small to make a difference”, the teenagers packed into a park in central Berlin to sound the alarm about global warming.
From the park in front of the economy ministry, they were to marchto Brandenburg Gate, where Thunberg is due to address the crowd. Police said they have dispatched 300 officers to the protest which is expected to draw around 15,000 people.

Students gathering at a demo with Greta Thunberg in Berlin. Photo: DPA

“We’re going to continue skipping classes every Friday because we can’t keep going like that with the climate. We have to pull the emergency brakes,” vowed Franziska Wessel, one of the organizers of the protests in Berlin. MORE

RELATED:

Greta Thunberg wins German Golden Camera award
Climate change: Greta Thunberg comes to Rome

 

Children are fighting for their future. We must support them


Swedish student Greta Thunberg, 16, has galvanized a movement, inspiring students worldwide to tell adults their future is at stake. (Photo: Anders Hellberg via Wikimedia Commons)

“And a little child shall lead them.” – Isaiah 11:6

At 16, Greta Thunberg may not be a little child, but she’s showing tremendous leadership. The Swedish student has galvanized a world movement, pressing adults to remove the blinkers of corporate and political self-interest and recognize that their refusal to respond appropriately to climatologists’ urgent warnings is leading to the destruction of a future for all generations to come.

Children don’t have a large stake in the status quo so they aren’t bound by the constraints of business and politics. They aren’t yet part of it, except as budding consumers and victims of political machinations. Children speak from their hearts with an innocence, naiveté and idealism only they possess.

Children don’t have a large stake in the status quo so they aren’t bound by the constraints of business and politics.

For decades, environmentalists calling for government action to transform our energy sources from fossil fuels to cleaner renewables have been marginalized as unrealistic, extremists or anti-business. Even activists have imposed self-restraint in our calls for political action lest we be seen as a threat to jobs, corporate interests or the economy.

Thunberg’s laser focus is on what politicians are doing (or not doing) rather than saying. And what they’re doing is refusing to take the necessary actions outlined in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s special report in October. It warns that failing to substantially reduce greenhouse gas emissions over the next 11 years will put humanity — and numerous other species — on the road to catastrophe.

The United Nations established the IPCC in 1988 to be the most authoritative source of scientific information on climate change, compiling research from scientists and experts worldwide to inform governments and the public of the current state of scientific knowledge. Because it’s intergovernmental, its reports are vetted by countries like Saudi Arabia, the U.S. and Russia, which have their own agendas. This makes the reports invariably cautious. Every IPCC prediction (temperature, sea level rise, weather events) over five-year periods has fallen short of what actually occurred.

MORE

Thank you, climate strikers. Your action matters and your power will be felt

Nothing is possible without action, and almost anything is when we rise up together, as you are today


‘The real lessons of history is that change often comes in unpredictable ways.’ Photograph: Facundo Arrizabalaga/EPA

I want to say to all the climate strikers today: thank you so much for being unreasonable. That is, if reasonable means playing by the rules, and the rules are presumed to be guidelines for what is and is not possible, then you may be told that what you are asking for is impossible or unreasonable. Don’t listen. Don’t stop. Don’t let your dreams shrink by one inch. Don’t forget that this might be the day and the pivotal year when you rewrite what is possible.

What climate activists are asking for is a profound change in all our energy systems, for leaving fossil fuel in the ground, for taking action adequate to the planet-scale crisis of climate change. And the rules we are so often reminded of by those who aren’t ready for change are not the real rules. Because one day last summer a 15-year-old girl sat down to stage a one-person climate strike, and a lot of adults would like to tell you that the rules say a 15-year-old girl cannot come out of nowhere, alone, and change the world.

Sweden’s Greta Thunberg already has.

They will tell you the rules are that those we see in the news and the parliaments and boardrooms hold all the power and you must be nice to them and perhaps they will give you crumbs, or the time of day, or just a door slammed in your face. They will tell you that things can only change in tiny increments by predictable means. They’re wrong. Sometimes you don’t have to ask for permission or for anything because you hold the power and you yourselves decide which way the door swings. Nothing is possible without action; almost anything is when we rise up together, as you are doing today. MORE