It is hard to ignore that stone in our collective eye known as impeachment. But this time around, I want to focus on the wonderful lesson in civility that millions of young people from around the world taught us during the Climate Strike.
The lonely climate protest that Greta Thunberg started by herself a year ago in Sweden has ballooned into a global phenomenon. 7.6 million young and not so young people took to the streets around the world, demanding immediate and effective climate action from world leaders.
Out of the anguish of a generation that is witnessing how their future is being usurped, we have also seen the rise of young heroes from the communities who disproportionately suffer the consequences of the climate crisis. Heroes such as New York City’s climate activist Alexandria Villaseñor, and Native Canadian Autumn Peltier, a leader in the defense of clean water around the world.
Alas, the UN Climate Summit disappointed yet again. The world’s three greatest climate polluters—China, the US and India—were conspicuously absent from the list of 70 countries that agreed to increase their Paris Accord commitments.
Angered by this new failure, Thunberg launched a J’Accusse of epic proportions against the passivity of world leaders, saying, “How dare you! You have stolen my dreams and my childhood with your empty words.”
The words of Thunberg and those of millions of her fellow strikers, however, are pure gold, as they are having an extraordinary impact around the world.
In the recent election in Austria, the Green Party tripled its number of votes, which will allow it to form a coalition government with the ruling party. This is a clear reflection that the country’s greatest concern is the climate crisis.
Thanking Thunberg and her fellow strikers, Green Party member Birgit Hebein said, “Climate protection is already in the middle of our society. It is key that climate change is tackled on all levels.”
Also, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen has stated that the climate fight will be her top priority and promised that 25% of the Union’s budget will be dedicated to transitioning away from fossil fuels and into clean, renewable energy.
The private sector is also joining the green wave. Amazon announced that it will reach carbon neutrality by 2040, a decade earlier than the Paris Accord’s goals, and that by 2030 the whole company and its 100,000 delivery trucks will be fully powered by renewable energy. The same day, Google informed that it is investing $2 billion in renewable energy projects, a corporate record. These announcements came after workers from Amazon, Google and several other technology companies joined the Climate Strike.
This urgency to abandon dirty fuels is spreading among investors the world over. ExxonMobil, the world’s largest oil and gas company and one of the greatest climate polluters, dropped from the S&P 500’s top 10 list for the first time in almost a century.
But the transition away from fossil fuels must happen far more quickly. The UN Inter-Governmental Panel on Climate Change issued an alarming report about the state of the planet’s oceans and cryosphere (the frozen surfaces). It warns that after many decades of absorbing one fourth of the Earth’s excess heat, all too often the damage is already irreversible for the richness and biodiversity of the seas. The report also warns that by 2100 the sea level will rise by 3.6 feet, putting cities such as Los Angeles, San Diego, Miami and New Orleans under great flooding danger.
The climate challenge is immense and existential. But after seeing millions of young people teaching the greatest generational lesson in history, we all must continue fighting for their future and the future of humankind.
Javier Sierra is a Sierra Club columnist. Follow him on Twitter @javier_SC
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