The Climate Emergency: What Could Be Done If We All Worked Together?

Zoë Ingram, student at Havant and South Downs College, asks why young people seem more concerned with the climate emergency.

Climate change can be a widely overshadowed issue when it comes to election coverage, but its absence doesn’t seem to have a severe impact on the majority of newspaper readers. What I fail to understand is why.

According to The Guardian, ‘Almost half of 18 to 24 year olds chose environmental issues as one of the nation’s three most pressing concerns, compared with 27% of the general population’, when asked by YouGov. It seems that a generation gap is partly responsible for the lack of understanding regarding the issues of climate change.

It’s the government’s responsibility to effect change in the everyday lives of people, and the majority of political parties have climate change solutions in their manifesto, but what does that really mean in practice?

The government attempted to limit the amount of plastic pollution being caused by supermarket suppliers in 2015 by implementing a new taxing policy. However I strongly believe this wasn’t enough. The 5p plastic bag tax was put in place to aid the prevention of plastic pollution; since the 5p fee was introduced in 2015, an estimated 15 billion bags have been taken out of circulation. The figure does appear impressive at first glance. However, it’s estimated that we use between 500 billion and 1 trillion bags every year and by allowing plastic bags to even be available, that number is never going to decrease.

Being employed at a major high street retailer has made me aware that we are very dependent on bags. However, there is no reason not to offer a paper alternative at 5p and raise the plastic price to £1. These new taxes could potentially fund research into bio-reusable bags to replace the current ones. We could also use the paper bag tax to replant trees needed to supply these alternatives. It would help both the plastic pollution issue and the spread of awareness as everyone would be either talking about the new system or opting for the cheaper carrying option.

Unfortunately, I struggle to see MPs running to consider this proposal – or any proposal, in all honesty. We are so wrapped up in Brexit that the climate emergency is left to younger people who aren’t even allowed to legally have a say.

You may recall a young woman by the name of Greta Thunberg. At only 8 years old, she was very aware of issues concerning climate change. She was ‘shocked’ that the older generation didn’t seem to be taking the issue seriously. By the time she was 15, Greta felt the only way to get these issues enough attention was a school strike for the climate emergency, which she launched outside the Swedish parliament building last August, inspiring thousands to protest for climate change.

It’s worrying that it takes a child to show people how bad things are. Yet the adults who say young people are too immature to understand have left my generation no choice but to step in with a final shout for help.

While discussing and researching these arguments with my peers, it seems clear to me that more children and young adults are feeling pressure regarding the lack of global change on the climate. What does it take to make all generations aware of the damage being done? What does it take to get people to acknowledge that what’s happening now to fix it isn’t enough?

The World Meteorological Organisation confirmed in 2019 that there is ‘a clear sign of continuing long-term climate change associated with record atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases.’ It reports the last 4 years have displayed the highest atmospheric temperatures ever recorded, the severity being made more potent by mass forest fires in Brazil which were detected by MODIS (The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer) from August 15, 2019. These scientific reports are publicly available online, yet the majority of people shrug off these stories because the issue doesn’t immediately affect them.

As a young adult looking ahead to 2020, I hope others will join my generation and face the reality of our situation as a planet, and maybe evoke more change than is currently being promised.