Role of the Youth in Climate Change

This is an article I wrote as my entry for a competition( http://wsds.teriin.org/youth-climate-conclave.php )

Climate change is one amongst the foremost, vital international challenges of our times. Recent events have empirically demonstrated mankind’s vulnerability to climate change. The scientific consensus is that climate change is caused by greenhouse gases emitted into the atmosphere by human activity. Transportation is the largest source of greenhouse gas while electricity generation and natural gas use in buildings are the second-largest sources. The impacts of climate change include higher temperatures and more extreme weather, such as heavy rain and storms, extreme heat events, flooding and reduced snow-pack. 

Rural, suburban, and urban youth leaders, therefore, need to step up and call upon for greater accountability, enforcement, and implementation of climate change policies within their communities. 

It is essential that the ever-growing youth population of developing countries, especially India be made a party to substantial change since they are the ones who will actually be affected in the future and thus will be most passionate about securing their own future. This selfish aspect makes the youth of the nation the most appropriate for playing a major role in mitigating and further preventing climate change. 

There is a wide variety of ways in which generation Z and generation alpha can make amends on the actions of their ancestors and parent generations.

First, there are certain steps that need to be taken to ignite the fire in the youth to “be the change they wish to see in the world”. These include, but are not limited to: engaging the youth in decision-making procedures, allocating resources for youth development and intergenerational integration. 

To make a start, one needs to look at the different inherent dimensions of the problem at hand. Climate change has a moral aspect, a socioeconomic one and an ethical one. To successfully bring about climate action, all these three dimensions need to be tackled in an orderly fashion with equal emphasis on each. 

Climate change has inherently become an issue of justice. Rising temperatures are predicted to affect the poorest, yet the benefits of mitigation and adaptation strategies are inequitably distributed. For example, the cap and trade system does not apply tougher carbon limits or rules on areas with greater concentrations of hazardous facilities sited in low-income communities and communities of colour. The health benefits of reduced air pollutants are unlikely to reach these communities. Low-income communities of colour not only bear most of the burden of the hazardous environment but also poorer health outcomes that are greatly influenced by socioeconomic determinants. This critical problem can only be ratified by complete social integration, not only with respect to climate action but also with respect to the lifestyle and living conditions. If this factor for climate change is ruled out effectively, a massive advancement will be said to have made and it will come out as a huge success for humanity as a whole. 

Next, the moral aspect – appealing to the masses, not in a prudential way but in a more preachy manner. This task can be effectively undertaken by the youth by organising awareness camps, drives and workshops. Even though this bit may seem naive and unneeded for but it is very essential since a large fraction of the Indian rural population is unfamiliar with the detrimental impacts. Hence, these initiatives need not take place in schools or urban areas, but in rural areas or areas with a high density of secondary sector workers in semi-urban areas. 

Lastly, the ethical aspect: simply creating a sense of moral obligation use modes of public transport will not be as effective if accompanied by an ethical obligation, such as a law or regulation. Although these may seem a bit harsh initially, especially to the older age group, but the youth must recognise the need for the same and appeal to others in helping them create a better world for themselves.

One of the first steps in this direction was taken with the formal penning down of the nationally determined contributions; they are a big step in making the dream of climate action come true but there is one major flaw or rather room for improvement in the same – fixed deadline. The claims and promises made by the Indian government in the UNFCCC NDCs are phenomenal and innovative but without a fixed, official schedule, they might prove to be quite ineffective. Here, it is the duty of the youth to set deadlines and goals for themselves in order to be successful in achieving these ambitious goals.

Youth need to be given a space and a voice in negotiations because a lot of the time it’s so easy for negotiators to go hours writing, removing, discussing and looking at text that they think all you focus on is the words in the document – do you use “will” or “shall”, “has” or “have”? But it is about more than just words. Within this document lies our future, our nation’s future, our world’s future.

After all, we need more Greta Thunberg’s in this world. 

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