She’s 16 and very cute, though she has a temper. In fact, she is correct. The adults of the world are ruining the environment, and her generation and beyond will need to repair it. While the outcomes are irrefutable the contributing issues are complex. While there is no excuse for wrecking the environment, there are reasons why adults are not more proactive.
People need jobs or they cannot live. Many of these jobs involve natural resources. Canada, for example, has oil in the ground that has been traditionally extracted and sold to customers around the world. If we stop the burning of oil completely, these jobs will disappear and people’s lives and families will be destroyed. While this can change, in the long run, we have no mechanism to do this yet.
Two of the world’s largest polluters are China and the US. Both can and are reducing fossil fuel use, but not significantly. It is even difficult to say if they are. China has coal burning expertise that it is exporting to the Third world. While China may be trying, and this is probably false, to reduce its dependence on oil, they export the problem to other countries. This export of technology to the Third world provides these poor countries with power and enriches their lives. Technically China is no longer burning coal for these countries, but nonetheless more coal burning occurs. In aggregate this increases greenhouse emissions.
Canada does similar things and is just as hypocritical. The Canadian government pledges to reduce greenhouse emissions yet buys a pipeline in order to ship the oil to other countries, so they can burn it. Canada can state, correctly, that we do not burn this fuel, but in aggregate the world’s greenhouse emissions will be higher. Canada has oil to export, other countries willingly need to burn oil to provide power to enrich their people.
The world needs energy to develop, for people to live and prosper. There are a lot of jobs on the line that involves the burning of oil and fossil fuels. Fossil are in the ground, readily available and inexpensive. Renewable energies are more expensive for poor countries. It is all well and good for developed countries to champion climate change, but this cannot be followed by developing countries who cannot afford it. A solution is required that is agreed upon for all.
The Paris Accord and the Kyoto Accord before it is symbolic only. While there are voluntary targets there are no penalties for breaking them. While there voluntary set dates, there are no penalties for exceeding them, and the voluntary dates are 30 years away. It is understandable that, under these circumstances, the US has dropped out. While developed countries can feel good about themselves for discussing this critical issue, the Paris Accord does little in concrete implementation. It is all for a good show and makes us feel good about ourselves. These problems are difficult to solve, and we are humans.
There are other global issues to tackle as well. The presence of plastic everywhere that pollutes our oceans and ourselves. Is there a Greta Thunberg for plastics? Boyan Slat has made an attempt to clean up the Pacific Great Garbage Patch, but it failed. More work continues. There is air pollution as well. So many other global issues need to be addressed.
It will take a global crisis at our door to unite all countries and for change to come. The global warming crisis is not yet dire enough. When it is I can only hope that there is still time to repair the damage we are doing.