More than half of young people think "humanity is doomed" due to climate change. We need to reframe the narrative from doom and sacrifice, to one of opportunity.
Bravo, Hannah. Keep it up despite the challenges. One issue I have with that survey is the wording of the survey! Like leading the witness to ask “Does climate change make you think that: […]?” and have only negative options for respondents. What would results have been if there were options like, "Does climate change make you think that we can find ways to cut vulnerability for the poor?"
[cw suicide] I once tried to look up statistics on how many suicides were influenced by despair over climate change. I still would like to know this number. But oddly all the search results I got were only about how statistically, suicides rise when the temperature is higher. Which doesn't bode well, either, but isn't what I was looking for.
Here's what I think you're right about: Despair actively stops us from doing everything we can. For that reason only we should be careful about tone; not for sugarcoating reasons.
It was pretty clear from the various scenarios that the Limits to Growth (LTG) study produced that industrial civilization would "hit the wall" sometime around 2050, if the "business as usual" scenario was to be the scenario most closely matching the data. Dr. Dennis Meadows, one of the principal investigators in the study, thinks the timing has creeped forward and humanity could be in more trouble sooner than that date. Actually, we can see the evidence of it now. Policymakers in governments have literally no time left to initiate the widespread changes that will be necessary. We have a problem with human numbers, environmental degradation, species loss, over-consumption of fossil and organic planetary resources and no determination to alter our behavior. No wonder the young are pessimistic about their future. They are not being prepared for a world unlike the one that exists today. If we had started in the 1980s, our chances would be better, but the powers that be were more interested in moving full speed ahead toward the collapse of industrial civilization with their pursuit of unlimited economic growth.
Change the narrative?? Change the reality, then maybe the "narrative" will change. Sorry the younger generations are more realistic
If catastrophism doesn't lead to action in general, what we see today is merely the reaction from some Disney narrative of "we'll be fine in the end and things will be as they used to be" which is true to some proportion as in human extinction is probably unlikely but overall conditions are going to worsen significatively and no amount of green washing is going to make younger people think things will be fine and this aspect is positive despite the pessimism it carries.
Solutions are here and mostly available and very few of the people with enough power to enable the transition we need actually take it seriously enough to apply the drastic measures (at least in regards to the current politico-economic standing order) to preserve habitability.
We need outrage and revolutions. We need more cynism about our current society and alternative ways of living experimented. Not greenwashed fairytale stories.
Yeah, no this sounds like apologia and denial to me. I'm in my 50s and elected not to have kids and am so thankful I am not dooming them to a future with no structure and only copium like this article
30 meters of sea level rise are baked into the system already, assuming we stopped all greenhouse gas emission today. Which we will not, of course.
Pretending we can put the genie back into the bottle does a disservice to people. We need to figure out how we're going to fade from the planet in the least ugly manner.
Carbon capture technology can practicably end global warming – even reverse it — for 5% of GDP with a reasonably lo-tech process – once the price to gets down to $100 a ton.
According to a Businessweek article, worldwide we add 34 billion tons of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere every year. Said article says Squamish Engineering, in B.C., Canada expects to launch a plant that will remove a million tons a year, located somewhere in the Permian Basin in Texas. Squamish says it can do this for $200 a ton.
My back-of-the-envelope calculates that, when the price reaches $100 a ton, then, worldwide we can keep cool for $3.4 trillion a year – less than 5% of world GDP. US kick-in about one trillion – out of $20 trillion GDP. That figure would grow as US economy grows – but: for every trillion of growth only additional $50 billion would go for removal, leaving us $950 billion ahead: set for the life of the planet.
Snag: where to put all the carbon we capture.
Two years later, almost all of the CO2 had morphed into carbonate minerals. * * * * * The team’s breakthrough, reported in the journal Science in 2016, led to the scaling up of the CarbFix project – fixing CO2 into rock, literally – at the Hellisheidi geothermal power station * * * * * The process does, however, require large amounts of desalinated water – about 25 tonnes of water per tonne of stored CO2 – so they are working on adapting it to saltwater.
Totally agree with you Hannah we must tell young people there is still hope BUT we also need to be honest with them : a world where each person only emits 2tons of CO2e per year (to stay below 2°C) is a world with much less travels in general, meat nearly banned & consumption greatly reduced.
I believe an important reason that young people feel this way is that the focus with regards to climate has been on messages and narratives and not on action. This piece contributes to that. The only thing I took away from it is that you were nominated for and won some public service award in Scotland. Congratulations.
I have shown my kids this: https://youtu.be/oYhCQv5tNsQ
There needs to be a serious conversation about how we've conflated pollution (a problem, yes) and habitat loss for our fellow creatures (also a problem which we need to address), as well as bad agricultural practices (fortunately starting to be addressed by regen-ag) with calamity and collapse. We need to accept that climate change is happening, has always happened - but we need to re-think the idea that this is precipitated by man and is something that we should (or even could) reverse. Instead, we can do what we've always done. Learn to adapt, and even to thrive, with it. Crisis-mongering is not altogether altruistic. I would also recommend reading Naomi Klein's "Shock Doctrine", to see how crisis can be exploited, or even initiated, by those with not altogether pure motives. You want hope - at least consider these points.
Climate change is a very real threat, and it's great that society as a whole now gets that. But...
Isn't it weird that we've stopped worrying about nuclear weapons, a civilization ending threat which could be upon us in 30 minutes. Everyone knows about this threat, and has their whole life, but we've become very skilled at denial. Maybe this threat is just too real, and too big, to face up to?
And anyway, they are the same threat in the sense that the most likely outcome of a failure to manage climate change is geopolitical instability and conflict, and nuclear weapons. No major power is going to go down without a fight.
Young people think they are "doomed" because they are! Doom comes from the Old Norse domr, which means judged. The bad thing about doom is not that a person is judged or suffers because of the judgment, but rather that young people have not had the chance to actually do the terrible things for which they have been doomed. Some people put it on the shoulders of the baby boomers, which is entirely too facile. I am 72 and I am not guilty because I was an antiwar activist from 1968 to 1975, and an environmental activist from 1970 to now. I also do research on crop landraces because we will need more of them to adapt to the coming collapse of civilization. I wrote two books on solutions, yet I am dismissed and disrespected because I tell the truth AND how to fix it.
Articles like this one offer a window into how demographic grouups view the problem, but I see no solutions other than some vague political reform. Young people need to get off their duffs and make a racket AND work on alternatives. That is what I have been doing for over 50 years.
The continued rise of greenhouse gas emissions since COP ! signals failure of those who possess the wealth and consequent political power to put a stop to global warming. The problem is systemic. Capital must grow or die on the vine. The point is to change the current suicidal direction, but for that, the immense majority need to possess the political power inherent with the possession of the wealth they produce. The few who now control that wealth have failed. The Market is Godot and we wait for it to cut the Gordian knot of climate change at our own peril as a species.
Interesting that with the odd exception of Nigeria the countries where people were most pessimistic about their future are those which are likely to be worst affected.
I think there's a certain obscenity - a sort of catastrophe pornography - about the likes of Hallam and Read almost gleefully scaring the poo out of first world children and young people who are likely to be least badly affected, whilst simultaneously opposing the changes and technologies which we need to mitigate climate change and which will disproportionately benefit the world's poorest and most vulnerable who will be worst affected and have most to fear.
The Citizens' Climate Lobby is a venue for people around the world to get involved in doing something positive by engaging with decision-makers at all levels. Realism is one thing, doomerism is another. Doomerism is a self-fulfilling prophesy. Adaptation will be part of the equation, but we can work to mitigate the worst climate effects if we organize now. Thank you for this sobering but needed article.