By Martha Kool, Senior Associate
If you’ve been living on Earth the past few years, and paying any attention at all, you’ve probably heard of a little problem called climate change. The concept is nothing new, but the conversation around it and mass awareness has grown massively in the last year or so. The UK became the first country in the world to declare a climate emergency in May of last year, and as of now 25 countries and more than 1250 local governments have done the same.
But what’s changed? We’ve known that this problem exists for years, we (the younger members of the Nudge team at least) were taught about greenhouse gases and the ozone layer at school. We are all well aware that CO2 emissions from cars, planes, and burning coal are polluting our air. David Attenborough has been warning us of the dangers of deforestation since distant memory.
Other than the unprecedented heating up of the planet, what’s new is the campaign that has blown up into a worldwide movement. Obviously, we have to mention Greta Thunberg, who has become the face of the fight against climate change. She may face criticism for being too young, or too outspoken, but clearly she has inspired young people and adults alike around the world. They wouldn’t be marching the streets in their millions otherwise. We must also give credit to the other young people who are often forgotten on the global stage, but have similarly started as lone protesters and ended up leading national movements.
Obviously, something about this movement is resonating with people. A cynic may say that it’s a case of being ‘trendy’, or falling victim to scaremongering, but it’s hard to deny the science behind these campaigns. You only have to turn on the news to see the melting ice and wildfires to see that something is wrong, and if that isn’t enough there’s a 97% consensus among scientists.
One potentially fatal flaw persists though – the ‘hypocrisy’ argument. Though Thunberg practices what she preaches and travels sustainably, many celebrities and politicians who use their status to implore the public to reduce their carbon footprint cannot say the same. They continue to fly, often on private jets, around the world – recently (in their hundreds), to Davos, to discuss this exact issue. This inevitably leads to a loss of public faith and the feeling that different rules apply to the rich and famous.
While I personally think we should apply a little consequentialism to this scenario – if one influencer flying to Davos results in 100 other people not taking a flight in favour of more sustainable travel, a good thing has been achieved – there’s no denying it leaves a sour taste for a lot of people that can unfortunately detract from the real issue.
The world will probably remain split on this issue for years to come – only time will really tell if the climate change campaign is an overdramatising of reality or if we have already been ignoring the signs for too long. Either way, a campaign that has blown up and created such awareness for an issue that it dominates political arguments globally, and brings millions of people out onto the streets, must be commended – that doesn’t happen every day.
Photo credit: Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade website – www.dfat.gov.au