May 15, 2021

Young people reactivate pressure on governments to fight climate crisis, overshadowed by pandemic


The climate continues to deteriorate. The evidence of their alteration has not stopped during the COVID-19 pandemic: the Arctic has melted at a record rate this summer, the Atlantic hurricane season has exhausted the list of names and the west of North America has burned so much that the smoke from its burned forests has reached Spain. Here, global warming has been certified as causing twice as many heat waves. Climate activism tries this Friday to relaunch in 3,000 locations (thirty in Spain) pressure on governments to tackle the emergency overshadowed by the novel coronavirus crisis.

Two years ago we started the student strikes for the climate and the world continues in its denialism

OPINION | Greta Thunberg: Two years ago we started the student strikes for the climate and the world continues in its denialism

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Swedish activist Greta Thunberg argued last Friday when launching the campaign that “extreme weather is accelerating around the world and yet we do not treat it as a crisis.” It also stated that “you cannot negotiate with nature“Far are the images of Thunberg summoning with his single presence tens of thousands of people in the center of Madrid during the COP25 Climate Summit. Ainhara García, from Juventud por el Clima (one of the organizing organizations), talks about how this enthusiasm has been cooled: “The health and economic crises have made society and the media pay attention to this rather than the crisis. We have missed the visibility of the relationship with the loss of biodiversity that we have damaged and have made us not have the shield of nature against the emergence of diseases“.

The activist reflects that “it is a good time to relaunch the climate agenda.” Evidence is not lacking. Just a few days ago, summer closed and, with it, the season when the ice that covers the Arctic melts. This 2020 has marked the second smallest extension since it was measured, that is, almost more ice has been lost than ever. The alterations in the climate caused by this foundry are palpable. “It has tripled extreme weather episodes in 40 years,” calculates climatologist Jennifer Francis.

Said and done, this hurricane season in the Atlantic Ocean is so abundant that it has exhausted list of names prepared to designate each of them. This list, designed by the World Meteorological Organization, alternates male and female names that are rotated every six years. 2020 is being a year “with an exceptionally high number” of storms, has explained the WMO. The twentieth of these violent atmospheric depressions – named Vicky – arrived on September 14. It is the record: never before had such a number of hurricanes been registered. Once the list was exhausted, it was necessary to switch to the Greek alphabet. It is the second time that this reserve has to be used to complete the season that runs until November 30 (the previous time was in 2005).

Francis has also pointed out that the loss of the Arctic exacerbates the heat waves that pave the way for wildfires. The fires in the western United States this month have been of such magnitude that the smoke from the burning trees has risen several kilometers: 7,000 or 8,000 meters high. From there, the jet stream of air has interacted with this smoke and carried it from California until it is visible in the Balearic Islands and other parts of Europe. More than a million hectares of forest have perished by wild fires this summer in the United States. Heat waves in Spain have doubled in the last four decades.

A year almost lost

This September 25, the climate mobilizations will be of another nature. The physical distancing measures imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic force. Rallies and sit-ins (like the one planned near the Congress of Deputies in Madrid) should replace the demonstrations of a few months ago. “We are going to talk about restructuring some essential points such as the industrial sector, the primary sector, care or the public sector,” says Ainhara García. “The world has experienced an unprecedented change with COVID-19 that has shown the limits of our economy that is reaching collapse. We are reaching a global catastrophe in the form of a pandemic, but also of climate change or economic instability.”

However, the urgencies imposed by the health crisis have relegated the climate emergency. 2020 was to be a crucial course to strengthen international commitment in the fight against climate change. Despite the fact that the economic stoppage imposed by the confinements to curb the pandemic has led to a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, at least during the first half of the year, the head of climate change at Ecologistas en Acción, Javier Andaluz , considers that “we can talk about a lost year.”

Andaluz details that “the Paris Agreement should enter into force, but without a plenary session to do so …”. It refers to the decision to postpone the COP26 climate summit that has taken place until 2021. This has had a domino effect. The ecologist recalls that the countries involved in the Agreement should have already submitted their new emission mitigation commitments to the UN for the International Panel of Scientific Experts to issue a report. “It will not be done at the moment,” he explains.

In this sense, the European Commission presented on September 17 an increase in ambition in its climate plans: President Ursula van der Leyen announced that she wanted CO2 emissions to be reduced by 55% by 2030 (in line with what was expressed by the scientists). But at the same time, confessed that current policies in the Union prevent that goal.

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