On 30 November 2018, from over two hundred schools across the city of Sydney, an estimated eight thousand Australian students boycotted school in retaliation of the Australian government’s inaction with regards to climate change. From kindergartners to high school seniors, the students protested and demanded change from their government. .
Sydney’s movement was developed and planned by fourteen-year-old Jean Hinchcliffe, who had gotten the idea from fourteen-year-olds Milou Abrect and Harriet O’Shea Carre who started similar protests in the state of Victoria. Prior to the initial protest, the two highschool students had already tried to gain attention from the federal government through various means, including formal letters in an effort to abolish coal mining, and convert completely to renewable energy. When they saw no progress, they knew they had to switch to more drastic means . The Sydney protesters have demanded the federal government to deny the mining of both coal and gas and have Australia completely sustained by renewable sources of energy by 2030 .
Climate change is not just an issue in Australia. Globally, the burning of fossil fuels has produced carbon emissions of over nine gigatons, and in 2017 rose by 1.4% despite efforts to mitigate climate change. Total carbon emissions are projected to rise even further in 2018. For years, the world had been on the road of improvement, with huge ambitions such as the Paris Agreement, but has since lost momentum . With the US, the second biggest contributor to climate change pulling out of the agreement and continued fossil fuel extraction, we are headed for a world of sporadic temperature, weather, and natural disasters.
Canada is no saint when it comes to climate change either.
In 2016, Canada as a country received an environmental grade of “D”, ranking fourteenth out of sixteen other countries, above only the USA and Australia. The annual Canadian’s citizen’s carbon emissions of 20.7 tons per capita is extremely high compared to the global average of a mere four tons . In particular, the oil sands of Alberta are extremely devastating to the environment, contaminating both air quality and water quality. Only 17.4% of Canada’s energy comes from renewable energy sources, including hydroelectric and biomass, which both damage the environment, through habitat loss and carbon emissions. Even though scientists have been aware of climate change since the 1800’s, almost 33% of the Canadian population does not believe that climate change is attributed to humans or industrial activity .
The issue of climate change is a global one, as many people believe that the consequences of climate change are something of the distant future, when in fact changes in our environment are destroying lives in the present. Rising sea levels have displaced countless coastal communities, and will continue to do so. Hurricanes, formed from changes in air currents that devastate entire towns and cities, are growing in frequency. Forest fires, initiated by dry hot weather, not only endanger lives, but increase carbon emissions themselves when they burn, creating a vicious cycle. Unfortunately, the impoverished communities that contribute the least to climate change are both the least prepared and the most affected by the ambitions of more developed countries.
More youth in Canada, like Jean Hinchcliffe in Australia need to take action and challenge current federal standards, as climate change will not wait for the students of today to become adults. Climate change awareness is no longer enough, and huge changes must be made to our current energy system. It is both unethical and impractical for Canada to remain a fossil fuel reliant entity. As those who will be affected the most in the upcoming years of climate change, the younger population must take the initiative to repel the efforts of fossil fuel corporations to ensure safety or their future.