Sep 23, 2019 - Energy & Environment

The new generational war

Greta Thunberg

Greta Thunberg. Photo: Johannes Eisele/AFP/Getty Images

A decade after millennials' hopes and dreams faded with the Great Recession, Generation Z is taking to the streets to proclaim climate change their era's defining issue.

Driving the news: In New York, 16-year-old Greta Thunberg confronted world leaders Monday: "I shouldn't be up here. I should be back in school on the other side of the ocean. Yet you all come to [us] for hope. How dare you. You have stolen my dreams and my childhood with your empty words."

  • Across the world, millions took to the streets on Friday as part of the school strikes. The Fridays for Future organization has rapidly grown into one of the biggest mass protest movements on Earth.
  • And in D.C. on Monday, climate protesters shut down intersections and jammed up traffic, with a target list called "climate criminals" that includes lobbyists, energy companies, government buildings, and industry and trade associations.

The big picture: Across the world, but particularly in the U.S., teens are coming of age in a political system that feels inadequate for the challenges they're told to expect, and the promises are growing fast, as the N.Y. Times notes:

  • "Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India said his country would increase its share of renewable energy by 2022, without making any promises to reduce its dependence on coal."
  • "Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany promoted a new plan worth $60 billion over 10 years to speed a transition to clean power."
  • "Britain, Norway, Costa Rica and 12 other countries will promise to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050."

... So is the urgency and distress that it won't be enough:

  • “Science tells us that on our current path, we face at least 3°C of global heating by the end of the century," U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres noted today.
  • “The climate emergency is a race we are losing, but it is a race we can win,” he said in a statement.

As Axios' Ben Geman notes: The 2015 Paris deal calls for holding eventual warming below 2°C above preindustrial levels and includes a more ambitious target of 1.5°C.

  • But global emissions, which are still rising, are on a path to bring warming that blows past those targets.

Go deeper ... UN report: Climate change causes and impacts are increasing

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