PETER BROOKS. Will teenagers’ involvement in the climate change debate be a ‘game changer’?

Mar 6, 2019

March 15 has been flagged as a coordinated day of school strikes by teenagers around the world. Let us hope that they will start a new movement to bring home the urgency for real action around the world, but particularly in Australia, to ensure that our children, grandchildren and all future generations do actually have a planet to live on! So, let us all support them – they surely deserve it.

The activities of the Swedish teenager Greta Thunberg over the last few months have been well reported overseas and to some extent in Australia. Her report to the UN conference on climate change in Katowice, Poland last December complemented that of Sir David Attenborough who spoke passionately, pointing out yet again that without real action to stop carbon emissions the world will face ‘the collapse of our civilisations and the extinction of much of the natural world.”

As the Guardian has so eloquently pointed out, we don’t always react in a rational way to such headlines or they engender unhelpful responses. They may be described as scare tactics by climate sceptics and often lead to strong messages from many of our current leaders that we must be careful not to do anything in relation to climate change that might harm the economy. Yet our children are telling us if we don’t act now we won’t have Planet Earth, let alone an economy! And they are very probably correct!

All Australians who care about the future of their descendants should listen to and read Greta Thunberg’s speech to the recent World Economic Forum in Davos. It is powerful stuff – but in the language of the future, that of our kids. Think about what she says – we are getting to the point of no return.

Health professionals have been leaders in the climate change debate for some time and groups such as The Lancet have produced a terrific series of articles on climate change and health, given that the greatest impact of climate change is on our own health and the health of the planet. The really important thing about these articles – and in fact much of the information about what we need to do to reduce the impact of climate change – is the positivity. It is about creating new ways of thinking, of behaving and new growth in industries and jobs, things that one would expect any forward-thinking government to embrace. And the articles emphasise that WE need to act NOW. We have 12 years according to last year’s report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which the vast majority of the worlds’ population have supported, to ensure that global warming can be contained. If we don’t act now, then we will reach a tipping point at which we will not be able to reverse our coming destruction. Is it really worth taking the risk?

Listen to Greta – think about what she is telling us and encourage your families to think about these issues and consider joining the students on their day of action on the 15th March. People of all ages must act now to save the planet.

Peter Brooks is an Honorary Professor in the Centre for Health Policy, Melbourne School of Population and Global Health. He has a long interest in health systems and has been involved with a number of climate action organisations.  He is a member of the Climate and Health Alliance (CAHA) –

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