The social movement against policies and companies that destroy the environment and cause climate change is gaining ground globally. Since 2018, protests have been mounted every Friday under the campaign #FridaysForFuture. The participation of children and the youth, especially students, in these protests is notable.
The biggest protests, participated in by approximately six million youth across the globe through various forms of mobilizations, were launched on September 20-27 this year. More than one million marched in Italy. Mobilizations were also mounted in New Zealand, the Netherlands and Spain. Citizens from Indonesia, South Korea, Taiwan and others also stood up against climate change. The protests were a response to the call of Greta Thunberg, a 16-year-old student from Sweden, to mount a united protest against her government in 2018.
The Extinction Rebellion, a non-violent campaign for civil disobedience, was launched in the United Kingdom on October 7. Consequently, 1,500 rallyists were arrested in London, 92 of whom were slapped with various criminal charges. Similar protests were also conducted in other countries.
In the Philippines, 600 youth and students of UP Diliman marched last September 20. They mounted an earth-shaped formation to symbolize that the youth will inherit the planet’s destruction. The march was spearheaded by the Youth Advocates for Climate Action Philippines, Agham Youth and the Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment.
What is climate change?
Climate change refers to changes in the climate system due to the rise in the temperature of the earth’s atmosphere. Among its manifestations are the accelerating sea level rise, frequent and extreme changes in the weather pattern, warm temperature and heavy rains. It also takes the form of typhoons, landslides, floods and drought among others.
These changes affect plants, animals and especially human beings. The natural habitat of animals are engulfed by fire or destroyed.
Based on the Global Climate Index, 526,000 people have been killed by more than 11,500 extreme weather events from 1998 to 2017. These resulted in the destruction of farmlands, produce and properties worth $3.4 trillion.
Philippines has been listed as the fifth most vulnerable country to climate change. It has been hit by 307 extreme weather events in the same period, majority of which are strong typhoons. This resulted in the destruction of properties worth $3 billion. Worst among these are typhoon Yolanda (international name: Haiyan, 2013), Pablo (Bopha, 2012) and Ondoy (Ketsana, 2009). Due to its backward economy, the people are reliant on food and other resources that are vulnerable to natural disasters.
A report by the Climate Accountability Institute this October identified the top 20 companies that contribute significantly to climate change. Majority of these are multinational energy companies which emit greenhouse gases (carbon dioxide and methane). The top companies include Chevron, ExxonMobil and Shell. Also among the list are state-owned Saudi Aramco and PetroChina. In sum, these companies have emitted 480 billion tons of greenhouse gases (35% of the total global emission) since 1965.
The Union of Concerned Scientists exposed that the US is historically the top contributor of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere (17%). It has only been overtaken by China in 2011. In 2016, the US and China were listed as the most environment-destructive countries together with India, Russia, Japan and Germany.