By ANAND JAUREGUILORDA, age 10
This December, young environmental activists from around the world will be joining representatives from 200 countries at the annual U.N. Climate Change Conference in Paris (COP21). Their goal is to create a concrete plan to limit the rise of global temperatures.
“If we don’t act fast, climate change will make things much worse in the future. This is why climate change is so important for young people,” said Andreas Sieber, who has been involved in environmental activism since he joined German Greenpeace Youth in 2007 at the age of 14. “Young people of today have to pay for today’s inaction when they are grown up, if we don’t act today.”
A U.S.-based group called SustainUS is also sending 23 youth delegates to the conference. Before COP21, young activists will gather at the Conference of Youth to debate and talk about their hopes for the meeting.
Every year, there is a climate conference; however, COP21 is especially important because the impacts of global warming are increasing. 2014 was the warmest year on record, and previous global agreements have run out. There has not been an international climate treaty since the Kyoto Protocol in 1997, to which the United States under the Bush administration refused to agree. The goal of this conference is for all the countries involved to sign a legal agreement to reduce or cap greenhouse gas emissions. The idea is to make sure that the global average temperature does not rise more than two degrees Celsius above what it was before the Industrial Revolution in the 1890s. The Industrial Revolution was when people first began to build machines, like steam engines and cotton spinning machines, and used many of them at a time in factories. These machines, powered by burning coal and wood, began adding pollution to the air. The Industrial Revolution also led to mass deforestation, a major contributor to global warming.
Climate scientists predict that even if global warming does not pass the two-degree mark, the world will still feel strong effects. Freshwater will disappear by 20 percent, there will be many more forest fires and the Arctic ice will be completely melted.
Young people will grow up in this climate-changed world and are not happy about it. For example, 21 children ranging in age from eight to 19 recently sued President Obama and his Cabinet for its inaction on climate change.
One of these youth activists is 15-year-old Xiuhtezcatl Martinez from Colorado. He has created his own website, Earth Guardians, and has spoken at more than 100 environmental rallies and conferences. He even raps about climate change. He will also be attending the COP21.
“We envision young people confidently stepping up to lead projects, campaigns, and collective actions,” said Martinez to the website Green Prophet. “This intergenerational movement is not waiting for others to take action.”
Deforestation: Clearing forests