'This Is Zero Hour': Youth-Led Marches Across the Globe Demand Immediate Climate Action
By Jake Johnson
Declaring that climate change is "an issue of survival" that must be confronted with urgency, young activists across the globe on Saturday kicked off three days of marches and demonstrations to pressure elected officials to "reject the corrupting monetary influence of fossil fuel executives," ban all new dirty energy developments, and safeguard the planet for both its current inhabitants and future generations.
"Climate change is our last chance to either fix colossal systems of inequality and emerge as a more efficient, better equipped society as a whole, or reach a chaotic state where your privilege ultimately decides if you live or die," said 16-year-old climate activist Ivy Jaguzny ahead of Saturday's events, which are expected to take place "in cities from Washington, DC to Butere, Kenya."
"This isn't something that's going to affect us 70, 80 years in the future," added Talia Grace, social media director for Zero Hour, the movement behind this weekend's mass actions. "This is going to affect us. Our futures, our careers, our lives."
Sick of inaction on climate change, youth are organizing the Zero Hour Climate March this Saturday to get dirty mon… https://t.co/pAnM5SY0ie— The Real News (@The Real News)1532124360.0
"This Is Zero Hour," the slogan and label of the worldwide marches, is aimed at clearly articulating the necessity of immediate and bold climate action as warming global temperatures continue to spark extreme weather events and wreak havoc, disproportionately inflicting irreversible harm on the poorest nations and most vulnerable communities.
- Respect the rights of Indigenous people;
- "Recognize the constitutional right of youth to a livable climate";
- Eliminate all fossil fuel subsidies "immediately"; and
- "Ban all new fossil fuel infrastructure and make massive investment in local solar and wind energy companies" in the coming years.
"Kids are suing the government, we're marching, we're lobbying, we're just pretty much just getting down and just begging them: Can I not have a world that's totally falling apart?" Jamie Margolin, a 16-year-old environmentalist, told the Huffington Post.
"Everything is on the line, so it's very hard to plan your future assuming that everything is going to be the same when you know it's not," Margolin added. "It's really scary, especially for a young person who is looking into what I want to do with my life ... I just want to have a world to grow up in where I can live my life and not have to worry about such existential fears."
Thank you to the young people leading the fight to put people over profits and transform our energy system away fro… https://t.co/0EDcSVeMYl— Bernie Sanders (@Bernie Sanders)1532193392.0
Early Saturday, speeches and marches began to kick off in Trafalgar Square in London:
Speeches are beginning! https://t.co/o4PSZzHKOt— This Is Zero Hour UK (@This Is Zero Hour UK)1532177350.0
Progressing to Parliament, see us join us! We are in Trafalgar Square for the next few minutes! #ZeroHourLondon https://t.co/Urufyn2f0o— This Is Zero Hour UK (@This Is Zero Hour UK)1532174612.0
500+ young people and allies marched from the National Mall to Lincoln Park in Washington DC to #protest climate ch… https://t.co/i7RFvon6bh— Lauryn Gutierrez (@Lauryn Gutierrez)1532201511.0
#ThisIsZeroHour Proud to join my son and other NYC youth in the fight to save our planet! https://t.co/yPBBqgUA5L— Amy Traub (@Amy Traub)1532187644.0
New York City:
NYC @ThisIsZeroHour #THISISZEROHOUR https://t.co/UZzhYmsWOd— Tim Guinee (@Tim Guinee)1532190072.0
The Youth Climate March, also dubbed the #ThisIsZeroHour march, is beginning on Grant Street in Downtown Pittsburgh… https://t.co/04u6C64IHj— Have yourself a Murray little Christmas (@Have yourself a Murray little Christmas)1532190082.0
Thank you @repdinatitus for your leadership in Congress to support environmental justice issues, and supporting… https://t.co/mndzPB09kb— Karl Catarata (@Karl Catarata)1532199498.0
This is the start of the @ThisIsZeroHour March heading to Justin Herman Plaza #YOUTHCLIMATEMARCH https://t.co/5dAl94bzL3— Silicon Valley North (@Silicon Valley North)1532201362.0
These kids are out here fighting for climate action. Will you support them? #YOUTHCLIMATEMARCH #ThisIsZeroHour #Vote https://t.co/7WVSZbBjgH— Trent Huntington (@Trent Huntington)1532197126.0
Reposted with permission from our media associate Common Dreams.
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The speed and scale of the response to COVID-19 by governments, businesses and individuals seems to provide hope that we can react to the climate change crisis in a similarly decisive manner - but history tells us that humans do not react to slow-moving and distant threats.
A Game of Jenga<p>Think of it as a game of Jenga and the planet's climate system as the tower. For generations, we have been slowly removing blocks. But at some point, we will remove a pivotal block, such as the collapse of one of the major global ocean circulation systems, for example the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC), that will cause all or part of the global climate system to fall into a planetary emergency.</p><p>But worse still, it could cause runaway damage: Where the tipping points form a domino-like cascade, where breaching one triggers breaches of others, creating an unstoppable shift to a radically and swiftly changing climate.</p><p>One of the most concerning tipping points is mass methane release. Methane can be found in deep freeze storage within permafrost and at the bottom of the deepest oceans in the form of methane hydrates. But rising sea and air temperatures are beginning to thaw these stores of methane.</p><p>This would release a powerful greenhouse gas into the atmosphere, 30-times more potent than carbon dioxide as a global warming agent. This would drastically increase temperatures and rush us towards the breach of other tipping points.</p><p>This could include the acceleration of ice thaw on all three of the globe's large, land-based ice sheets – Greenland, West Antarctica and the Wilkes Basin in East Antarctica. The potential collapse of the West Antarctic ice sheet is seen as a key tipping point, as its loss could eventually <a href="https://science.sciencemag.org/content/324/5929/901" target="_blank">raise global sea levels by 3.3 meters</a> with important regional variations.</p><p>More than that, we would be on the irreversible path to full land-ice melt, causing sea levels to rise by up to 30 meters, roughly at the rate of two meters per century, or maybe faster. Just look at the raised beaches around the world, at the last high stand of global sea level, at the end of the Pleistocene period around 120,0000 years ago, to see the evidence of such a warm world, which was just 2°C warmer than the present day.</p>
Cutting Off Circulation<p>As well as devastating low-lying and coastal areas around the world, melting polar ice could set off another tipping point: a disablement to the AMOC.</p><p>This circulation system drives a northward flow of warm, salty water on the upper layers of the ocean from the tropics to the northeast Atlantic region, and a southward flow of cold water deep in the ocean.</p><p>The ocean conveyor belt has a major effect on the climate, seasonal cycles and temperature in western and northern Europe. It means the region is warmer than other areas of similar latitude.</p><p>But melting ice from the Greenland ice sheet could threaten the AMOC system. It would dilute the salty sea water in the north Atlantic, making the water lighter and less able or unable to sink. This would slow the engine that drives this ocean circulation.</p><p><a href="https://www.carbonbrief.org/atlantic-conveyor-belt-has-slowed-15-per-cent-since-mid-twentieth-century" target="_blank">Recent research</a> suggests the AMOC has already weakened by around 15% since the middle of the 20th century. If this continues, it could have a major impact on the climate of the northern hemisphere, but particularly Europe. It may even lead to the <a href="https://ore.exeter.ac.uk/repository/handle/10871/39731?show=full" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">cessation of arable farming</a> in the UK, for instance.</p><p>It may also reduce rainfall over the Amazon basin, impact the monsoon systems in Asia and, by bringing warm waters into the Southern Ocean, further destabilize ice in Antarctica and accelerate global sea level rise.</p>
The Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation has a major effect on the climate. Praetorius (2018)
Is it Time to Declare a Climate Emergency?<p>At what stage, and at what rise in global temperatures, will these tipping points be reached? No one is entirely sure. It may take centuries, millennia or it could be imminent.</p><p>But as COVID-19 taught us, we need to prepare for the expected. We were aware of the risk of a pandemic. We also knew that we were not sufficiently prepared. But we didn't act in a meaningful manner. Thankfully, we have been able to fast-track the production of vaccines to combat COVID-19. But there is no vaccine for climate change once we have passed these tipping points.</p><p><a href="https://www.weforum.org/reports/the-global-risks-report-2021" target="_blank">We need to act now on our climate</a>. Act like these tipping points are imminent. And stop thinking of climate change as a slow-moving, long-term threat that enables us to kick the problem down the road and let future generations deal with it. We must take immediate action to reduce global warming and fulfill our commitments to the <a href="https://www.ipcc.ch/sr15/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Paris Agreement</a>, and build resilience with these tipping points in mind.</p><p>We need to plan now to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions, but we also need to plan for the impacts, such as the ability to feed everyone on the planet, develop plans to manage flood risk, as well as manage the social and geopolitical impacts of human migrations that will be a consequence of fight or flight decisions.</p><p>Breaching these tipping points would be cataclysmic and potentially far more devastating than COVID-19. Some may not enjoy hearing these messages, or consider them to be in the realm of science fiction. But if it injects a sense of urgency to make us respond to climate change like we have done to the pandemic, then we must talk more about what has happened before and will happen again.</p><p>Otherwise we will continue playing Jenga with our planet. And ultimately, there will only be one loser – us.</p>
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