In recent years, climate change has come to the forefront of global political discourse. However, the increased warnings from climate scientists and worldwide protest movements have not resulted in the worldwide political movement required to limit global warming and its potentially disastrous consequences. Why is this and how can these problems be rectified?

It is clear that we need to take a global approach to successfully combat the progress and effects of climate change, but as the Paris Agreement has shown, this can be incredibly difficult to execute. Many people often wonder why our leaders continue to ignore the threat posed to the entire population by further global warming, despite the ever more frightening reports from the scientific community. The reality is this: western governments are unwilling to risk their economies with policies that could help solve climate change without guarantees that others will follow suit and developing nations have far more immediate concerns, such as eliminating widespread poverty and building infrastructure. It is easy to see how these factors lead to hesitation among world leaders, but they don’t explain the complete failure to act on climate change in a significant way across the entire world.

The truth is that our economies are built on ideals and policies that are simply incompatible with tackling climate change effectively. Our individualistic, profit-driven economies facilitated by consumerist lifestyles demands an ever-increasing supply of goods and services that can only be achieved through the burning of fossil fuels. It is easy to simply put the blame on those in power, focusing on their own short term aims in order to stay in power, rather than policies for a distant future but we also have a part to play in this crisis. This has created a great left-right split in opinions on climate change and this is just one example of global issues being politicised on a national scale for personal political gain. Huge demonstrations that receive media attention, such as the recent Extinction Rebellion, only serve to further the image of climate change as a left-wing hoax to support their policies. Protests are vital to bring attention to issues like climate change but can be easily misconstrued, especially by powerful climate change denialists.

So, how should we proceed now? Public demonstrations are crucial to raise awareness and stimulate discussions, but they must go further, with clear evidence and policies that can then be discussed in governments. The #schoolstrike4climate is a great opportunity for young people to voice their concerns but these demonstrations alone are not enough to force the hands of the people in power. Global warming is a concern that requires long term planning, radical political and economic policy changes and these will almost definitely involve more state influence than capitalist democracies are accustomed to. However, it poses an existential threat to us as a species. In this way, climate change may be the issue that finally reveals the extent to which our political and economic systems need to change to face the consequences of globalisation.

Written by Emma Guo

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