“We are in the first place of the climate emergency. Sandy, Maria, Irma, Dorian - my fellow plaintiffs and I are directly affected every day. " Said Vic Barret: A 20-year-old plaintiff in Juliana v. United States, speaking at a press conference last week.
July 2019 was the hottest month on Earth on record. Five of the hottest years on record occurred between 2014 and 2018, and the world has already warmed by about 1 degree Celsius since the Industrial Revolution. Our best estimates suggest that we should avoid 1.5 degrees of warming to avoid widespread damage and suffering.
We know what is happening and we know how we got here. Like #ExxonKnew since 1970: Burning fossil fuels is overheating the world's oceans and atmosphere. We understand the problem. So why aren't we doing more about it?
That is what today's youth want to know. They understand that we need climate action now. Last week's climate strikers: people like Swedish activist Greta Thunberg, American Isra Hirsi, South African Qiniso Ngcobo; and all their classmates and friends - these young people are already treating the climate crisis for the emergency that it is.
What if the rest of us did the same?
Declaring a climate emergency is a necessary first step. It will make clear that we are not talking about an abstract future threat, but a crisis that is already here. And it will make it clear that the status quo is too dangerous. Climate models and action plans are always compared to the “business as usual” approach. But we can no longer afford business as usual.
For companies, that means changing the rules of engagement. As Patagonia CEO Rose Marcario wrote in a recent op-ed: "The truth is that capitalism needs to evolve if humanity is to survive." Patagonia stores were closed on September 20 in a show of solidarity with youth climate activists.
Marcario has long used the company's platform to elevate environmental action and nature-based solutions to climate change. As he told Grist at the Paris Climate Conference: "If we don't raise the bar, everyone accepts the ingrained status quo." There are dozens of reasonable and cost-effective solutions that create jobs. A strong economy and a stable climate need not be in opposition.
The big changes needed will still need strong government support, so there is no room in government for climate deniers, or delayers. As Thunberg, 16, said at a recent House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing, "I don't want you to listen to me, I want you to listen to scientists." I want you to stand behind the scientists and then I want you to take real action. "
It is a message that rings true for Marcario. As she writes, “We need our leaders to act on science and follow market forces: do their jobs and create policies that protect our planet and our communities. Our clients demand that we act: this generation of young people is not regressing and neither should we ”.