This past week, there have been strikes worldwide for climate change. The protests were likely the largest climate protests in history. There were over 2,500 events scheduled across the globe in over 163 different countries. This article sites 350.org, an environmental advocacy group, that estimates the numbers in cities around the world on Friday. “There were 40,000 people striking in France; 2,600 in Ukraine; 5,000 in South Africa; 10,000 in Turkey; 5,000 in Japan; 100,000 in London; 330,000 in Australia; 250,000 in NYC; and 1.4 million in Germany.” Those numbers are just from scheduled events, so many more were unrecorded. All of this lead to Monday, September 23, for a United Nations summit in New York at which leaders around the world were invited to speak (if they came with action plans to cut carbon emissions). About 60 world leaders took part in this one-day meeting. This summit occurred at a time when the most recent science shows that the world is getting hotter faster. As this New York Times article states, the seas are rising rapidly, there are more intense hurricanes, longer droughts, and heat records being broken. The average global temperature is 1.1 degrees Celsius higher compared to the mid-19th century, and at the current pace, average global temperatures will be 3 degrees Celsius higher by the end of this century. The BBC (British Broadcasting Corporation) states that the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) said the amount of carbon dioxide going up into the atmosphere between 2015 and 2019 had grown by 20%, compared to the previous five years. This data comes after a similar meeting in 2015 in Paris in which all world leaders pledged their determination to curb emissions that were causing this global warming.
However, President Donald Trump has done the opposite and has encouraged fossil fuel use. In 2017, Trump withdrew from the Paris agreement from 2015. This withdrawal was expected, as explained in this article. During his election, Trump claimed multiple times that climate change was a hoax. When he took office, he proposed the America First Energy Plan, which would restimulate the U.S. fossil fuel industry. Additionally, he bagged many of President Obama’s climate policies. He cut the Clean Power Plan, and cut federal budget on climate change policies and researchers. Trump’s reasoning for leaving the Paris agreement was threefold. He felt that the agreement was harmful to the U.S. Economy and would lead to job losses, the goals would not have a strong impact on climate change, and that large developing countries made an unfair agreement against the U.S. Obviously, the United States’ departure from the Paris agreement was a huge topic in the strikes that took place nationwide. As we discussed in class, the functions of a state are a range between minimalist and interventionist. At a minimalist level, we agreed that states are expected to provide security for the state. This can be seen as a large area for debate for many people in the climate change conversation. Like Trump, some argue that providing security means not creating laws to limit small impacts on climate change that will have large impacts on the United States’ economy and jobs. However, I do not agree with this because if all countries worry about their own economies and jobs, then none will take action and the small impacts on climate change from each country will add up to the enormous consequences that we see today. I agree more with the other notion that the security provided by nations consists of creating change to limit carbon emissions. This is the side that climate activist Greta Thunberg addressed to the UN on Monday. In her speech, Thunberg, a Swedish 16-year-old, criticized leaders for conducting “business as usual” and only focusing on money and economic growth instead of future mass extinction and collapse of ecosystems.
While there was a good turnout in the strikes and strong remarks from Thunberg, there were only a few incremental promises made by countries. China made no promises to take stronger climate action, and the United Stated did not even speak at the summit. However, 65 countries did announce efforts to achieve net-zero emissions by the year 2050. This discussion of the UN and climate change poses the question, does the role of altering climate change fall under the function of a state? And if it does not, whose role is it? I believe that it is a minimalist function of the state to take action in global warming. However, I do understand that to do so would require many interventionist actions by the state, such as harsher regulations on business and higher standards that companies across the country must adhere to. Although the UN has had multiple summits and has taken a larger role in climate change, I believe that this solution can only be solved internally in countries. While many democratic countries have the opportunity to vote, I find it increasingly important for those countries to vote leaders in who will create change in global warming. And for nondemocratic countries, it is up to the leaders to take charge in doing what is best for the survival of not only their state, but the world.
Barclay, Eliza. “How Big Was the Global Climate Strike? 4 Million People, Activists Estimate.” Vox, 20 Sept. 2019, https://www.vox.com/energy-and-environment/2019/9/20/20876143/climate-strike-2019-september-20-crowd-estimate.
Sengupta, Somini, and Lisa Friedman. “At U.N. Climate Summit, Few Commitments and U.S. Silence.” The New York Times, 23 Sept. 2019. NYTimes.com, https://www.nytimes.com/2019/09/23/climate/climate-summit-global-warming.html.
“Thunberg to Leaders: ‘You’ve Failed Us on Climate.’” BBC News, 23 Sept. 2019. www.bbc.com, https://www.bbc.com/news/world-49795270.
Zhang, Yong-Xiang, et al. “The Withdrawal of the U.S. from the Paris Agreement and Its Impact on Global Climate Change Governance.” Advances in Climate Change Research, vol. 8, no. 4, Dec. 2017, pp. 213–19. ScienceDirect, doi:10.1016/j.accre.2017.08.005.