Who cares more about climate change? The young or the old?

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Abandoned tents and rubbish by today's young

If you have been watching COP26 you should have been impressed by Sir David Attenborough’s speech. The man is 95 years of age. He bounded up to the lectern and delivered a passionate and brilliant speech with the aid of visuals. Of course he is a professional so one might expect it but most men die at least 10 years before 95, so the speech was highly impressive.

It was in stark contrast to the speech of Greta Thunberg who blah, blah, blahed her way through her delivery. She was right, however. Far too much talk not enough walk. All mouth and no trousers is how you might describe the politicians so far. And I expect that after Cop26 there will be little change. They make pledges but how do you enforce their actions? And Russia and China didn’t turn up. India did turn up but they’ve made weak pledges. The greatest problem really is that people can make promises and leave the conference hall with applause and a smile on their face but what happens next? Not enough is the answer.

Abandoned tents and rubbish by today's young

Abandoned tents and rubbish by today’s young. Not an endorsement for their attitude to climate change. Photo: Paul Jacobs.

I remember the Paris conference with lots of smiling politicians. That has turned out to be a failure. Nowhere near enough is done to enforce pledges and commitments to make changes by the leaders. And the rest of the world should start applying sanctions to countries like China who simply are not participating. It’s time that people started to stop buying products made in China.

They hold the world to ransom with their cheap products. This fuels consumerism and waste, more plastic, more pollution. And they refuse to stop powering their country through burning coal. They want to continue to get an advantage over the rest of the world at the cost of damaging the planet. The rest of the world is too accepting of this. There needs to be serious criticism. The trouble is that China knows they can get away with doing these things like removing democracy from Hong Kong against the treaty they signed up to and to prepare for an invasion of Taiwan. To build islands in the Indian Ocean to strengthen their military forces in the area. They get away with it all because the world is too apathetic and because they are addicted to products manufactured in China. And they need access to the Chinese market place to sell their goods. Money rules as usual.

The old leaders among us are not doing very well; less than stellar in their performance. Jeopardising the future. It is today’s young, the future generations who will suffer. But how are today’s young doing in comparison?

Do you remember that picture after a music festival (see above)? The hordes of young attendees just got up and left leaving their tents and tons of rubbish behind. That is hardly an endorsement of how to live if you are concerned about global warming. The waste and the carelessness indicates an attitude which is the exact opposite to that which should be present in the minds of these young people.

And I have a strong sense that today’s young have been imbued with a sense of privilege and expectation that they should have those new trainers every six months or every year. That they don’t recycle although they might announce to the world that they are vegans and therefore are morally superior to those who eat meat.

It isn’t as simple as that. It seems to me that the elderly who are more inherently self-disciplined are doing more to curb climate change. Perhaps I’m being a grumpy old man but I sense that the young lack the self-discipline and stoicism required to bite the bullet and take the necessary steps and make the hard choices to commit to changing their lifestyles to stop global warming.

The Telegraph journalist called today’s youths “Generation Greenwash”. They’ve learned to buy everything from Amazon. Cheap products imported from China on ships burning diesel to pollute the atmosphere. Diesel vans to deliver the items to their front door. The cheapness encourages higher rates of consumerism and a throwaway culture.

I would argue that the elderly are imbued with a mend and repair culture. They are less likely to want to purchase objects and possess them. They are less likely to indulge in retail therapy.

The protesters outside the Cop26 conference were mainly today’s youths, I suspect. They are more vocal. But do they take the necessary action to make real change?


Cop 26 is going the way of previous conferences. Although the president of China isn’t there, his negotiating team is and their chief climate negotiator questioned the objective of limiting global warming to 1.5°C. He said that the target destroys consensus. What he is saying I believe is that other countries don’t believe that the 1.5°C is feasible. As it happens, Bill Gates does not think it is feasible either. So you can see how the targets are slipping already and this is a meeting where they insisted that actual steps should be taken. What is coming out of it is a slippage rather than a hardening up of the target and commitment.

Boris Johnson, the UK’s Prime Minister, said that two days of talks had given a “sense” of how the world could achieve the cuts needed in greenhouse gases. Great but it’s not much is it to simply have a sense of how to do it when they have been discussing this problem for 30 years. He was commenting on the fact that 103 countries have signed a deal to reduce methane emissions by 30% by the end of the decade. If the pledge is fully implemented-and I am highly sceptical that it will be-it could limit global warming by about 0.2°C by 2050.

Boris Johnson wants China to go further but rather pessimistically he believed that there “is a long way to go”. The leaders left COP26 yesterday and their negotiating teams will carry on over the remainder of the two weeks. President Biden has criticised President Xi of China for not attending. He said that “It’s been a big mistake, quite frankly, for China not showing up”. He said that the rest of the world is looking at China and asking “what value are they providing?”.

The methane agreement covers half of the top 30 major methane emitters. Methane can warm the atmosphere 80 times as fast as carbon dioxide but it breaks down more rapidly. The UN has calculated that cutting methane emissions by 45% by 2030 would prevent 255,000 deaths and 775,000 asthma-related hospital visits as reported by The Times newspaper.

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