info@delawareipl.org (405) 714-7612

Kiera Kyei-Mensah

St. Mark’s High School

Youth Climate Action

IT BEGINS WITH US: ECHOING THE VOICE OF THE YOUTH IN CLIMATE CHANGE

 

1.0 Introduction  

Today’s younger generation is being left on the sidelines when it comes to addressing the pressing issue of climate change. However, youth are one of the biggest contributors to the ongoing and apparent effects of climate change. From a teenager’s standpoint, the issue is brushed upon and oversimplified– action is required now. The limited view of the effects of climate change is directed at its impact on penguins, glaciers in Antarctica, or wildlife– which tends to downplay its effect on humankind. At the alarming rate of rising global temperatures and soaring amounts of commercial waste, efforts to combat the issue of climate change require collective action from the youth.  

2.0 Climate Change- An open-ended agenda  

Sometimes, the topic of climate change is a frequent point of conversation in schools, homes, and various other institutions. The message about climate change needs to be multiplied, but this cannot be done without grasping the effects of neglecting the issue. The topic of climate change is often communicated through conflicting messages, which could inspire or stifle individual and societal aspirations to make the right choices for positive action. The global opinion is also divided on whether climate change relates to the future or present generation. The world continues to witness how politicians craft climate change messages to reflect the economy, environment, morality, and political conflict only to gain political advantage. Again, climate change is framed as an environmental issue with little emphasis on its human-centeredness. However, in his recent encyclical, Laudato Si, Pope Francis raises concerns about the moral implications of climate change as it disproportionately affects the poor and vulnerable in society. The voice of the West holds sway over that of developing countries in deciding which direction to go, even though the latter bears the brunt of the catastrophic effects of climate change.  

Scientists locate the crisis within the Arctic region and make the polar bear the main wildlife of  concern. This image, together with the fact that the current discussion favors renewable energy  and environmental degradation and the harm caused to species, tends to remove humans from the  equation and make the fight against climate change counterproductive. 

3.0 Youth-Oriented Actions and Mobilization for Climate Action  

International conferences have witnessed active youth participation. Participation and demand for climate action have characterized youth activism at various international conferences. Youth view participation as a human rights issue that cuts across various levels of climate change. This includes governance, such as politics and policy, representative voices for youth-adult partnerships, correction of inequalities, and discrimination, and challenging the status quo while broadening the space for action. For example, the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) secretariat collaborates with youth-based groups to allow young people to be part of national delegates to climate change conferences. Interestingly, various youth groups absorb their own cost of participation.

In addition, young people are seen as agents of change by forging partnerships and demanding actions and solutions. In the area of adaptation, many youth groups embark on livelihood protection and environmental conservation through capacity building, youth entrepreneurship, and financing, using tools such as knowledge exchange, mobile farming, digital platforms, and video conferencing to achieve the desired goals. Millennials also “put their money where their mouth is” in directing their consumer spending. Their willingness to pay more for sustainable brands motivates the youth to partner with the corporate world, thereby encouraging responsible consumerism. This demonstrates the capacity of the youth to drive what is seen as corporate incentives toward Corporate Social Responsibility for sustainable consumerism. To address youth unemployment and promote quality jobs, the youth work alongside governments and the private sector to establish Green Jobs initiatives. This action counts as an added investment to limit global warming, making it possible for the creation of more jobs for the youth. Such partnerships culminate in training, coaching, and mentoring to prepare the youth for holding governments and allied agencies accountable. Furthermore, the youth have deployed digital platforms as tools for virtual climate change campaigns. For example, ICTs are being used by young people for monitoring climate change mitigation and adaptation projects and in recycling, and treatment of e-waste. In response to the Conference of Parties (COP) 21 commitments, the youth are taking advantage of Climate Innovation Centers to establish start-up businesses in sectors such as agriculture, wastewater treatment, and off-grid renewable energy to achieve the economic and environmental potential of promise. Globally, 80% of the youth participate in the implementation of Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) derived from the United Nations Development Program’s (UNDP) Climate initiative to help countries enhance their climate pledges under the Paris Agreement and build resilience for the protection of lives and livelihoods.  

4.0 My Delaware Climate Pact  

Every Delawarean must be committed to Delaware living to its alias of the “First State.” Accordingly, the most serious impacts of climate change in Delaware, namely rising sea levels, increased temperatures, and changes in precipitation patterns, which affect people, places, and resources, must be curtailed. Not only are Delawareans feeling the impacts now, but the Midcentury Sea level rise is projected at 9-23 inches and an additional 5 feet by 2100. It is no good news for temperature either since future projections put it at around 2.5-4.5 F degrees warmer by the middle of the century and 3.5-8 degrees F warmer by 2100. According to experts, heat stress will increase from 5-10 more days per year for the next two decades. Emissions from industrial settings, the transport sector, and non-compliance with energy efficiency standards and codes remain the main contributory factors to the current localized warming and that of the future. The issues of contaminated drinking water from flooding, sea level rise, salinity, precipitation, and storms are of great concern. This is why preventing tidal surges in Delaware Bay and Christiana after hurricanes is of utmost importance. The Delaware of the future should spare children the ordeal of being warned to get into the basement with buckets.  

A journey of a thousand miles begins with a step, so I will avail myself to be part of curbing this “highway to climate hell with our foot on the accelerator.” The writing is on the wall with experts warning that flooding will severely impact low-lying, low-income communities, citing Wilmington’s Southgate as a vulnerable community. I plan to target the youth in these communities to undertake tree planting and home gardening. Furthermore, I will partner with my school’s Environmental Club to raise awareness and advocate for them to attend climate change educational programs outside the classroom. Such empowerment will assist in reducing future inequalities and environmental conditions that spell doom for the poor and vulnerable in Delaware.  

I marvel at the vehicular traffic on the roads within the state and in alleys of the school compound signaling parents dropping off or picking up their children from school. Parents have not fully bought the idea of making Bus Rapid Transport work effectively in Delaware to reduce GHG emissions. This is an initiative I will undertake by advocating for at least 40% of residents in my community to sign up for Bus Rapid Transport. I will continue to advocate for Delaware State to include in its agenda the construction of specialized bus lanes to make this facility attractive for patronage.  

To prevent pollution of underground waters, rivers, and oceans, I will encourage people in my neighborhood and beyond to refrain from pouring used oil down the kitchen sink. Instead, such oils should be stored in separate containers to be disposed of appropriately. Every Delawarean should be wary of their carbon footprint. Although statewide measures are important, individuals need to make conscious decisions in reducing their carbon footprints. I would be mindful of this and get my family to do the same by curtailing the carbon footprints in transportation, housing, and food.  

Finally, I will advocate for the establishment of a Network of Youth for Climate Change Champions in Delaware to monitor the implementation status of the Delaware Climate Action Plan through a partnership with the Environmental Club at my school. This will be my voice.  

5.0 Conclusion  

This essay has spelled out the confusion surrounding the climate change domain because of the oversimplification of the underlying science and the inconsistencies in tailoring communication messages to the larger audience. In all this, the youth remains an important force in the fight against climate change as they call for space in the ongoing climate change discourse regarding policy change, political action, and scaled climate solutions. Delaware is becoming less stable as climate change takes its toll because of rising sea levels, increased temperatures, and changes in precipitation patterns which affect various spheres of life. I, being wary of the consequences in my home state of Delaware, have proposed several solutions to guard the future course of action. The younger generation, communities, and government must come together with effective collaborative strategies to better our future.  Works Cited 

https://theclimatecommsproject.org/visual-communication-the-role-of-effective-imagery-in-publi c-engagement-with-climate-change/  

https://www.adaptationclearinghouse.org/resources/climate-change-and-the-delaware-estuary-thr ee-case-studies-in-vulnerability-assessment-and-adaptation-planning.html  

https://documents.dnrec.delaware.gov/energy/Documents/Climate/Plan/Delaware-Climate-Actio n-Plan-2021.pdf