Last Friday, the 3rd of March 2023, people all over the world took to the streets again in yet another global climate strike. I only learned about the strike four days in advance and was happy to discover that this time Christa, a German exchange student in biophysics, had taken the initiative to organize a climate strike in Tromsø. I offered her my help and together we managed to spread the word and even spontaneously organize some sound equipment so that we could have speeches and shout some chants. It was a great atmosphere during the strike and I think we managed to be seen and heard. Last week’s experience showed me once more how with openness and dedication great things can be achieved in a short amount of time.
Here is the speech I wrote for the global climate strike in Tromsø. I hope that it can inspire you to keep up your efforts or take a first step today. Below you find some great photos from the strike.
Global climate strike, 3rd March 2023, Tromsø
Our world is changing. Human emissions of heat trapping greenhouse gases have already warmed our planet on average by about 1.26°C to date. That may not sound like much to you, but let me put that number into context. Why do a few degrees temperature increase matter?
The well known 2°C of global warming sound much more threatening if we realize that the global average temperature during the last ice age was only up to 6°C colder than in preindustrial times. Most of the heat trapped on Earth by the enhanced greenhouse effect is taken up by our oceans, affecting their ecosystems and leading to sea level rise. Another part of the true temperature rise is not felt yet, because air pollution currently cools down our climate. The 1.26°C are also not distributed equally across the globe, but the Arctic is warming much faster than the global average. The Arctic sea ice, glaciers and permafrost are melting rapidly with global consequences.
Climate change is not a future problem. Extreme weather events have already increased in severity and frequency around the globe. Heat waves, wild fires, floods and droughts have become quite regular news. Some of the tipping points of our climate system have already been reached, such as the complete meltdown of the tropical glaciers. Others will likely be reached in the next few years, like the complete loss of warm water coral reefs. Once a tipping point is reached, that part of our climate system is out of our control. If we do not manage to stay well below 2°C many more tipping points may be reached and we will lose control. That scares me a lot.
Our world is changing but we have not yet lost control. We are the ones heating up the planet by our emissions of greenhouse gases. We therefore have it in our hands to stop this. But we are running out of time. If we continue to emit at currents rates the remaining carbon budget will be used up in about 9 years and 1 month. In about 9 years and 1 month, that is in April 2032, we will probably hit the 1.5°C which governments promised to avoid when signing the Paris Agreement. That is unless within that time we manage to bend the emissions curve steep down. Time is running out.
Our world is changing, whether we like it or not. Too many people, and those in power in particular, refuse to make changes and hope that thereby all will stay the same. That is an erroneous belief. Our world is changing already. But we have it in our hands to shape that change today. The decisions we make today will fundamentally impact our future and the future of those to come after us. That is a great responsibility and we can’t leave that responsibility to the politicians and fossil fuel concerns alone. Every one of us is responsible. Today we choose the future we want. With every decision we make.
So, what future do we want to have? When people talk about the changes needed today, they usually focus on what behavior we need to abandon. But that doesn’t give us a perspective nor a desire for the future. I believe that we should not focus on what we would lose, but what we would gain by honest and bold climate protection. Let me paint a positive image today. Imagine a world in which we embrace that we are dependent on the well-being of our planet, in which we protect and support biodiversity because we know that we can only thrive in a thriving ecosystem. Imagine a world in which we accept that our planet has limit resources and build a system that values and recycles those resources. Imagine a world in which we do our best to keep our oceans free of plastic and our rivers clean, knowing that we are dependent on the water. Imagine that we, who live in developed countries, realize and admit that our way of living has caused great damage and help those, who have contributed to climate change the least but are affected the worst, to build non-polluting infrastructures and adapt to climate change. Imagine your city would dedicate space for people to walk, bike and live instead for cars to park. Imagine our children would grow up in cities that are safe to play in and the air is healthy to breathe. Imagine our cities would be more resilient to extreme weather events because we allow nature in our cities to take up excess water after floods and cool down the city during heat waves. Imagine we as humanity faced an existential crisis but succeeded to turn the tide last minute. Does that sound to you like a future worth fighting for?
Our world is changing, but today we choose the future we want. With every decision we make. So how can you and me work towards that future today? Here are what I consider the four most important steps anyone can take:
1. Vote. Even if the politics needed are not represented by any party, your vote tells the politicians that you are willing to accept the changes needed.
2. Before you buy anything, try to pause for a moment and think: Do I really need this? Is there a better alternative? Can I get this used? This is not about restricting yourself, but making conscious decisions.
3. Almost every aspect of our lives can be done more sustainable and that can be very overwhelming. Start where it is easiest to you and grow from there.
4. Make climate change a topic. Speak about it at work, in classes, at home. Attend climate strikes and spread awareness.
Today people all around the world take to the streets to demand honest climate action that keeps us in a world of well below 2°C of warming. We are loud and visible to show that we want to shape the change today, because tomorrow is too late. Our world is changing, but we can change it for the better.