Role of youth to combat climate change

By MJ Jha, Coordinator, Asia Pacific Young Green Network (APYGN)

Climate change is one of the most critical global challenges of our times. Recent events have emphatically demonstrated our growing vulnerability to climate change. Climate change impacts range from affecting agriculture, further endangering food security, to sea-level rise and the accelerated erosion of coastal zones increasing the intensity of natural disasters, species extinction, and spread of vector-borne diseases. Climate Change is recognized today as the greatest environmental challenge, threatening to affect all spheres of our lives and will leave behind severe catastrophic effects if not dealt with the right action.

According to a senior Would Bank Officeial “The world is headed "down a dangerous path" with disruption of the food system possible within a decade as climate change undermines nations' ability to feed themselves”. Rising urban populations are contributing to expanded demand for meat, adding to nutrition shortages for the world's poor. Increased greenhouse gas emissions from livestock as well as land clearing will make farming more marginal in many regions, especially in developing nations. "The challenges from waste to warming, spurred on by a growing population with a rising middle-class hunger for meat, are leading us down a dangerous path.

Youth could play a crucial role in combating climate change. The young generation inhabits the Earth and inherits the responsibility to protect the planet, in fighting the complex scientific problems and social quandaries presented by climate change. Youth education represents one of the most effective tools to combat the destructive potential of climate change and cultivate an international understanding among members of the next generation since it is a long-term process that will impact an infinite number of future generations.

Young people who can adept at spreading new habits and technologies are well placed to contribute to the fight against climate change. Youth are adaptable and can quickly make low-carbon lifestyles and career choices as a part of their daily lives. And it is the youth of the country who have to do this, as they are the ones who are going to suffer the most in the future from the consequences of global warming. It is this youth population which will determine the future direction of world. But before the youth gets ready to take concrete steps they need to be educated and made aware about what is global warming and what needs to be done to prevent it.

Change on the scale necessary to confront climate change over a long period of time can only be achieved through a cultural paradigm-shift across the world, taking in changes in lifestyle expectations, changes in the way we imagine and treat our world, and changes in the way we communicate and act upon this urgency, across political and cultural frontiers, at a non-governmental level. It is by building international, intercultural and intergenerational relationships that underpin cultural change that will support the global efforts for a more sustainable future. Working effectively and on a very large scale with young people, the demographic key to the future is essential to overcome barriers to progress on this global challenge. Unless we chart a new course, we will find ourselves staring volatility and disruption in the food system in the face, not after 50 years, not after 20-30 years, but potentially within the nextdecade. Thus our focus has to turn to so-called "climate-smart agriculture", which contributes to increased productivity of crops, less wastage and a smaller climate change impact.

More efforts must be made to insure that young people are ready to take advantage of new environment oriented employment opportunities. Growing attention to climate change and sustainable development offers an ideal opportunity for green economic growth around the world. Green jobs not only provide much needed employment opportunities for youth, they also give young people an outlet to contribute directly to the fight against climate change by adopting green behaviors in the workplace as well as in their private lives.

No one can remain untouched by this global challenge. We are bound to face the severe consequences of climate change unless and until we take strict measures to curb global warming. We need to bring about a change to prevent such disastrous consequences from taking place. Youth should therefore be given a chance to take an active part in the decision- making of local, national and global levels. They can actively support initiatives that will lead to the passage of far-reaching legislation. A demarcated role should be given to the youth to prevent the impact of climate change. It is also essential to conduct major studies among youth regarding awareness about climate change as well as role of youth in combating climate change. This issue is of immense importance for every global citizen. Hence it requires an initiative against it globally.

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