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Climate change future

14 October 2019
Adam Spencer, University of Sydney’s Maths and Science Ambassador, discusses the climate change strikes
I’m sure I’m not alone in celebrating a little milestone in our family since the last edition of Science Alliance. My elder daughter, 14 year old Ellie, joined the hundreds of thousands of school children around the world in attending the climate strike.

She marched in Sydney and while I’m sure the lure of a day off school attracted more students than, say, if the climate strike had been held at 5am on a Sunday, I can’t question the genuineness of her and her friends’ conviction on this topic.

Watching her come to terms with the issue – the journey from having never heard about climate change, to seeing the occasional headline, to asking dad “What’s all this about?”, to being terrified, sometimes by excessively apocalyptic scenarios, to being overwhelmed, but now to being informed and energised – has been wonderful to watch.

Don't get me wrong, I wish it wasn’t the dire predictions about the warming trend and its potential impact on our ecosystems that was the major issue of her time. I’d give anything for her to be caught up in the 'Life Be In It' movement of my youth that tried to encourage a chubby guy called Norm to put down the television remote and walk to the shops, or the 'Do pop songs contain satanic messages backwards, encouraging kids to do drugs and injure their parents?' meme that was massive in the late 70s. But this is the big issue that presents itself today and I’m inspired that she is on board.

The work of Greta Thunberg is pivotal here and to her detractors I say that if I’m going to take the word of a passionate, informed teenager who is quoting the overwhelming majority of the world’s scientists who work in this field, or a 70 year old guy who was an awesome footballer in his day and signs his tweets #ClimateChangeHoax … yeah I’m comfortable with my decision.

This doesn’t mean children can’t learn more about science and the role of the media in debating scientific issues by examining the coverage of climate change with a questioning eye. Suggestions that there will be no humans alive on Earth by 2 January 2030 are plainly wrong. But asking if this is really what the science is saying and whether refuting this point alone is enough to discredit those who are concerned about this problem, is healthy in and of itself.

If a few more of the people making the big decisions in this field had the energy and passion of some of these 16 year old kids walking through the streets, I don’t think that would be a bad thing. Here’s to the future … their future.