Why are young people revolting and what can we do about it?

School children protesting
Young protesters call for action on climate change at the Cenotaph in Harrogate.

Fire! Fire! What would you do if you thought a building was on fire? Raise the alarm and try to save the building and the people inside, or turn your back and leave it to someone else to sort out?

The young climate strikers in the centre of Harrogate last Friday decided to sound the alarm, not to save a building and its occupants but to save a planet.

A year ago, a 15-year-old girl from Stockholm decided to stop going to school every Friday and instead protest outside the Swedish Parliament about inaction on climate change. Greta Thunberg’s simple action to alert others to the risk we are taking with our planet’s climate has sparked a global movement, with millions of young people protesting on “Friday’s for the Future”.

Last Friday’s sizable gathering at the Harrogate Cenotaph saw adults invited to join with the young people to protest, peacefully about the lack and pace of global climate action.

It’s easy to see why young people who feel that their fears about a viable future are not being heard, would want to take strike action.

Sophie Lee, one of the young demonstrators put it like this “I’m striking because we need to open up our eyes to the severity of the climate crisis”.

However, more direct action is needed not just protests. To offer a 66% chance of keeping global average temperatures below 1.5 degrees of warming we need to reach net zero carbon emissions by 2050, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, and the majority of those reductions need to happen in the next 10 years!

“We need radical change if we are to avoid the 6th mass extinction and the other catastrophic effects that come with a runaway climate”, says Sophie, Harrogate resident and Geography undergraduate.

Harrogate Borough Council and North Yorkshire County Council both committed to a zero carbon target earlier this year, as did the UK Government, and they are now in the process of drawing up plans detailing how this can be achieved.

For the Harrogate District, this means a reduction of 10% in greenhouse gas emissions annually, according to Prof Piers Forster,