“If we students do not have a future, then why do we need to go to school now?”
So said Chang Ting-wei (張庭瑋), a student at Heng Yee Catholic High School who on Sunday attended a news conference organized by several environmental groups.
The campaigners are urging Taiwanese students to skip school and join the Global Climate Strike For Future on May 24 to demand concrete action from adults and the government on climate change.
Chang’s statement — and his belief that he might have “no future” — perfectly encapsulates a worrying global trend toward climate alarmism, which is drowning out calm and considered debate.
While nobody would doubt the sincerity of the campaigners and students involved — and while there is a consensus among scientists that global warming poses a significant threat — is it wise, or even responsible, for adult campaigners to encourage children to skip classes in imitation of Swedish teenage climate advocate Greta Thunberg and the Extinction Rebellion movement in the UK?
Furthermore, does the central argument of the Global Climate Strike For Future movement — that adults and governments have not done enough to address climate change — hold true?
The Extinction Rebellion movement, which last month staged several days of disruptive protests in London, is a good place to start. The movement, launched in May last year, has made three demands of the UK government: to declare a climate and ecological emergency, enact legally binding measures to reduce carbon emissions to net zero by 2025 and create a national “citizens’ assembly” responsible for making climate-related policy decisions.
Perhaps the first demand is necessary and proportionate, but it is mindlessly optimistic, to say the least, for the UK — the sixth-largest economy in the world — to eliminate greenhouse gas emissions within six years. It would require the shutting down of swathes of industry, the loss of thousands of jobs and would probably crash the economy too. As for the “citizens’ assembly” idea, the UK has one already: It is called the House of Commons.
What of the argument, advanced by Thunberg, that adults and governments are not doing enough? How does the evidence stack up in the case of the UK — but also Taiwan?
In the case of the UK, according to analysis of the latest available data from UK-based Web site Carbon Brief, UK carbon emissions peaked in 1973 and have since fallen by approximately 38 percent since 1990, faster than in any other major developed nation.
The British government is also investing more than US$3.28 billion into research and development to help it achieve targeted reductions in carbon dioxide emissions, and coal-generated power is to be phased out by 2025.
One could argue that the Extinction Rebellion, by focusing on the UK, is barking up the wrong tree. China emits more greenhouse gases than any other country; good luck trying to hold a similar protest in Beijing.
As for Taiwan, President Tsai Ing-wen’s (蔡英文) administration is working to shift the nation’s energy supply toward renewable energy and has set itself a target of increasing the supply of renewable energy from 4.9 percent in 2017 to 20 percent by 2025, focusing on offshore wind energy.
Taiwan has its own unique set of priorities and environmental factors. The challenge of operating nuclear power safely in a major earthquake zone is a case in point for why advocates and students should think carefully before jumping on the latest global bandwagon and instead work toward developing a Taiwanese solution to this global problem.
Let us deal in facts, not emotions. Anything less does a disservice to the young and spreads unnecessary panic.
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