Students Walk Out and Demand Climate Justice
Like most of the couple hundred young people rallying at the State House Monday morning, I have never experienced a month with globally-averaged surface temperature below the 20th Century mean.
So while Governor Deval Patrick’s Global Warming Solutions Act is without a doubt excellent legislation, we young people need more. What we need from the Governor—and we will be strong supporters as he considers elected office again down the road—is a ban on new fossil fuel infrastructure.
The Commonwealth has done better than other states in reducing its climate footprint. We have ranked squarely in the number one spot on the efficiency scoreboard for three years running. Cost savings are in the billions. We have gone from 34 megawatts of renewable energy in 2007 to an expected 600 sometime this year. Clean energy job figures approach 80,000. The latest data show greenhouse gas emissions have dropped 11 percent since 1990. At the same time, the economy has grown nearly 70 percent—proving that a productive economy and emissions reductions are perfectly compatible. All this and still we gripe? From our perspective, we have no choice.
The International Energy Agency (IEA) publishes a yearly World Energy Outlook report. Back in 2011, the IEA team gave a clear warning about what was necessary to hold global warming to 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit), the temperature threshold agreed upon under the Copenhagen Accord and reaffirmed since. They said that at current trends, emissions to take the planet above the dangerous 2 degree mark would be “locked-in” by 2017, and we could build no new carbon emitting infrastructure. And that would only give us a fifty-fifty shot of staying below 2 degrees. Worse still, the IEA was writing about the entire globe—China and India have the same deadline.
Massachusetts not meeting this goal would mean that one of the wealthiest states in the richest country in the world (a country responsible for fully one quarter of total greenhouse gas emissions) cannot meet what the science has shown necessary at a global level. Since the Copenhagen Accord said we should hold to 2 degrees based on “science and equity,” Massachusetts not meeting the goal would be a failure and a deep betrayal to our poorest fellow humans who have contributed so little to this problem. It would also be a barbaric case of intergenerational injustice.
On Monday, we young people demonstrated our conviction. Our resolve only grows as more of us become aware that we are fighting not just for the poorest and youngest, but also for our own future. We hope that Governor Patrick does the right thing. We young folks would like to support a true climate champion running for president.
Bobby Wengronowitz is a member of Students for a Just and Stable Future and a Ph.D. student in sociology at Boston College.