Earlier this week I wrote a blog here accusing children who were planning to take part in today’s Youth4Climate march of wanting to play truant. I realise now that I may have been a little harsh on them. Having read and heard what they have been saying and posting this morning, I fear that some of them at least may be suffering from trauma. They are victims of the hyperbole they have been fed constantly ever since they were born.
Here, for example, is 10 year old Zane: 'The reason I climate strike is because the Earth is burning before our very eyes'. According to Hannah, from Birmingham, 'there is no point in going to school if we have no future'. Lottie tells BBC Breakfast 'if we don’t strike now then we are getting educated for a future that we don’t know is going to exist in the way it does now'.
These are quite disturbed statements. There are children who really do seem to think they, along with the rest of humanity, are about to die as a result of climate change – an irrational fear with no basis in science. The IPCC’s projections of global surface temperature rises by the end of century produce a range from 0.3 Celsius and 4.8 Celsius, while its median projection of sea level rise is 0.3 metres and 1 metre. The upper end of that temperature range (a very low probability) would present a significant challenge for adaptation in some countries, but would hardly be fatal to civilisation.
But then is it really any wonder that many children have developed an apocalyptic vision of the near future? An 18 year old today would have been three years old when the film The Day After Tomorrow was launched, showing western cities being simultaneously frozen and engulfed with floodwaters. They would have been five years old when schools started to show children Al Gore’s film An Inconvenient Truth -- which sought to blame every adverse weather event on climate change, as if we did not previously have hurricanes. There would have been eight years old when the The Age of Stupid came out – bizarrely billed as a documentary even though it showed cities being flooded, and Las Vegas disappearing under sand in the year 2055.
I know full well the traumatising power of watching frightening films at an impressionable age. When I was six I was taken to the cinema to see a film called Lost in the Desert, in which a small South African boy is taken for a plane ride by his Uncle Pete. Some way into the flight, Pete clutches his chest, the plane crashes and the boy has to survive alone, tackling snakes, scorpions and what have you. Never mind the snakes, it was the clutching the chest bit which caught my imagination – and I spent the rest of my childhood, and some way into adulthood, paranoid about suffering a heart attack. That is what climate change alarmism has done to today’s kids: traumatised them.
As with so many of these marches, the exact demands of the children’s march are unclear – it is just a great big noise. But here are some things for them to reflect on. Firstly, it is plainly not true that adults are somehow ignoring climate change. Huge efforts are going into decarbonising electricity, transport and all the rest – carbon emissions from electricity generation in Britain, for example, have fallen by more than half in seven years. Why can’t we go faster? Because cheap energy, available when we need it, is the root of industrialisation, which has improved our lives beyond measure over the past 200 years. If you think a warmer world would be frightening, imagine a world without a reliable source of food, where hunger was a normal experience for most people at times of the year, without modern medicine, where 15 in every 100 children never lived to see their first birthday, where the focus of life is on simple existence rather than any form of pleasure. That is a world without cheap energy – and it is one from which around a fifth of the world’s population are still emerging. In time, and with technology, we will decarbonise the world – that is certain. But cut off fossil fuels tomorrow and we will be condemning the world’s population to a far worse fate than a slightly warmer world.
That is what teenagers would have learned, had they had a balanced education on the subject.