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What does climate change mean to young people?

Climate change is a global problem, and is set to hit the youngest hardest, particularly in developing states.

With the help of Louisa Casson at the UK’s Youth Climate Coalition and the CliMates Network, RTCC features five young people from across the world to explain what climate change means in their own countries, why the IPCC’s latest climate science report is important, and how they are responding.

Antoine Ebel, 22, France

The IPCC’s 5th Assessment Report (AR5) doesn’t change much. It confirms what we already knew – human activities have a catastrophic influence on our climate. Whether we are 90 or 95% certain of that is mostly irrelevant.

This does not mean, of course, that the Assessment Reports are useless – far from it. But if you leaf through the first four Reports (AR1, published in 1990, is older than I am!), you quickly realize that the bulk of the science, of the evidence, has not changed. We’ve seen this crisis coming from miles and miles away and we could have saved ourselves a lot of trouble by reacting stronger and earlier. .

Our duty as young people is to highlight the solutions, imagining, describing and starting to build a climate-friendly world that people will want to live in – demonstrating that climate change is also a chance to start things fresh, re-think and re-build our societies on  more solid and sustainable bases. In France, the main opportunity to move things in the next few years will be the hosting of COP21 in 2015, in Paris.

I also think that we need to realize, as a country, that climate change is affecting us too: not all the lessons have been learned from extreme events like the summer of 2003, when an exceptional heat wave killed  15,000 in France alone – mostly ageing and vulnerable people. We’re not just being “charitable” to small islands and polar bears when we reduce our emissions; we’re also keeping our “modèle social” alive.

Alexandra Gavilano, 24, Peru

In Peru, climate change is noticeable by various changes in the local weather. In the highlands of the Andean mountains, heavy rains called “huaico” by the local people, with never-seen-before tennis ball sized hailstones, destroy the houses and infrastructure of the small towns.

But the rain doesn’t stay in the mountains. In February, the city of Trujillo was partially flooded, shutting down the electricity and infrastructure in parts of the city. Parts of the “Chan Chan” sandstone ruins were destroyed. Rain now falls in an area that was distinct for centuries for its dry and hot weather.

It’s interesting that a lot of youngsters in Peru, either in universities or doing art on the street, want to make a change, but feel stopped by the national government, which has shown heavy threats with military forces against people standing up against governmental interests.

Although the COP20 meeting will take place in Peru in 2014, it would be wishful thinking for all nations of the world to really give indigenous people, the youth, the poor and all the of us a voice at the talks. So let’s raise our voices to show these powerful people that we are standing right behind them, and are happy to help them to give our future a chance.

Sara de la Serna, 26, UK

For me, as a local catalyst with the UK Youth Climate Coalition, the IPCC report is and should be a reference point for decision makers, providing a solid and balanced scientific background to climate change.

But it also motivates my action as an individual, in my community and among friends and colleagues. I’m part of a group of young people around the UK taking action in their communities and motivating people to get involved in more sustainable ways of life.

Our activities are spread across very different areas, with some of my fellow volunteers focusing on education – like campaigning for the inclusion of climate change in the curriculum, raising awareness, motivating and empowering youth to take action – but also working on divesting from fossil fuels in local institutions, promoting a green economy focused on low carbon industry, and enhancing the use of locally grown sustainable food…

These are just some examples of how we understand that change can start to enact the vision of a sustainable future.

Yves Tuyishime, 27, Rwanda

Africa is one of the most vulnerable continents to climate change and has lower adaptive capacity. Most African economies depend on agriculture - and changing weather threatens African agriculture.

It is obvious that Africa is not being affected by emissions “made in Africa”. Africa’s share to global emissions is relatively small compared to emissions from developed world.

No matter how much mitigation effort Africa puts in, it remains insignificant unless industrialised countries do something. Therefore, we are calling for action by developed countries.

What I like most about the release of new IPCC report is the fact that it proves scientifically that climate change is manmade. I believe that it is going to make decisionmakers change the way they see climate change, and hence engage them to act.

Neeshad V S, 26, India

The implications of the IPCC report are of utmost importance to India as well as the rest of the world.

Climate change impacts can be seen on various sectors across Asia, including India. The frequency of more intense rainfall events in many parts of Asia has increased, causing severe floods, landslides, debris and mud flows, while the numbers of rainy days have decreased.

With over 400 LEED-certified buildings and many states adopting the Energy Conservation Building Code (ECBC), India continues to make strides in reducing its carbon emissions. India can also create a low-carbon development path by shifting to clean energy. Progress made to achieve India’s National Solar Mission is one example of the way forward, though much more needs to be done to continue India’s rapid growth sustainably.

This undeniable evidence of human-caused warming and the catastrophic results of inaction should spur the world’s largest and oldest democracies into seizing this urgent opportunity for cooperation.

Lorena Terrazas, 30, Bolivia 

The impacts of climate change particularly affect the young, women and indigenous communities, whose land has been contaminated by fossil fuel extraction. Faced with such a situation, young indigenous people in Bolivia have come together in defence not only of their own land, but also of Mother Earth.

Politically, Bolivia considers that it does not pollute on a large scale since large industries do not exist within our borders. But the government is not considering the high level of national deforestation, which accelerates global warming and contributes to changing weather patterns and natural disasters.

Internationally we need coherence between our national policies and how we fight for the environment and for the protection of the forests at an international level within the UNFCCC.

In this respect, young people are very critical of the current situation, as we ask for civil society’s proposals for adaptation and mitigation to be taken into account. Furthermore, we ask for measures to be taken regarding the private sector at the same time as for the public sector.

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