Everyone loves children. They’re the best part of a better world to come. Unfortunately, kids are clueless about both the world as it is and the means to improve it. That’s why they’re sent to school to learn rather than teach. However, climate-change activists have managed to short-circuit the educational process and fashion millions of “green” greenhorns raring to fight for a decarbonized global economy. Sensible adults should step forward and gently disabuse misguided minors of the notion that the world is about to go up in smoke. It’s not.
Teenage “climate leader” Greta Thunberg led a children’s crusade into the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Madrid last week, intent on hectoring world leaders over their failure to cut greenhouse gas emissions claimed to be crucial to prevent climate cataclysm. For the bold activism that brought her from picketing Parliament in her native Sweden to become the world’s most famous environmentalist virtually overnight, Time magazine named her “Person of the Year.”
The 16-year-old high school dropout topped with a girlish braid pleaded with thousands of policymakers and fellow climate activists to settle for nothing short of solid commitments to limit atmospheric carbon dioxide in order to keep its blanketing effect from raising global temperatures above the U.N. ceiling of 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.
“Why is it so important to stay below 1.5 degrees?” she queried rhetorically of the conferees before answering her own question: “Because with even one degree, people are dying from the climate crisis. Because that is what the united science calls for to avoid destabilizing the climate.”
It was quite a grown-up performance, and one emboldening other young ideologues to take their own stand against the supposed depredations of modern civilization. At one point, dozens of exultant young activists stormed the Madrid conference stage, chanting, “We are unstoppable, another world is possible.” Seamless self-assurance is a gift of adolescence, when individuals feel like they’re the smartest in the room. Over the course of time, most learn otherwise.
Still, children shouldn’t be faulted for gathering from their brief life experience that their destiny is to save the world from some sort of mortal threat. During the 13th century, legions of credulous French and German youth, believing themselves anointed to convert the Muslims, marched on the Holy Land. Their Children’s Crusade proved an impossible dream as many died on the long journey and others were sold into slavery. The lucky ones eventually straggled home.
The 20th century saw two generations of westerners come of age in the midst of existential threats to civilization from malevolent powers. Millions of patriotic youth volunteered to fight and, if necessary, die to save the world. Many shed their blood to uphold their military oath and they did, in fact, save the world from heartless aggressors.
The generation born in the 21st century has been reared in relative safety, but weaned on ubiquitous tales of an impending global warming doomsday. With free access to the social media cyberworld, young Americans have undoubtedly heard the likes of Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez making the breathless claim that “We’re like the world is going to end in 12 years if we don’t address climate change.”
That’s a frightening forecast for those who haven’t heard similar declarations in the past. Former Vice President-turned climate activist Al Gore predicted in 2008 that the Arctic polar cap would completely melt in five years. Kids residing in the lower 48 may not have noticed, but it hasn’t. In 2014, France’s foreign minister, Laurent Fabius, appeared with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry in Washington, where he predicted Earth had 500 days to avoid “climate chaos.” The planet easily glided past that dreaded milestone around 2,300 days ago, none the worse for wear.
In fact, scientific consensus that carbon dioxide is the controlling factor in temperature variation is still a work in progress, despite the U.N.’s efforts to paper it over. And while atmospheric carbon dioxide has climbed to 400 parts per million during the era of human industrialization, global temperatures have not risen clearly in concert, as the carbon dioxide-temperature correlation theory demands.
“Green” greenhorns like Greta Thunberg need reassurance that despite what they have learned from cagey activists, a world afire is not their future. In time, they may learn what preceding generations have come to understand: The worst fear is fear itself.
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