Young adults living thousands of miles from each other share a common fear and anger over climate change, they told YJI reporters in interviews from their schools in Europe, the Middle East, Africa and the U.S.
Eighteen-year-old Oliver Smith, who studies artificial intelligence at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland, said climate change “is the defining ‘bad thing’ of our lifetime.”
Other problems can be fixed later, Smith said, but the clock is running out on climate. He’s pessimistic, Smith said, because action needs to be taken quickly, but it isn’t happening.
Gabriella Benavides, a 17-year-old U.S. high school student in Dublin, Ohio, said she is scared, angry and indifferent to climate change.
“Because we can’t really do anything about it, even though it’s a very big issue,” said Benavides.
Others, too, described the powerlessness of inheriting such a vast problem with no easy fix.
Robin Gage, 20, who studies at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland, said she feels scared, sad and “disappointed with humanity.”
Gage said, “We should have acted on climate change ages ago and no one ever did anything, and now it’s an emergency and we don’t know if we’ll manage to deal with it in time.”
Gaelle Honein is 17 and a student at the French School of Bahrain.
“I’m scared for the future because we are the ones who are going to have to live with the consequences of what the adults now are creating,” Honein said.
But Honein also said she is very hopeful because increasing numbers of people are acknowledging climate change and taking steps toward a “durable change” for society “and a better future for the next generations.”
Landing Ceesay, a journalism student in The Gambia, said he is most concerned about the impact of climate change on children. Environmental abnormalities that come with climate change can bring diseases such as malaria, he said.
Threats from malaria and other health issues are especially scary in The Gambia, which lacks good medical facilities, said Ceesay, who said the result can harm or even kill children.
Jonathan Lynch, a 16-year-old student at Hilliard Davidson High School in Dublin, Ohio, said he’s not really scared about climate change, but he understands that it’s an issue that can’t be easily solved.
“I feel like we need to change things,” Lynch said, “but I know climate change won’t be fixed quickly.”
Reina Joyce Ignacio, who lives in Manama, the capital city of Bahrain, is worried about extreme weather like violent storms and drought threatening the safety of people in many parts of the world, including in her native country, the Philippines.
“It’s really scary,” said Ignacio, 20, who also said it’s worrying when local weather isn’t normal.
“For example, Bahrain should be cold by this time but it’s very hot until now,” said Ignacio.
Abby Blades, 19, who studies at the University of Edinburgh, said she’s feeling “really poorly,” and “invalidated” about the situation. She says the world has to deal with it, now.
“I’m really angry and it sucks,” said Blades. “We need to get on to it.”
Jassim Mohammed Bouchahri, a 20-year-old student at the University of Bahrain in Manama, said he doesn’t think climate change is affecting his country very much.
“Bahrain’s weather has always been this way,” said Bouchahri. “People living here are used to the heat, especially during the summer and nothing has changed from that aspect.”
But climate experts say half of Bahrain could be underwater by the end of the century because of sea levels rising due to melting ice from the rise in global temperatures.
The United Nations Development Program says that because of greenhouse gas emissions, the Arab region “is seeing temperatures rise faster than the global average,” with droughts “already more frequent and severe” and renewable water supplies expected to shrink by 20 percent by 2030.
The World Resources Institute cites Bahrain, Kuwait, Palestine, Qatar, United Arab Emirates, Israel, Saudi Arabia, Oman and Lebanon as the countries most likely to have a hard time getting fresh water in the not too distant future because of the changing climate.
While some, like Honein in Bahrain, are hopeful, others like Smith in Edinburgh are pessimistic about the pace of action.
Smith said the Scottish government declared a climate emergency but didn’t change policy. He said he’s doubtful the policy will change.
“Tackling it isn’t a winning issue,” said Smith. “Getting rid of cars or massively changing infrastructure would be very unpopular.”
One thing that could help, said Smith, is if people vote “radically and fast.” Three or four election cycles will be too late, he said, because the longer people wait, the harder it will be to address climate change.
Green parties and movements are getting some attention globally and polling well, Smith said, but more needs to be done before people can feel hopeful.
Youth Journalism International Correspondent Joanna Koter and Reporter Hanna Johal reported from Edinburgh. YJI Reporter Lina Temzini reported from Bahrain. YJI Reporter Danish Bajwa reported from Dublin, Ohio, U.S.A. YJI Reporter Marianna Barry reported from The Gambia.
Read the accompanying piece to this special report: Young people recycle, avoid meat to combat climate change