This Friday, 20 September, I’m joining thousands of people at what’s expected to be the biggest mobilisation on climate change ever. Events are happening across the world, all organised by young people. We’re coming together to say that governments must engage with the seriousness of the climate crisis and take much more urgent action. We need rapid emissions cuts, a shift to renewable energy, and money for the most vulnerable to adapt. This is no longer scientific forecast: there are many signs that the climate is in chaos, and it’s already hitting the poorest people the hardest.
Just weeks ago, Hurricane Dorian became the most powerful tropical cyclone on record to strike the Bahamas, bringing widespread devastation. The images and stories coming from the islands are heartbreaking. Mia Mottley, the prime minister of Barbados called for urgent action on climate change and said, ‘We are on the front line of the consequences of climate change but we don’t cause it.’ The fact the storm stalled over the islands could well be a result of climate change too, making the storm even more deadly.
The prime minister’s words echo that of the former first lady of Mozambique, Graça Machel, just a few months ago. After Cyclone Idai, the largest hurricane on record to hit Malawi, Zimbabwe and her own nation, she cried out that Beira city ‘will go down in history as having been the first city to be completely devastated by climate change’.
Alongside these heartbreaking stories of cities destroyed and lives lost, due to storms made more powerful and dangerous due to hotter seas and air, there are more subtle signs that the climate crisis is accelerating. In the UK, we had the hottest August bank holiday on record, following the hottest July on record. Even 700 miles north of the Arctic circle, children are playing in the sea and basking in temperatures around 22°C where we should have ice. And, after years of hard work by local communities and support from NGOs to see poverty reduced to some of its lowest levels, world hunger began to increase again in 2016. And it has continued to climb, due to more erratic rainfall, more severe droughts and more deadly storms.