Today I spoke at the inaguration of the national session of the European Youth Parliament, Sweden. For those who are interested, please read below:
European Youth Parliament
Viktor Rydbergs gymnasium, Djursholm
Jens Holm (V)
Climate change and the need for a new generation of politicians
It may seem strange to talk about global warming on a day as cold and full of snow as it is today. But today is rather the exception that proves the rule when it comes to global warming.
For just a moment, I would like for us to imagine that we are at an even colder latitude – namely 3000 kilometers to the north west. Imagine an area four times as large as France, permanently cold, with a 3000-meter-thick layer of compact ice…. Welcome to Greenland and the inland ice!
Why am I talking about Greenland? After all, we’re in Sweden. Global warming is happening twice as fast there as in the rest of the world. In Greenland we can see what your future will be like – what you will have to deal with when you’re as old as I am.
I went to Greenland, and the town Ilulissat on the west coast, on a climate expedition in late August 2007. The result was my slide show On Thin Ice, which you can have after today’s session, or watch on You Tube. Near the town of Ilulissat we find the Ilulissat glacier. It’s the world’s biggest glacier. Practically speaking, it’s the inland ice that spreads clear out into the North Atlantic.
The Ilulissat glacier is not only the world’s biggest, it is now also the fastest melting glacier in the world.In a single day, as much fresh water melts from it as the city of New York uses in an entire year. Between 1999 and 2005 the release of icebergs increased by 40 percent. The glacier is sinking by 15 meters per year because of global warming. I was able to see with my own eyes how giant icebergs hundreds of meters high broke into smaller pieces and headed out to sea.
The Ilulissat glacier is not an isolated incident. Between 1990 and 2000, the melting of Greenland’s inland ice doubled. More and more of Greenland’s glaciers are now moving at such speeds that many researchers now say the “ketchup effect” has already started: the glaciers function as big holes that the inland ice leaks out through faster and faster.
What the result of this can be is already known: If the entire Greenland ice melts away, sea levels will rise by seven meters. Recent research indicates that the melting of the Greenland ice may go much faster than earlier believed. It may happen already during your lifetime.
What is happening on Greenland is only one example of what we call global warming created by our continually increasing emissions. The United States’ space agency, NASA, reported last week that the past ten years has been the warmest decade in history.
The effects of this increase in temperature have been quick to be seen. Entire nations in the South Pacific are being flooded by the, so far, limited rise in sea levels. Imagine what a seven meter rise would lead to: big citys and whole nations would disappear.In poor countries people struggle, literally, for survival, while the effects on a rich country like Sweden are a lot less. According to Global Humanitarian Forum, the former UN General Secretary Kofi Annan’s institution, 300,000 people per year die earlier because of global warming, and 300 million are affected, almost exclusively in poor countries. This is not fair. It is we in the rich world who have caused the climate change. Nearly 80 percent of historical emissions come from the rich world, and only a small part from the poor. In Sweden, we release about six tons of carbon dioxide per person every year. The EU average is ten tons. In Bangladesh, on the other hand, it is only 0.2 tons. That’s how big the difference is between rich Europe and a poor country. In other words, in well-off Europe CO2 releases are 50 times as much as in a poor country like Bangladesh.
Climate change is not only about the environment, but also an issue of North versus South. The solution is global justice and large reductions in emissions.
The climate conference in Copenhagen last December was supposed to come up with solutions to these issues. But that didn’t happen. Without a binding agreement on reducing emissions of greenhouse gasses, the world has been left with a dangerous gamble on our future. I hold the rich world’s leaders responsible for this. They were the ones who couldn’t promise the needed reductions and a change in our lifestyle.
But it was exciting to see the very enthusiastic participation of ordinary people in Copenhagen. On the Saturday before the end of the summit meeting, I demonstrated along with 100,000 other enthusiastic citizens of the world. This was probably the largest demonstration against climate change ever. And you can easily see that a new global movement was born in Copenhagen: a movement for defense of the climate and global justice.
This is where you come in. A new generation of politically active citizens is needed. When I was a member of the European Parliament, I didn’t have many allies who were young and progressive. And the European Parliament is not an exception. All over the world, older men, especially, are over-represented in our elected institutions. Young people and, in particular, women are in the minority. This is something I hope the European Youth Parliament can help to change. Please, get young people involved in important issues like the climate and global justice.
It’s fun to fight for a better world. It gives life meaning; it leads, sooner or later, to concrete changes and, when you work together with others, it’s, as I said, quite simply fun. If the European Youth Parliament can help with this, you will fill an important and strategic function.With this words I´m happy to open the session for the European Youth Parliament.
Don’t be part of the problem, be part of the solution. Thank you.