Climate crisis: today’s children face lives with tiny carbon footprints

(The Guardian, 10 Apr 2019) Next generation must keep their own carbon levels at a fraction of their grandparents’ in order to prevent catastrophe.

Children born today will have to live their lives with drastically smaller carbon footprints than their grandparents if climate change is to be controlled.

Fast, deep cuts in global emissions from energy, transport and food are needed to keep temperature rises in check and an analysis has shown this means the new generation will have lifetime carbon budgets almost 90% lower than someone born in 1950.

The data dramatically highlighted the burden inherited by today’s children, an issue at the heart of the global school strikes for climate. Another major strike will take place in more than 70 nations on Friday.

“Those in positions of power – from politicians to business leaders – that have benefited from a much higher lifetime carbon budget have a duty to act to ensure a liveable planet for current and future generations,” said Jake Woodier at the UK Student Climate Network, which is supporting the strikes. “Without appropriate action, those in power are sacrificing our tomorrow for their today.”

The new analysis by the climate analysts Carbon Brief combines data on emissions and population changes with climate models. It then calculates how much the average citizen on Earth can emit over their lifetime to keep temperature rises below 1.5C or 2C above pre-industrial levels, the goal of the world’s nations to avoid climate catastrophe.

Previous and existing generations have emitted nearly all the carbon dioxide needed to take the world to 1.5C or 2C, meaning future generations will have to severely cut the emissions from flying, meat consumption and other activities in their lifetimes. The children and young people taking part in the youth strikes (born 1997-2012) will have carbon budgets just one sixth those of their baby boomer grandparents (1946-1964).

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The Guardian, 10 Apr 2019: Climate crisis: today’s children face lives with tiny carbon footprints