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Climate Strike 101

Climate Strike 101

Words by Alex Mcleay

This article is part of PULPCLIMATE week. CLICK HERE to join the facebook group. University of Sydney Students will be marching from Fischer Library at 10:00 AM on the 20th of September.

On September 20th, students from the University of Sydney will be going on strike. This is part of a larger international movement demanding action to prevent further climate emergency. The earth has warmed by 0.9 degrees Celsius since 1880. Average wildlife populations have dropped by 60 percent in the last 40 years. The Amazon is on fire. New South Wales is experiencing one of the most severe droughts on record. If fossil fuels are extracted at the same rate as they have been from 1988-2017, global warming will exceed four degrees Celsius by the end of the century. 99% of scientists agree that humans are causing global warming, and the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change states that “scientific evidence for warming of the climate system is unequivocal”. And yet, there has been almost no large-scale action to combat this globally. There has been little government action, despite the agreements made at the UN summits of Kyoto (1997), Rio (2012), and Paris (2015). We cannot rely on our governments to fix this problem on their accord.

In August 2018, 15-year-old Greta Thunberg left school to protest climate injustice outside the Swedish parliament. She held a sign that read ‘Skolstrejk för Klimatet’ (School Strike for Climate). School students around the world took up the call, leading to the ‘Fridays for Future’ movement, where schoolkids would not attend school and collectively protest the lack of action on the global climate emergency. These protests have been occurring since November 2018. A global strike was called by Thunberg in March and May earlier this year. About 1500 students from the University of Sydney left school, marching with students from the University of Technology Sydney to Town Hall, joining another 20 000 protesters in Sydney and 1.4 million people globally. Unfortunately, we have seen little government response, besides Scott Morrison telling students that there should be "more learning in schools and less activism".

The School Strikers have called for another strike on September 20th. This is three days before the UN Climate Action. This time, it is not just students, but a general strike. The three demands of this strike are:

No new coal, oil and gas projects, including the Adani mine.

The burning of fossil fuels releases greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, contributing to air pollution, global warming, and related effects of climate change such as rising sea levels. Not only do they contribute to massive emissions, but mining projects also degrade natural landscapes, contribute to water pollution, and ocean acidification. We as a planet cannot afford to continue our dependence on fossil fuels. To avoid catastrophic global warming, we need to leave over ¾ of the earth’s remaining fossil fuels in the ground. The University of Sydney Climate Strike’s demand includes no new sources of nuclear energy. While nuclear power does not contribute to emissions to the same extent that fossil fuel does, there are catastrophic consequences in the case of containment failure. Nuclear energy also requires huge amounts of water. A transition to nuclear energy would also mean a considerable investment of money and time - time and money that could and should be invested in renewable energy. It would be impossible to meet the targets necessary to stay under 1.5 degrees of warming if we were to direct our efforts to nuclear to a significant extent.

100% renewable energy generation & exports by 2030

The G20 provides $444 billion dollars in funding to fossil fuels - almost 4 times the amount that the entire world provides in subsidies for renewable energy. In 2017, only 15% of Australia’s energy was from renewables, with the remaining 85% coming from coal, gas, and oil. The University of Sydney is demanding specifically publicly owned renewables. In Australia, the privatisation of electricity is responsible for 65% of the rise in electricity prices between 2007-2017. The publication of electricity will take power away from fossil fuel energy giants who have made massive contributions to global heating and climate change.

Fund a just transition & job creation for all fossil-fuel workers & communities.

In April, Pauline Hanson went to Clermont, Queensland, and demonstrated against Stop Adani protesters. Her placard read “I support jobs and rights for coal miners”. Jobs vs. the environment is a hard choice that has come up time and time again in the discussion surrounding climate change. But it is not a choice that needs to be made. After all, there are no jobs on a dead planet. Jobs vs. the environment is a false dichotomy that has been exploited by those that gain from climate change denial. The climate strike does not endorse job losses for those employed in fossil fuels and other environmentally unfriendly jobs. It encourages the creation of and transition to stable, unionised jobs in green sectors such as renewable energy. A just transition includes advancing ecological restoration, shifting economic power to communities, and driving economic and social justice.

We need action now. Our Liberal government is actively promoting coal and mining projects across the country. 100 companies alone are responsible for over 70% of global emissions since 1988. To fight these structures of power we need massive public action. Striking is critical in expressing collective power, and collective power is what we need if we hope to dismantle the structures and institutions that participate in climate destruction. We must reject the system that forces us to participate in perpetuating climate emergency. Students and workers, children and adults, must strike together against climate destruction and global heating.

Climate Strike - Friday September 20th, 10:00am, outside Fisher Library.

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