A Sustainable Future: Responsibility & Action (GP Topic: Environment)

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The issue of responsibility for addressing climate change has become a prominent topic of discussion in recent years. With climate change worsening as we speak, it is time we assess where the responsibilities lie, taking concrete steps to mitigate the issue. 

Many are quick to point fingers at those who contribute to climate change the most, urging that they should take responsibility. This includes countries with high carbon emissions, particularly those that have historically benefited from industrialization and economic growth. China’s industrialization and economic development over the past few decades have resulted in a surge in CO2 emissions. As the world’s largest emitter of greenhouse gases, China’s share of global CO2 emissions has risen steadily, reaching more than 3 billion tonnes in 2022. As a result, they have pledged to become carbon neutral by 2060, and are active members of international efforts such as the Paris Agreement, demonstrating a commitment to address its emissions. 

Many also argue that the responsibility lies with those who have the resources to enact change, such as governments and corporations. Developed nations like the US and France, which have jurisdiction and influence, should take the lead in the climate movement. International cooperation and agreements, like the European Green Deal and Copenhagen Climate Change Conference, are crucial for global efforts to reduce emissions and support adaptation. France, for instance, banned domestic short-haul flights that have train alternatives, showcasing a commitment to cutting carbon emissions. Additionally, initiatives like mandating solar panels in car parks contribute to clean energy production. As for corporations, they can also take action or collaborate with other parties. For example,  Coca-cola collaborated with the World Wildlife Fund to help address pressing water issues including water conservation resulting in positive effects on nearby bodies of water and reduced water needed for its processes. Hence, these stakeholders with their abundance of resources, can and should take action.

But that doesn’t mean you and I are blame free and don’t have to pull our weight! Individuals also play a vital role in addressing climate change. They contribute to emissions through their consumption and lifestyle patterns, and it is important for them to take responsibility for their carbon footprint. Making sustainable choices in transportation, energy use, and dietary habits can have a significant impact. The Straw Free Singapore campaign led by 17-year-old Ang Zyn Yee exemplifies how individuals can initiate change by raising awareness and encouraging sustainable practices. We can make conscious efforts to choose more environmentally friendly products, and avoid or boycott companies that are not transparent with their production methods or the materials they use. 

Activism, particularly by youths, has also been instrumental in shaping the climate movement. Their fresh perspective, passion, and ability to connect with their peers and the public have helped raise awareness and inspire action. The voices and stories of youth activists like Greta Thunberg resonate with a wide audience, including policymakers. However, it is important to consider that while young activists bring passion and idealism, they may lack the experience and understanding of complex political, economic, and scientific issues related to climate change. Balancing their enthusiasm with practical considerations and potential trade-offs is crucial in policy-making.

Social media has emerged as a powerful tool for climate activists. Its huge reach allows them to connect with people worldwide, transcending language barriers. Platforms like Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube enable organisations like 350.org to organise campaigns, share news and updates, and engage people in climate activism. Influencers, such as Mr Beast, have leveraged their reach to fundraise for initiatives like tree planting. Memorable advertisements, like the WWF’s “Stop climate change before it changes you,” combine powerful visuals with messaging to make a lasting impact.

However, social media activism is not without its drawbacks. Slacktivism or clicktivism refers to actions that lack consistent commitment, with individuals merely engaging in superficial activities without tangible change. Symbolic actions like virtual protests and sharing climate-related information, while raising awareness, may not lead to concrete outcomes. Additionally, the spread of fake news and disinformation on social media poses a significant challenge. False information denying the contribution of CO2 to climate change has been propagated, even by big corporations and environmental organisations, undermining efforts to address the issue.

For A Level GP Paper 1, many environment questions necessitate a breakdown of stakeholders involved in tackling climate crises. Students can use examples of countries and their efforts to address climate change, such as China’s commitment to become carbon neutral by 2060 and their participation in international agreements like the Paris Agreement, to argue for the responsibility of high-emitting countries and the importance of international cooperation. Beyond that, students can also use the examples of France’s ban on domestic short-haul flights and Coca-Cola’s collaboration with the World Wildlife Fund to support the argument that stakeholders with resources should take action in addressing climate change. Students can also mention the power of social media in raising awareness but caution about the limitations of superficial engagement and the spread of disinformation. Perhaps for a more balanced approach, students can emphasise the need for collaboration, combining experience with enthusiasm, and taking concrete steps to mitigate the challenges posed by climate change.

As the curtain falls on our climate change spectacle, it’s clear that responsibility is a multi-faceted concept. From the mighty governments and influential corporations to the everyday superheroes making sustainable choices, each stakeholder has a part to play. So, let’s unleash the power of collaboration, combining the wisdom of experience with the enthusiasm of youth, and take this planet-saving mission to the next level.

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