What message would you like to send out to the young people taking to the streets to protest against climate change? This is the question we asked two experts from LIST following their participation in the Climate Emergency and Education seminar held on 21-22 November.
On 21-22 November, a dozen climate change experts from France and Luxembourg met to discuss the issue of climate emergency and education. The Planet Nanuk seminar, organised by the French Institute of Luxembourg, in partnership with the Luxembourg Institute of Science and Technology, focused on three key areas: the impact of climate change on ecosystems and biodiversity, the Arctic climate emergency, and climate policies.
For Thomas Gibon, an industrial ecology researcher at LIST, greenhouse gas emissions, land use and the depletion of natural resources are the direct and indirect consequences of recent changes in our production and consumption patterns. "Changing our individual behaviours – through, for example, vegetarianism, soft mobility and buying second-hand products – helps reduce our personal impact by around 20-30%, which is clearly an important step in the right direction, but sadly not enough. Reducing the remainder of our carbon footprint therefore lies in collective action. The strikes and protests have meant that a lot of people now realise what's at stake. Young people don't want to have to pay for the mistakes of previous generations. It's therefore important to stay informed, to communicate and to act by setting an example: at school, in the streets, on social media, etc. to show that today's (and tomorrow's) voters and consumers are no longer satisfied with the marginal efforts made by governments and industry. The decision by the European Investment Bank to turn its back on fossil fuels shows how effective public pressure can be and that it shouldn't waver."
For Laurent Pfister, climatologist and expert in hydrosystems, "Science is more than a body of knowledge, it's also a means of questioning, cross-examining and criticising. It's this mindset that will help society face the huge challenges brought about by global change." Almost 30 years ago now, the American astronomer Carl Sagan stressed that science and education were key components for dealing with planetary crisis for two reasons. Firstly, a society where knowledge is widespread is a society which should not be afraid of being taken hostage by its own ignorance and the decisions made by a minority whose interests are highly likely to be far-removed from those of the vast majority (i.e. of the planet). Secondly, widespread learning of the scientific method involves a subtle mixture of openness to new (and old) ideas, and critical and methodical analysis of the same. "Young people must take an interest in science, if only for the simple reason of not letting their fate fall into the hands of ill-intentioned people."
At LIST, we are actively working to find solutions for the major environmental challenges currently facing society, in particular climate change mitigation, ecosystem resilience, sustainable energy systems, effective use of renewable resources, and prevention and control of environmental pollution.