Will climate change really affect our future? This is certainly the question being asked by a lot of young people on whom the fate of our planet depends. So we asked Gen Z representatives from various European countries how they view global warming and whether they think their countries are working to stop it.
Climate change has been one of the most pressing topics for past several years. It is hardly surprising, as this year has shown that it really is a global problem with various parts of the world facing record-breaking heatwaves. Unfortunately, the tropical weather contributes to the formation of huge fires that consume forests - home to various animal species - as well as houses that are supposed to be shelters for people.
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Climate change is a present day problem
Several Greek islands were affected by the fires, as well as tourist regions in Portugal and France. Meanwhile, the firefighters' battle against the devastating element has been ongoing for several weeks. The effects of the climate change are also being felt in Poland. On 15 August this year's temperature record was set in our country when thermometers in Mazowieckie voivodeship showed as much as 35.7 degrees Celsius. As a result, many Poles received RCB (Polish: Rządowe Centrum Bezpieczeństwa, English: Government’s Centre for Security) alerts on their smartphones warning of dangerously high temperatures.
This year's heat result not only in fires, but also in rivers drying up. "One of the biggest threats to our rivers, apart from human activity, is the climate catastrophe that causes recurrent droughts. This is another factor killing off our rivers, which may cause some of them to become so-called periodic rivers in the future, i.e. they will disappear for a while. We are already seeing very low water levels on the Oder and Vistula," points out Dr Alicja Pawelec of WWF Poland.
It is not only the Earth that suffers, but also people directly. German scientists have published a report which shows that the climate change will increasingly affect our digestive system. It turns out that food-borne infections develop much faster in warmer climates. This means that stomach problems will bother us much more often than they used to.
Drought and unpredictable weather is also taking its toll on crops. There is currently no province in Poland that is not affected by hydrological drought. The provinces of Lubuskie, Wielkopolskie and those located in the north of the country have the greatest problems with soil moisture. Strawberry and fruit bush plantations are currently the most threatened.
Generation Z on climate change
The problems caused by the climate crisis are most pressing for young people, who will be living on our planet for many years to come. For this reason, together with our partners from the #MyImpact (Polish: #MamWpływ) project, we asked Zoomers how they felt about the issue. They had to respond to the following:
- Are you worried about your future because of climate change?
- Do you think the government in your country is working to stop global warming?
Answers came in from Bulgaria, Croatia, Lithuania, Romania and, of course, Poland.
"Yes definitely. Global warming is very real to me which is why I can't imagine ever having a baby. Climate change will affect the conditions we live in and I don't want anyone else to suffer because of it," says 26-year-old Ania.
In her opinion, the Polish government is not handling the crisis in the best way. "Instead of switching to alternative energy sources, we continue to support coal mining. The government is also not doing anything about large-scale tree felling and is not educating citizens about global warming," she points out.
Analogous views are also held by 26-year-old Maja and Marta, a representative of the Millenials. Both are concerned about the future not only for themselves, but also for the younger generations. They also point out that the Polish government does not seem concerned enough about climate change.
"Fossil fuels are still the main source of energy in Poland, the Bełchatów power plant is one of the largest emitters of greenhouse gases in Europe," Marta states.
"Climate policy in Poland... does not exist," quips Maja.
Young Europeans are afraid of climate change
Lithuania, like Poland, is experiencing extreme heat waves this summer, farmers' fields are suffering from drought, and historically strong storms are becoming more frequent, destroying hectares of trees in forests. This is causing fear among the young, but not only for their own future.
"I am not worried about my future in terms of the impact of climate change. It's just that the storms that hit Lithuania this summer have raised a number of questions and concerns. I think we should be more concerned about the effects of human activities on our planet. Activities such as the indiscriminate use of plastics, littering and fast fashion are causing the Earth, nature and the organisms that grow on our planet to suffer and even die. I think climate change will affect future generations more," - says Lithuanian activist Deimante Marciulaityte.
"I think the government is taking various measures to stop this, it's just a question of whether they are all really effective. Article 10 of the Law of the Republic of Lithuania established a special programme on climate change in 2019 - called the Climate Change Programme - which is based on various measures to reduce climate change," - she pointed out.
Bulgaria, Croatia and Romania
A poll conducted by VBOX7 shows that the majority of young Bulgarians (137 out of 193 surveyed) is concerned about the future that may be affected by climate change.
At the same time, most of them believe that their country is not doing enough to combat climate change (143 out of 223 responders). There are few representatives of Generation Z in Bulgaria who do not have an opinion and attitude with regard to climate change.
Young people in Croatia have a similar opinion on climate change. 60% of interviewed Zoomers there fear the climate crisis will gravely affect their future. In contrast, as many as 94% of responders believe that governments do not have an adequate strategy to combat global warming.
"Many believe that global warming is a problem of the future, but this is simply not true. We are already suffering the consequences and I am aware that my generation and those yet to come will pay the price for the irresponsible behaviour of previous generations," comments 22-year-old Iva.
"We see pictures from Australia, California, Greece... Fires everywhere. And the people? Some people still claim that climate change is not real. It's crazy!" points out 20-year-old Marko.
"We don't have a Planet B! We have to act now. I joined a local organisation that promotes sustainable practices and we work every day to educate others," - boasts 19-year-old Lana.
The same questions were responded by Gen Z representatives in Romania. They too have concerns about their future in face of climate change. Especially when it comes to the actions of both the authorities there and individual citizens.
"I think it's more complicated than it seems, because no one wants to give up their current lifestyle - having a car, having air conditioning at home or buying everything. It's a very difficult issue because at the end of the day the government can do its part, but each citizen needs to act as well. Compared to other countries, I think here in Romania we are not conscious enough of the effort that each of us has to make," believes the young man interviewed.
"I believe that the planet will heat up so much that self-destruction will start. That is my opinion," the boy fears.
However, we are very hopeful that the EU's efforts to curb climate change can be effective and that we will collectively stop global warming. After all, as many participants in the poll pointed out, we should first take matters into our own hands and show those in power that the climate crisis is a serious matter on which our future, and the fate of our planet, depends.