Students asking about climate change? Here are some answers.

15-03-2019 17:03

TODAY students demonstrated in 1,659 towns and cities in 105 countries taking part in today’s Climate Strike

School children protesting with banners in Melbourne

Melbourne School Strike for Climate Action 2
Credit: Julian Meehan Licence

“From small actions, like that of students who went on strike for the first time across India, to large demonstrations in the UK, Germany, Italy, Belgium, Sweden and Australia, the strike for climate action spread across more than 2,000 events.

“The co-ordinated strikes were organised via social media by volunteers in the countries under the banner of Fridays for Future.” Read more about these unprecidented acts of frustration by young people.


Teachers and parents, if you have children or young people asking about climate change, here are some answers.

Chris Smith is a research fellow in Physical Climate Change at the University of Leeds. He has focused on three big questions we often get asked:

  • How long is the planet going to last? I heard it was 12 years…
  • What would be the most effective policy to end climate change?
  • What’s the single best thing I could do in my life to help the climate?

Read his clear answers with links to further explanation here: Climate change: a climate scientist answers questions from teenagers

For the more scientifically curious students looking for credible evidence, try this site recommended to me by Will Lambert.  “The polar portal website in particular is very good website for getting daily recorded updates direct from the monitoring stations.”
“In particular to note the overall accumulated Ice mass loss and gain from Greenland shown here, along with prior year averages for comparison.”


What about you?

It is immediate and obvious to many young people.  Another question is what are you, my teacher, doing about it?

Here’s my story:

28 years ago, I was 15 when I learned about global warming and I thought we’d have this sorted by now. I refused to learn to drive when I was 17. I learned to drive ten years later when I thought it was irresponsible with children to have only one driver.

In 2009, I screened the film ‘The Age of Stupid’ and had Sustrans manager and climate campaigner, Dave Clasby as guest speaker.  I showed it in two primary schools to parents and teachers and to staff at Derby College. Update from The Guardian: “Ten years after climate movie The Age of Stupid had its green-carpet, solar-powered premiere, we follow its director as she revisits people and places from the film and asks: are we still heading for the catastrophic future it depicted?” Watch this short film about this here.

Apart from cycling, for two years my wife and I have had a hybrid car and that has let us enjoy driving again. Well done if you have cut out dairy and meat. I’m still failing to do this.
I learnt from The Age of Stupid that it makes you feel loads better when you are doing something about it. Reducing plastic is very popular now but we need to focus on reducing CO2 emissions. Here’s just seven things:

  1. It’s great if you travel via public transport. Tell others to stop flying and don’t fly yourself. I haven’t since 2006. 5 of us went to Antibes in the south of France last year by train. It was bliss.
  2. Turn your heating down a degree or two and wear another layer. If this makes you wince, adapt you house to make it cosier and shut doors. See George Monbiot’s article in point 4 below.
  3. Turn off lights and appliances and things left on standby. More here:
  4. Reduce your carbon footprint. Grow your own. Shop at an ethical wholefoods shop. Research where your stuff comes from. George Monbiot who was in The Age of Stupid gives you 15 ways here: More on reducing carbon footprint.
  5. If you haven’t already, switch your electricity and gas supplier to a company like Octopus or Ecotricity who will turn you bills into windmills!
  6. Campaign. Take advice from a charity: or
  7. More to ethical banking and take your savings and ask your employer to divest from fossil fuel investments. ‘Derby city councillors give the lead and call on pension fund to divest from fossil fuels’:


One last thing that’s really quick and costs you nothing

Scientists make it clear – we’re facing a climate emergency

“On 8th October 2018, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released a vital report on the state of climate science. They warned that if the planet warmed by 1.5C there would be some devastating consequences, such as the loss of most coral reefs, and increased extreme weather such as heatwaves and floods. Yet the consequences of allowing 2C warming would be truly catastrophic. Given that the planet is currently heading for 3-4C warming, keeping to 1.5C requires a radical shift across energy, land, industrial, urban and other systems to reduce emissions, unprecedented in history for its speed.” Read more here.

If, like me, you are frustrated by lack of progress in prevent mass extinction in government circles and would like to take the focus away from the current obsession and actually do something to limit catastrophic climate change, then you may be interested in a petition to get local government to make commitments that will limit CO2 emissions locally and put pressure on national leaders.

At the time of writing, in the UK alone, 38 councils (including 1 authority, London), representing 17,698,328 persons have already declared a climate emergency and I would like Derby City Council and Derbyshire County Council to do the same.  If you agree, a petition has just started, with more information here