“Terrified But optimistic”: How Young People Are Responding to Grave Warnings About Climate Change

H2O Radio
October 2018

The UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report released in early October has sounded another alarm that drastic action is needed to avoid the catastrophic impacts of global warming. Is anyone listening? And if so, how are they reacting to a crisis that faces all of humankind? H2O Radio asked university students, who will be dealing with impacts, how they view the future.

A full-scale, all-hands-on deck, monumental change in how we live on the planet—that’s what is being called for. In early October, the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released its new assessment about global warming, and it was foreboding to say the least. It warns that action on carbon dioxide emissions is needed now, not in thirty years, not in ten, but right now. And the consequences if we don’t act? Well, they’re bad, very bad.

It’s difficult to hear this news. Some might feel paralyzed and powerless to do anything about a problem so massive and resign themselves to the planet’s doom and there’s nothing we can do about it. But that’s not the way Max Boykoff reacts. He sees possibilities calling the report a wakeup call to which some people will respond in ways that aren’t productive. But, he thinks for the most part the opportunities that emanate from this wakeup call are at least exciting.

Dr. Boykoff is a professor of environmental studies at the University of Colorado in Boulder. He also directs the Center for Science and Technology Policy Research and is a fellow at CIRES, the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences, a partnership of NOAA and C.U. Boulder. The IPCC report shocked him by the high stakes of not taking action—the longer we wait to address these problems the more difficult and costlier it’s going to be to solve.

Boykoff’s reaction to the IPCC report is to be optimistic to see what he can do to address the challenges we all face. He doesn’t see what pessimism does for him either on a professional or personal level.

Boykoff has an effusive optimism that’s contagious—and it seems to be rubbing off on his students who are studying about climate change and the environment. Recently in his introductory class in environmental studies they discussed how people can start to decarbonize the planet—the steps involved and the points of resistance to taking them. Listen in …

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