Irish academics outline support for climate strike

Published by Niall Sargent on

September 16th, 2019

Almost 20 Irish academics have signed an open letter “wholeheartedly” supporting the global climate strike movement whose concerns rest on “solid, incontrovertible evidence” of a climate breakdown.

The international letter is currently signed by over 800 academics mainly from across Europe as they outline their support for the global school strike movement.

This Friday will see school children the world over swap textbooks for placards in what is anticipated to be the largest rally to date organised by the climate youth movement.

In Ireland, rallies will take place in numerous locations including counties Dublin, Cork, Limerick, Galway, Tralee, and Dundalk. A previous strike in March drew in almost 15,000 students across the country.

The list of Irish signees includes some of Ireland’s leading minds on climate change policy, including UCD’s Cara Augustenborg and Diarmuid Torney of DCU, as well as legal experts such as UCD’s Andrew Jackson and NUI Galway’s Maeve O’Rourke.

Dr Diarmuid Torney (L) as members of the Expert Advisory Panel, speaking at the meeting of the Citizens Assembly on climate action in 2017 Photo: MAXWELL’S

‘They deserve our respect’

The letter states that the students climate concerns are “well-founded and rest on solid, incontrovertible evidence”, pointing to the need for a rapid cut in emissions to stand a chance of limiting warming to 1.5 °C in line with the goals of the Paris Agreement.

While the strike movement – and Greta Thunberg in particular – have come under increasing scrutiny in recent months, the academics find that the youth movement “deserve[s] our respect and full support”.

The letter adds that democratic decision-making that includes the youth voice is important alongside “unprecedented rapid and ambitious action” from policymakers.

The letter states that although many social, technological, and nature-based solutions already exist to tackle the climate crisis, no industrialised English speaking country has to date “adopted policies anywhere near the level of ambition required”.

“As scientists and academic experts in other fields, we strongly support [the youth] demand for rapid and forceful action, and consider it our social responsibility to point out the consequences of inadequate action.”

Cork climate strike march Photo: Shamim Malekmian
Cork climate strike march Photo: Shamim Malekmian

Irish responsibility to act

Earlier this year, over 50 academics across nine Irish universities signed a similar open letter supporting the climate strike movement.

The statement built on the International Scientists for Future letter published in Science that called on scientists and scholars across all disciplines to support the climate protesters.

While some politicians and commentators have argued that Ireland’s emissions are minuscule in the global context, the letter is clear that the climate crisis facing humanity “will be determined by our cumulative emissions”.

“Considering that industrialized countries produced more of and benefited more from previous emissions, they have an ethical responsibility to achieve this transition more quickly than the world as a whole,” the Irish letter adds.

“Only if humanity acts quickly and resolutely can we limit global warming, halt the ongoing mass extinction of animal and plant species, and preserve the natural basis for the food supply and well-being of present and future generations.”

Greta THUNBERG, Swedish climate activist Photo: European Union / DAINA LE LARDIC
Greta THUNBERG, Swedish climate activist Photo: European Union / DAINA LE LARDIC

‘Awe-inspiring’ movement

This evening, Amnesty International will present the Ambassador of Conscience Award, its highest honour for human rights work, to Greta Thunberg, the Fridays for Future movement and all other school strikers.

Ahead of the event, Colm O’Gorman, the executive director of Amnesty Ireland, said that the strides achieved by young activists over the past year are “incredible and awe-inspiring”.

“They truly are leaders in this movement; forcing the climate emergency onto the agenda of governments, their communities and corporations,” he added.

“Presenting this award is a moment of hope as we see this young generation coming together in their millions around the world. The future of our planet depends on these young people.”

Thunberg is in New York for the highly anticipated UN Climate Summit starting on September 23 where world leaders will be pushed to agree on steps to keep global temperatures from rising to catastrophic levels.

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Niall Sargent

Niall is the Editor of The Green News. He is a multimedia journalist, with an MA in Investigative Journalism from City University, London