Anyone under the age of 28 as of today will spend their lives being impacted by and dealing with the impacts of climate change, despite not being responsible for causing the emissions that have led to this change. Why 28? To put it simply, 23rd June 1988 was the date that ‘global warming’ became a household phrase, with James Hansen (NASA) testifying to the US Congress about anthropogenic climate change, which made the first page of the New York Times the next day. Anyone born on this date, and beyond, say analysts such as Mark Hertsgaard, is a part of ‘Generation Hot’. The lives of this generation will be spent in a world increasingly threatened by rising temperatures, sea levels, floods, droughts and a plethora of related impacts.
Roughly 2 billion people in the world today, and growing, are a part of Generation Hot. In Pakistan, 64% of the population falls under the age of 29. These young people, facing increasing challenges in an increasingly resource scarce world, such as employment and access to facilities, as well as with considerable instability, are also living in what may be one of the most impacted countries by climate change in the world. With scientists warning that even if emissions were somehow magically reduced to zero right now, climate change is still locked in for generations to come, Pakistan, already in the throes of consistent flood and drought for the past decade has much to lose.
Millenials all over the world, research suggests, are driven and motivated by a greater sense of purpose than the generations preceding them, and are more likely to make political and personal choices keeping a cleaner and greener environment in mind. However, for a country like Pakistan that faces a myriad of development issues, for many, Pakistan’s lack of engagement on climate change in the past was justified by its status as a low emitter. This was reflected in a decision in 2013 to demote the Ministry of Climate Change in Pakistan to a division of the cabinet- a decision that was reversed in 2015 as the threat became increasingly evident. However, Pakistans recent disappointing INDC submission to the UNFCCC secretariat has once again raised some alarm bells for the climate change community in Pakistan.
In the face of weak government action, and many perceived ‘more important and more urgent’ issues, how exactly can Pakistan’s Generation Hot tackle the increasing threat that climate change poses to them, and to future generations? The first step is to know about the problem. Although most of Pakistans population has been impacted by recent disasters, it is important to create awareness of climate change through more organized channels, before the impacts can set in. Recent surveys suggest that over 20 million Pakistanis are on the internet, and growing. Utilizing social media to talk about climate change is a good start, particularly for urbanite millennials. Youth can understand youth better- and therefore design messages more effectively; so awareness raising by youth is increasingly important.
So now the Generation Hot knows about climate change, whats next? It is important to recognize that more than 50% ofthe current voters of the country will be youth, and therefore, they will have the power to push for candidates who support alternative energy and green growth. Although Generation Hot is still young, through the recently reinstated local bodies election system of Pakistan, where there is a seat for youth candidates, Generation Hot’s aspiring leaders will have the opportunity to pursue critical issues at the local level in their villages. Collectively, the youth may have for the first time a voice to push their governments to take firmer action on climate change, through a political paradigm shift.