According to The United Nations: ‘young people are not only victims of climate change, but they are also valuable contributors to climate action. They are agents of change, entrepreneurs and innovators. Whether through education, science or technology, young people are scaling up their efforts and using their skills to accelerate climate action.’
Climate change is being driven by record (and still-rising) greenhouse gas emissions. Human activity is mostly responsible.
“Despite all the policy action in the last decades, greenhouse gas emissions are still increasing and the planet is still warming,” says Kondi Nkosi, Country head for South Africa at global asset manager Schroders.
“South Africa is the world’s 13th largest greenhouse gas emitter. Key to meeting our climate change targets will be reducing our reliance on coal, which we use to produce pretty much all of the country’s electricity.”
But what else can you do as the youth of South Africa? A good start, according to Nkosi, is improving your climate change literacy. “Most of us have heard about global warming and its effects, but how much do we really know about how human activity is harming the environment?
“See how you fare in our climate quiz,” say Nkosi.
1. If we all stopped travelling by plane, we would reduce our carbon footprint by more than if we all stopped driving fossil fuel powered cars.
2. True/false If all the new cars we buy were electric cars, how long would it take for all fossil fuel cars to disappear from our roads?
a. 5-10 years
b. 10-15 years
c. 15-20 years
d. Over 20 years
3. Which food item has the largest carbon footprint?
4. The electricity we use to charge our smartphones has a larger carbon footprint than the production of our smartphones.
5. What do we need to do to limit temperature increase to 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial levels?
a. Stop driving cars
b. Generate electricity only with renewable sources
c. Bring our greenhouse emissions down to net zero
d. Develop carbon capture and storage technology
6. Which country emits the largest amount of greenhouse gases?
a. United States
d. European Union
7. How much of the remaining fossil fuels (oil, gas and coal) would need to remain untouched if we were to meet the 1.5 degrees target?
d. 80-90% (correct)
e. All of it
8. How large is the carbon footprint of the fashion industry?
a. Less than 1% of global emissions
b. 5% of global emissions
c. 10% of global emissions
d. 15% of global emissions
- False: The emissions from car use are almost five times as high as the emissions from flying. (Source: Our World in Data)
- C – 15-20 years: The average life of a car is over 15 years and slightly longer in emerging economies. (Source: World Economic Forum)
- B – Chocolate: Chocolate has almost the same carbon footprint as beef (for dairy). The biggest contributor to chocolate’s footprint is the impact from land use for growing cocoa. (Source: Schroders)
- False: Most of the emissions from a smartphone are caused by its manufacture and transport. Using it is a low-emitting activity: it would take about 34 years of average smartphone use for the electricity footprint to equal the footprint from making and transporting it. (Source: Mike Berners-Lee, How bad are bananas?, 2020)
- C – Bring our greenhouse emissions down to net zero: Greenhouse gas emissions are the single biggest driver of global warming. Many changes are needed in our everyday life, including stop driving cars, getting electricity from renewable sources and developing carbon capture and storage technology. (Source: IPCC)
- C – China: The largest emitters by country are: China (26%), the United States (13%), EU-27 (7.8%), India (6.7%) and Russia (5.3%). (Source: World Resources Institute)
- D – 80-90%: To meet the 1.5 degrees target, 84% of the remaining fossil fuels would need to remain in the ground and 59% to meet the 2 degrees target. Only 4% of remaining fossil fuels would be left untouched in a 3 degree scenario. (Source: Financial Times)
- C – 10% of global emissions: The fashion industry is a major driver of deforestation and soil degradation and accounts for 10% of annual global emissions. This is larger than the footprint of the EU-27 (7.8% of global emissions). (Source: European Parliament Think Tank)
How did you score?
0-2: Do not get discouraged. You are engaging with this topic which is one of the most important steps towards a more sustainable future.
3-4: You have some awareness of climate change. You are on the right track.
5-6: Your climate change awareness is high. Keep up the good job.
7-8: You are a carbon footprint savant. Help spread the word about climate change and how we can reduce our carbon footprint.