FFF’s Round Table Discussion: a positive approach to the climate crisis

Pier-Paolo Ergueta, Writer

Take a look at the front pages of The New York Times, the Washington Post, The Atlantic, or The Guardian. What fills their front pages are updates on the coronavirus, international diplomacy, world conflicts and wars, and climate change. Unfortunately, there isn’t much room on these frontpages given to writing about good news, which is overshadowed by a large concentration of bad news. You may see the occasional vaccine update, followed by the coronavirus death count in the world. Or maybe you’ll stumble across a political win in the conflict in the middle east, followed by a terrible act of terrorism committed in Iraq. Reports about climate change are very similar. It isn’t often that you’ll see “good news” with the climate crisis on the front pages of major newspapers. But on the Friday of the WFS Earth week, FridaysForFuture (FFF) WFS hosted a “Round Table” discussion in which we put to the forefront positive developments humanity has made in combating the climate crisis. 

In the event, a panel of four FFF members presented the “good news”, which we structured into three segments: fossil fuel company action, international action, and Joe Biden’s new presidential course of action. 

The fossil fuel companies are feeling more and more pressured by their industries, their consumers, and their shareholders, to take this climate crisis seriously, and the effects are showing. Exxon Mobil, which for the longest time has ruled as a major oil company, has taken major hits in its revenues (down 40 percent) and was removed from the Dow Jones industrial average basket of companies in August, a once-unthinkable blow to its prestige. Exxon released a $3B carbon-capture-and sequestration affiliate in an attempt to grapple with how to react to a lower-carbon economy. Exxon’s shareholders have also begun to pull out because of Exxon’s unappreciation for climate change. The shareholders most notably include Vanguard, BlackRock, and State Street who own around 20% of Exxon shares. And although the focus has been on Exxon, this is happening worldwide. The British Petroleum Company (BP) has also reported major losses, and the American Petroleum Institute (API) has endorsed a carbon tax, and the French oil company Total SA has pushed to transform itself as well. Tesla currently has twice the market cap than that of ExxonMobile and Chevron combined, showing exactly why these major oil companies are pushing for change. 

In international diplomacy, things are finally looking better. As we know, the US was recommitted to the Paris Climate Accord by President Biden. Recently, he’s gone a step further an hosted an international climate summit with 40 of the world’s top leaders, including some we have international beef with. The Italian Prime Minister attended and said: “It’s a complete change. Now, we are confident that together we will win this challenge.” European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen stated “It’s so good to have the U.S. back on our side in the fight against climate change.” Russian President Putin and Chinese President Xi-Ping also attended, which came as a shock to all as there is tension between Russia, China, and the United States politically. The Chinese PrBiden’s goal was to have his country and many more committed to more demanding pursuits of carbon reductions. 

On the topic of Biden, the way he has restructured the government has been phenomenal from a perspective of combating climate change. President Biden has made it clear his agenda and the central role climate change plays in it. One of his main goals is pledging to cut US greenhouse gas emissions by at least half by 2030. Through proposed spending plans, Biden is investing in greener markets and putting climate at the forefront of all governmental development. Biden calls for $174 billion for electric vehicle infrastructure; $90 billion on public transport, $80 billion to improve rail lines; $50 billion to strengthen essential services against severe weather; and $35 billion for climate-related research and development. All of these developments will greatly help in the fight against climate change. 

Some people who helped organize and/or attended the roundtable discussion shared their thoughts. Aniyah Barnett ‘22 appreciated the change of pace in FFF’s climate awareness: “there needs to be a balance of positive and information. A lot of times we only see the negative on social media and other platforms, and nothing positive can make people turn away from the subject.” Donnie Morton ‘22, who was one of the four panelists states that “while I think that it’s necessary to focus on the good aspects of the current climate crisis, we have a lot to do still and can’t sit and pat ourselves on the back for the few things that we have done because there’s so much work still to be done. This is the most important issue our generation will face.” McKinley believes that “My biggest takeaway from this event was that we need to do more of them. The students who attended the talk were given an opportunity to comment and ask questions at the end. Their thoughtful remarks and questions, and the responses of the facilitators were inspiring to me as an educator (and fellow resident of Planet Earth) and made me feel that we should have more of these events to give students the opportunity to discuss the climate crisis with their peers.” 

Although it seems each year is titled the “make-it-or-break-it” year for so many issues including climate change, we must remember that there is real change occurring all around us, so we have a reason to keep our heads up. The question is: what will you do to be a part of that change?