“I will be 75 years old in 2078, if I have children, they might ask me about you…Why didn’t you do anything?”– Teen climate activist Greta Thunberg, 16.
‘Now is the time for action’ echoes in the UN general assembly meeting. With only 11 years remaining to prevent irreversible damage of climate change1, the future looks very uncertain. For many of us, the task of fixing climate change is a daunting one. How do you change decades of bad habits? However a group of young activists are bringing this issue to the forefront of people’s minds, inspiring and motivating the world into action.
The thought of living in a world where the air we breathe is toxic, is a haunting one. The GEO 6 report revealed that air pollution is responsible for a staggering 6 to 7 million premature deaths2. The elderly, young and sick, the very people we as a society take great measures to protect, are the most vulnerable. Over 90% of the world’s population breathe in polluted air every day.
The effects of air pollution present an ever growing bleak existence that throws a chilling dose of reality on life. In London alone, there are 2 million living in areas where it is normal for air pollution limits to be exceeded3. As a born and bred Londoner, I become increasingly concerned about the long term implications on our health. Are people fully aware what the air pollution limits mean? Do any of us truly know what the future holds if we don’t change our ways now?
The younger generation are becoming a growing source of hope and inspiration, you don’t have to tell them how bad it is, they already know. Inspired by previous youth activists from Florida, one determined teenager decided to fight for her planet. In August 2018, a 15-year-old girl sat on cobbled streets outside the Swedish parliament with one goal in mind - save her future. Whatever the weather, you would find Greta outside the Swedish parliament garnering attention, so much so that she built traction and it’s not looking to stop anytime soon. This seemingly small step from Greta Thunberg has had the power to spark something far greater. Christina Figueres said during the Paris global warming deal that “it’s time to heed the deeply moving voice of the youth”.
There’s a worldwide surge of young activists striking for meaningful action against climate change under the hashtag #FridaysforFuture. Every one of these young activists has their own story and reason for joining the movement. They are fighting for our world, a world that we all need to live, a world that we are killing. There has been a recent breakthrough in urgency and understanding of the climate change emergency. This is helped by Extinction Rebellion, the student strikes movement and the David Attenborough documentary: Climate change – The facts4.
The student strikes are increasingly building momentum. Recent data shows that the number of recorded striking countries in May alone were 131 (striking cities as 1851) from the #FridayforFuture campaign5. According to the Youth for Climate – a student strike coordinating platform - more than a million in 2,083 cities have taken part in the mission to raise awareness of climate change (with 10,000 young people over 40 locations in the UK in February alone).
The insurance industry has already seen the impacts of individual climate change in general insurance due to increased extreme weather events. Nevertheless, how might these changes impact mortality and morbidity going forward? We have already seen the growth of a fungus that is a threat to human life due to climate change. A new risk to human life, Candida Auris is believed to have emerged in reaction to climate change6. What will we see in the future and how do we tackle these new risks sustainably? Whilst Munich Re considers the future, it is taking action to reduce, negate and fix the damage inflicted on the Earth’s climate. Since 2009 we have reduced our group-wide carbon footprint by 44% per employee. There is however a long way to go for all of us. Munich Re will continue to find more sustainable ways to negate the impacts we have on our climate and consider the emerging risks to the products we reinsure.
It’s time to act and it must to be now.