The fact that numerous youth movements have been suing their governments over inaction on the issue of climate change speaks to a colossal failure on the part of modern politics.
Climate change is, in my view, one of the most important issues of our time to solve, and one that will necessitate innovation, intervention, and yes, socioeconomic disruption to fix.
The young have the most to lose, of course. Our generation and those that follow us will have to face the brunt of climate change’s effects, from rising seas to searing heat. That young people have decided to sue their governments over their inattention is not surprising.
Part of the reason why action on climate change has been so slow is that, besides the obvious incentives from the fossil fuel industry, governments tend to be incrementalists on most issues, giving room only when absolutely necessary.
That makes addressing such a large-scale issue extremely difficult. The Green New Deal may be an attempt to address it, but it will need to be polished and well thought out in order to succeed, assuming it can ever become law.
Another problem is that governments are by and large run on a short-term basis. Politicians look to next election cycle, not the next thirty years. Consequently, avoiding short-term pain is prioritized, even at the expense of long-term benefits. This is why a carbon tax would be difficult to pass.
Whether new, younger elected officials will address these issues adequately remains to be seen. Nevertheless, it is necessary to recognize that our political system disincentivizes action on long-term issues like climate change. To fix that, a blend of grassroots pressure and technocratic reforms will be needed.