The kids can’t do much about it

Nowadays, the question why we do so little about climate change is often asked. In my opinion, communicating in an honest and mature way about the gravity of the situation would make a good start. What I find particularly annoying are infantile exhibitions about climate change aimed at children. “There are many animals that suffer from global warming. What can you do? Choose an animal, no matter if you choose a penguin, horse, panda or seal, thousands of animals are suffering from climate change! make a selfie of you and the animal. Share your picture and let the world know you care about climate action!”

It’s the Climate Lag, stupid!

Very few people know that the signs of climate change we are now experiencing, are the direct result of the CO2 thoughtlessly pumped into the atmosphere by our ancestors until the 80’s. There is something called the 40-year climate lag. In short, the oceans are warmed up by the atmosphere, but the noticeable effects of this are delayed for 40 years, because of the enormous mass of the oceans. The current temperature rise of 1 degree celsius, the fact that we are already at risk, more forest fires, more hurricanes, a rising sea level, it is all Grandpa and Grandma’s fault.

Unfortunately, the kids can’t do much about it. Most parents are not aware that what will happen up until 2060 is simply irreversible. When I think of what a useful exhibition on climate change might be, I think in the direction of a ‘very shocking, yet educational exhibition for the whole family where visitors are faced with the reality: ‘How will the kids survive the 2 degrees temperature rise in 2040?’

Greenland’s ice will have almost completely melted by 2040. Millions of inhabitants of low-lying cities have evacuated due to severe storms, sea level rise, melted sea ice and expansion of warmed oceans. Extreme rainfall leads to massive migrations in Asia. The speed at which land ice melts has doubled, and massive amounts of methane are released, causing even more warming the children of our children will have to deal with. Further international decline in agricultural production due to drought, reduced river flows, lake disappearance and desertification. 

The Boiler Room

The show piece of the exhibition, is this room called The Boiler Room. Just one family or group at a time is allowed in. Once inside, the door is locked for 5 minutes. There is a big burning sun in the room. It’s 45 degrees Celsius. It is now 2060. The Beatles sing happily ‘Here comes the sun’, as a distant echo from a time when everything was fine.

Grandparents, parents and children are asked to think about this very moment in time. Because right now, we are causing what will be noticeable in 40 years time. What they are experiencing in The Boiler Room is the nightmarish world our children and their children are left with in 2060. Cities like Mumbai, Shanghai, London and New York have disappeared below sea level. Parts of Africa and Australia are beyond human adaptation. Japan and southern Europe have changed into desert areas. Population transfers are bigger than anything seen in the history of mankind, leading to conflict and international wars. Civilisation has collapsed. 

If we continue on the same path, and it looks like we’re going to, it’s the end of civilisation and humanity as we know it. Apart from the few people who have the means to herd into shrinking habitable areas, such as the poles. Telling the kids a selfie with a horse will help is completely beyond reality. All change starts small, but a wake-up call is most certainly at place here.


NRC zaterdag 29 april ‘Het klimaat staat er nog slechter voor dan u denkt’ een artikel van John P Holdren, de belangrijkste klimaatadviseur van Obama.

Museon ‘One Planet’

IPCC Fourth Assessment Report

The 40 Year Delay Between Cause and Effect

Six Degrees Mark Lynas