This essay is by De Montfort University (DMU) PhD student Nabeelah Ahmed Omarjee.  Nabeelah ran a workshop at this year’s UN Civil Society conference in Salt Lake City, United States, as part of a DMU delegation.

My fears

The world has been slow to wake up to the issue of climate change – and I’m afraid it is that debate that dominates all others at the moment.

The danger posed by global warming and the change to our climate has been a concern for the world for as long as I have been alive.

There seems to be the green shoots of some action, but that is all it is. Why is it taking the world so long to wake up to the problem and when it does, will it be too late?

People will say that there are other issues, climate change should not be a priority while people starve, while people die. The Sustainable Development Goals touch every aspect of people’s lives in every country, and these should be our primary goals at this time.

But, if we can’t get climate change right, then nothing else will matter by 2045. Extreme weather will kill more people. Those who survive will have no home, no food, no clean water – billions will be living in extreme poverty. The property market will crumble, we will be swimming in our faeces as sewage plants collapse, extreme heat and drought will destroy our crops, uncontrollable forest fires will annihilate ecosystems. By 2020, next year, approximately 50 million people will be displaced. We are struggling with these staggering numbers now. What will we do when at least a billion people are displaced? Education, gender equality, clean energy, reduced inequalities – none of these SDGs will be a priority while we fight to survive.

Coastal erosion, mass migration driven by climate change, extreme weather and other apocalyptic scenarios all seem realistic possibilities now, and that is frightening to my generation – what sort of world are we inheriting?

My thoughts

De Montfort University is making strides as a university towards action on climate change, but it is only one organization. Is it doing enough? No. No organization can ever do enough.

But the SDGs are now embedded within the university and they are the prism through which all research, teaching and student support is focused.

Work has already begun to make sustainability and the SDGs integral to all teaching modules, and that work will continue for the foreseeable future – and hopefully the next 25 years.

There are now more than 200 separate research projects going on at DMU aligned to the SDGs – and this is a start.

However, more and drastic action is required. Everybody has to up their game – and that also has to include students and young people. As an example, recycling rates among students is horrifically low. There are 20,000 students at DMU alone, engaging in irresponsible recycling patterns – what impact will this have on our climate over the next 25 years?  We have a responsibility to ourselves and to our children to make changes – but time is running out. We need to act now.

My hopes

The world wakes up! Environmentalism becomes ingrained in everyone and everything, and is encompassed by government, companies, organizations and individuals, all of which need to be held accountable for their actions, actions that have doomed us all.

I have no doubt that De Montfort University and other like-minded institutions will play their part, but we have a long way to go.

I hope students and others in my generation will become more politically active and demand change. I hope for a time of unity – a time where governments and organisations will no longer be able to ignore our pleas, or make empty promises, or act in their own self-interest. I hope for a time where we can demand change – and they will have no choice but to deliver.

It that going to happen? I’m not optimistic at the moment, but I am hopeful. If enough individuals stand together we will have the power to do what needs to be done.

What will the world be like in 2045? One consumed by environmentalism and putting right what the generation in power at present has failed to do – act to reduce the effects of climate change.

The time for polite conversation on the subject has passed, now is the time for action.