Barack Obama, the former president of the United States, was a broken man when he took to the podium at the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow.
He said that "meaningful progress had been made since Paris", referring to the 2015 summit he managed in his last year of office. "What is true, however, is that we continue to fall short individually and collectively. This crisis is not being addressed in the way we have done enough.
Obama's comments came just two days after over 100,000 protestors marched through the streets of Glasgow in cold rain to demand more concrete, urgent action on climate change. Although there were many flashy announcements during the first week of COP26, countries' climate plans are still not on track to limit global warming to 1.5 C. Climate finance commitments are also hundreds of billions short. The second week of the summit will see government delegates focusing on details about carbon markets and other lingering issues.
Obama addressed young people directly throughout his speech. He often acknowledged their anger, saying that they have been repeatedly bombarded by warnings about the future if climate change is not addressed. But he also said that he saw adults pretending the problem does not exist. You are correct to feel frustrated. People in my generation haven't done enough to address the potentially catastrophic problem you are inheriting.
Obama gave four concrete ways that young people could use their power to improve the climate by harnessing anger and frustration.
Do not give up on politics.
Press companies: "Companies are at risk of losing customers and top-flight workers if they don't get on this side." Corporations care about their bottom line. Young people have the power to use their purchasing power for change. He said that members of your generation are willing to pay more for climate-responsive products.
Tell your family and loved ones about the topic: Obama reminded youth that, while they were raised in a climate-conscious world, older generations weren't. They don't have the same frame.
Listen to others. "It won't suffice to mobilize the converted. It is not enough to preach to all the choir. He stressed the importance to build a broad coalition and to listen compassionately to people with different views and life experiences. The most vulnerable people can't pay the majority of the costs. He said that any climate plan worth its salt must take these inequalities into consideration.
Obama finally urged, "I want to keep you angry." "I want to see you remain frustrated. Continue pushing yourself to do more. This is what's necessary to overcome this challenge. You should train for a marathon and not a sprint.