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Illustration by Quim Paredes

Climate Change: Apathy is Not an Option

Climate change is ultimately an issue of privilege. It is absolutely imperative that those of us with privilege end our apathy towards the issue.

Dec 2, 2018

When it comes to climate change, there is a lot of blame to pass around. We blame big businesses for creating the problem. We blame the politicians for their complicity. We blame climate deniers for spreading misinformation. In this deflection of blame, we forget the real culprits: ourselves.
Most of us admit to caring about climate change. We flinch when world leaders deny climate change. We have long debates about it. We pledge to take shorter showers or to use public transport more often.
Yet when it comes to really holding politicians accountable for climate change, we back down. We decide that other issues are more important or realize that we prefer the financial benefits of the status quo. This apathy seeps into society and prevents meaningful change.
Climate change may be the defining issue of this generation, yet very few elections are swung — or even fought — on climate change. Very few politicians have made climate change a central feature of their campaigns. Even more worrying than the politicians who ignore climate change are those that are hypocrites about it. A quintessential example of this is the Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. He says all the right things: arguing that there is “no hiding from climate change” and even proposing a carbon tax. However, Trudeau has continuously insisted on making full use of Canada’s abundant fossil fuel reserves. He has sanctioned increased oil drilling and proposed new pipelines. Overall, Oil Change International has estimated that Trudeau’s policies would take up 30 percent of the entire world’s carbon budget.
In this regard, Trudeau has a competitor in French president Emmanuel Macron. When Donald Trump pulled the United States out of the 2015 Paris agreement, Macron repudiated the US president by pledging to “Make Our Planet Great Again.” However, Macron himself has taken no significant action on the issue, with his own environmental minister accusing him of being in “thrall to powerful lobbying groups.”
The actions of these leaders are a direct result of our apathy. We claim to care about climate change, yet fail to hold the likes of Macron and Trudeau accountable. They are not the leaders that we need, but rather the leaders we deserve.
The results of our apathy go beyond politics. The media’s coverage of climate change has been hopelessly inadequate. In mid-October, we learned from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change that the world will likely [exceed] ( its carbon budget of 1.5 degrees celsius between 2030 and 2052. Yet much of the mainstream media ignored this dire warning. Even when climate change is covered by the media, it is done in a problematic manner. Media organizations as respected as the BBC have often given a platform to climate change deniers alongside respected scientists in the field. This implies that climate change science is a matter of dispute amongst scientists, which is simply not true, considering that around 97 percent of scientists believe in man-made climate change. Equal representation of different ideas should apply to opinions, not facts.
Again this stems from the general public apathy about the issue. Recently, members of the media, especially in the United States, have faced advertising boycotts for voicing problematic views. Why can’t we extend this courtesy to climate change?
What makes this particularly disappointing is that climate change is ultimately an issue of privilege. Whether it is a 19th century British coal magnate or a 21st century Russian oligarch, it has always been the rich that have accelerated climate change for the benefit of their own pockets.
Yet climate change will not really affect the privileged, including those of us at NYU Abu Dhabi. We can always slip into an air-conditioned room or take a flight to escape a natural disaster. Instead, climate change’s biggest impact will be on the poor and the downtrodden.
A rural farmer in Western India cannot ignore the [threat of successive droughts] ( The Pacific Islanders of Kiribati [cannot turn a blind eye to rising sea levels] ( A Pakistani construction worker can’t slip into an [air-conditioned room to escape a heatwave] (
It is absolutely imperative that those of us with privilege end our apathy. Throughout the world, we see inspiring stories of successful environmental activism. Within campus itself, the work of Student Interest Groups like Ecoherence and Greenhouse is essential. It is time that all of us follow their example.
Abhyudaya Tyagi is a staff writer. Email her at
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