WASHINGTON, DC, March 15, 2019 (ENS) – Millions of young people in 123 countries are skipping classes and staying out of school today on a strike for immediate government action to curb climate change before the planet becomes uninhabitable for their generation.
Mobilized by social media and inspired by Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg, 16, environmentally aware students are calling on their governments to curb runaway global warming.
Founder of the Youth Strike for Climate movement, Thunberg yesterday was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.
Thunberg warned today at a rally in Stockholm that the world faces an “existential crisis, the biggest crisis humanity ever has faced and still it has been ignored for decades.”
She has said, “You say you love your children above all else, and yet you are stealing their future in front of their very eyes.”
Thunberg started her climate campaign in August 2018 when she sat in front of the Swedish Parliament every school day for three weeks to protest lawmakers’ lack of action on the climate crisis. She posted what she was doing on Instagram and Twitter and her posts went viral.
In September 2018, Thunberg decided to continue striking every Friday until Swedish government policies provided a safe pathway to keep global warming under two degrees Celsius beyond pre-industrial levels, in line with the Paris Climate Agreement. She opened the Twitter feed #FridaysForFuture, which has taken off worldwide.
The hashtags #FridaysForFuture and #Climatestrike spread and many students, and adults, too, began to protest outside their parliaments and city halls throughout the world.
Some politicians have expressed opposition to the student climate strikes, but many are in support, including German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar.
The mayors of Paris, Milan, Sydney, Austin, Philadelphia, Portland, Oslo, Barcelona and Montreal added their backing on Thursday, according to a statement on the C40 Cities website.
Mayor of Paris and Chair of C40 Cities Anne Hidalgo said, “It is truly inspiring to see young people, led by brilliant young women, making their voices heard and demanding urgent climate action. They are absolutely correct that our actions today will determine their futures. Mayors of the world’s leading cities are listening.”
“It is our responsibility as adults and political leaders, to learn from you and deliver the future you want and the future you can trust in,” Mayor Hidalgo said.
Thousands of scientists in Britain, Finland, Germany and the United States have signed petitions in support of the students’ demands.
Nicole Leonard of the U.S. group Fossil Free, part of the climate action NGO 350.org, calls this “an historic day,” “an epic wake up call for our future,” and “a whirlwind moment we must seize.”
Young people are on the streets in New Zealand, Australia, Japan, the Philippines, Nepal, India and European cities as part of an expected 2,000 events in more than 120 countries.
In the UK today students in 60 towns and cities went on strike for a second time to draw attention to the seriousness of the climate crisis.
Australian organizers are counting 150,000 children and young people taking part in 55 strikes around the country, including 40,000 people in Melbourne and crowd of 30,000+ in Sydney.
In Sydney, university student Xander De Vries, 20, told “The Guardian” newspaper, “It’s our time to rise up. We don’t have a lot of time left; it’s us who have to make a change so I thought it would be important to be here and show support to our generation.”
In Paris, thousands of strikers filled the streets. Some criticized French President Emmanuel Macron, who plays the role of enabler of the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement. But he is criticized by climate activists for lacking ambition in his efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
In Germany, an estimated 300,000 students and their supporters flooded streets across the country.
Protests in Madrid and more than 50 other Spanish cities drew thousands of children and students worried about rising seas and desertification.
In Bukidnon, the Philippines, a group of students walked over 12 kilometers through mountains to join other students striking in the province.
Meanwhile, Hong Kong witnessed the largest environmental protest in its history.
In Delhi, India students chanted “no to coal,” while in Indonesia kids took to the beach in Bali with messages demanding 100 percent renewable energy.
Students in Mexico City gathered in front of Metropolitan Cathedral in the city’s main square before marching to demand government action on climate change.
In Ottawa, Canada’s capital, students blocked schools and marched to Parliament Hill with signs warning, “There are no jobs on a dead planet.”
Montreal student climate strikers formed human chains around some high schools, disrupting morning classes. The Commission Scolaire de Montréal, Quebec’s largest school board, said all classes at six high schools were canceled for the morning.
And there have been other problems, but not many. In Uganda, a young student who has been actively taking on leadership and organizing says their strike was not permitted by police, although they followed all official procedures.
Humans have just 11 more years to avert catastrophic levels of global warming, according to a 2018 report from the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), established 30 years ago by the World Meteorological Organization to assess climate change based on the latest science.
Through the IPCC, thousands of experts from around the world synthesize the most recent developments in climate science, adaptation, vulnerability, and mitigation every five to seven years.
If greenhouse gas emissions continue at the present rate, the planetary temperature will climb to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels as soon as 2030, the IPCC report warns.
Global warming at that temperature would leave the planet at the mercy of events such as extreme drought, wildfires, floods and food shortages for hundreds of millions of people, according to the IPCC report.
Students on strike throughout the world are all demanding the reduction of human-generated greenhouse gas emissions, saying the emissions are making an overheated planet uninhabitable for their generation.
On the Youth Climate Strike website, young Americans explain why they are striking. “We, the youth of America, are striking because decades of inaction has left us with just 11 years to change the trajectory of the worst effects of climate change, according to the Oct 2018 UN IPCC Report.”
“We are striking because our world leaders have yet to acknowledge, prioritize, or properly address our climate crisis. We are striking because marginalized communities across our nation – especially communities of color, disabled communities, and low-income communities – are already disproportionately impacted by climate change. We are striking because if the social order is disrupted by our refusal to attend school, then the system is forced to face the climate crisis and enact change.”
“With our futures at stake, we call for radical legislative action to combat climate change and its countless detrimental effects on the American people. We are striking for the Green New Deal, for a fair and just transition to a 100% renewable economy, and for ending the creation of additional fossil fuel infrastructure,” the young Americans stated.
The American student strikers are calling for:
• a national embrace of the Green New Deal, which includes 100 percent renewable energy by 2030
• an end to fossil fuel infrastructure projects such as pipelines, coal plants and fracking operations
• a national emergency declaration on climate change
• mandatory education on climate change and its effects from kindergarten through eighth grade.
• a clean water supply
• preservation of public lands and wildlife
• all government decisions to be linked to the latest scientific research
“Additionally,” the young Americans said, “we believe the climate crisis should be declared a national emergency because we are running out of time.”
Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney tweeted today, “Young people are speaking up and cities are listening. Combined with real action that we are proud to be leading, we will rise to the challenge and leave a healthy Philadelphia for generations to come.”
In an opinion piece for “The Guardian” intended as a direct message to the young activists who took to the streets, UN Secretary-General António Guterres said that he understood the anxiety and “fear for the future” behind their actions. He went on to say that “humankind is capable of enormous achievements. Your voices give me hope.”
“My generation has failed to respond properly to the dramatic challenge of climate change. This is deeply felt by young people. No wonder they are angry,” said Guterres.
“These schoolchildren have grasped something that seems to elude many of their elders,” he said. “We are in a race for our lives, and we are losing. The window of opportunity is closing; we no longer have the luxury of time, and climate delay is almost as dangerous as climate denial.”
Guterres said that the more he witnessed the “commitment and activism” of young people who are fed up with the pace of the international response to global warming, “the more confident I am that we will win. Together, with your help and thanks to your efforts, we can and must beat this threat and create a cleaner, safer, greener world for everyone.”