People of all ages joined fed-up youth around the world in demanding that governments act now to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and stave off dire, irreversible climate change.
On Friday, September 20, young people around the world took to the streets for the Global Climate Strike to demand real climate action, just days before member states gathered to discuss their plans to curb greenhouse gas emissions at the United Nations Climate Action Summit. In all, an estimated 7.6 million people went on strike for climate action—most of them students striking from school—with support from over 800 organizations helping to mobilize their communities. This movement is global. And it won’t stop until governments and corporate actors address the demands of the people to mitigate the climate crisis.
The youth-led climate strikes began in 2018 when a 15-year-old girl in Sweden decided she was fed up with her government’s lack of action to address the climate crisis. She began to sit outside of the Swedish parliament every school day in protest. Greta Thunberg’s daily protests went on to spark a movement of young climate leaders, launching a weekly global school strike to demand real action to combat climate change. From Sweden to the United States to Chile to South Africa to the Pacific Islands, young people across the world have been calling upon decision-makers to consider the health of the planet, the livelihoods of generations to come, and the future of humanity in their weekly strikes.
Scientists have long warned us of the imminent threat of a climate crisis. Projecting forward based on current greenhouse gas emissions trends, we are on track to warm the earth by more than 1.5 degrees Celsius (from pre-industrial levels) as soon as 2030, risking setting off a devastating, irreversible chain reaction far beyond our capacity to mitigate. We’ve already seen the impacts of climate change. Humanity has killed off 60 percent of the global wildlife population since 1970, with human-induced climate change being one of the leading causes. Sea ice in the Arctic has shrunk every decade since 1979. Sea levels are rising, inundating coastal communities, wildfires are ravaging old-growth forests, hurricanes are getting stronger and destroying everything in their paths, and droughts are plaguing farmers and thirsty people around the world.
Marginalized communities are disproportionately impacted by unfair environmental and climate practices. The Inuit in the Arctic, the Yanomami in the Amazon, the Sioux in Standing Rock, and other indigenous groups across the world are losing their lands and facing negative health implications as a direct result of climate change. In the United States, low-income people and people of color have elevated exposure to pollution from extractive industries (e.g. living near toxic coal plants, causing increased rates of asthma). They are more likely to lack access to clean water (Flint), and they die at higher rates during natural disasters and severe weather events.
Yet even in the face of the most pressing crisis facing humanity, world leaders are rolling back the few regulations that exist to seriously address climate change. In the United States, Donald Trump reversed environmental regulations, causing a 3.4-percent rise in carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions in 2018—the largest increase since 2010, and the second largest increase since 1996. In Brazil, fires devastated the earth’s largest rainforest—which absorbs nearly one-third of CO2 emissions—largely due to President Jair Bolsonaro’s policies that ignored environmental regulations in favor of boosting Brazil’s beef industry. Despite demands from climate activists across the world, leaders still have not done enough to address climate change.
We need policies that advance solutions to climate change, not policies that drag us backwards, threatening the survival of future generations. Population Connection and Population Connection Action Fund joined young people in solidarity for the Global Climate Strike, and will continue to advocate for progressive solutions to address the imminent threat of the climate crisis.