WASHINGTON — Hundreds of students and activists skipped school on Friday to protest in front of the Capitol as part of a worldwide student climate strike.
The strike was one of more than 2,000 to take place around the world. According to organizer Greta Thunberg, a 16-year-old activist from Sweden who has gained international attention and a Nobel Peace Prize nomination for her climate change advocacy, there were strikes in 123 countries and on all seven continents.
Eight-year-old activist Havana Chapman-Edwards said that young people would be the first to pay the price for climate change caused by older generations. “I am here to say, ‘no more,’” Chapman-Edwards said. “The future belongs to all of us.”
Other students agreed.
“I’m here because I want to be able to have kids who will have kids who will have kids and they all can have a long life,” said high school freshman Nora Fenn Gilman, 14, of Silver Spring, Maryland outside of Washington.
Protesters at the strike pointed to a U.N. report released in October that claims that the effects of global warming will be irreversible by 2030 as evidence for the urgency of climate action. The report, which was issued by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, describes a grim future if global warming is not reined in and calls for dramatic steps to limit warming.
Students insisted that federal lawmakers need to take climate change more seriously.
“They need to acknowledge this, or very dark things will happen, not only for a future generation but for all of us,” said activist Omer Atas, 22.
Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., along with the three leaders of the U.S. Youth Climate Strike movement — Omar’s daughter Isra Hirsi, Alexandria Villasenor and Haven Coleman — said that lawmakers need to address the devastating effects of climate change and pass the Green New Deal.
“We face the greatest threat that humanity has ever faced, and that is climate change,” said Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn.
Introduced in January by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., and Sen. Ed Markey, D-Mass., the Green New Deal calls for large-scale economic mobilization to respond to the growing threat of climate change.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has said a vote is expected to take place on the Green New Deal resolution during the last week of March. The Senate is not expected to pass the bill, and Senate Democrats are upset McConnell is setting up the vote without allowing broader debate on climate change policy.
House GOP leaders called for Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., to hold hearings on the Green New Deal Thursday. Eleven House GOP lawmakers said in a letter sent to Pelosi that the Green New Deal “would hurt Americans struggling to make ends meet” and that it “could permanently put the American Dream out of reach for millions of Americans.”
Despite GOP backlash this week, Omar energized the rally and maintained that climate is an important issue that requires federal response. She said that the students represented hope for a change in climate policy.
“We are the light that can bring change,” she said.
Her optimism was shared by students at the event, who stressed that climate change is increasingly their generation’s top concern.
“This is not just a chance to fight a crisis, this is a chance to make the world a better place,” said Caleigh Vergeer, 16.