Millions Protest Climate Change: There's No Plan(et) B

On Friday, millions of young people around the globe are marching in the streets of their respective cities in a climate change protest. From Australia to Kenya to the U.S., youth afraid of the sustainability of the future are skipping school and work in favor of gathering to demand that something be done to prevent climate catastrophe.

Organizers of the marches have said that there will be 156 countries participating.

New York City's 1.1 million public school students were given official permission to skip out on classes for the day, though they do need parental consent to do so. "New York City stands with our young people. They're our conscience," tweeted Mayor Bill de Blasio.

Other leaders, however, are not so understanding. Australia's acting prime minister Michael McCormack (who is actually the deputy prime minister, but is filling in for PM Scott Morrison while he is in Washington D.C. to meet with President Donald Trump) called the protests a "disruption" and suggested that students would learn more if they attended school today.

The global march comes just before a week of climate change meetings at the United Nations in New York City, which will include the Youth Climate Summit this Saturday and the U.N. Climate Action Summit on Monday.

It is largely spurred on, though not organized, by 16 year-old Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg. Thunberg came to the U.S. by way of solar-powered boat and will attend the marches and meetings next week. This week, she testified to Congress about the impact of climate change.

"I don't want you to listen to me," she said. "I want you to listen to the scientists." Her remarks, which lasted less than a minute, were put bluntly and passionately.

Thunberg planned her remarks to be short because she said she wanted the focus to be on the United Nation's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report she had submitted as evidence. "And then I want you to take real action," she concluded. Later in the day she met with former President Barack Obama.

But no matter the stance, it's rare and rather impressive to see such a large and cohesive movement coordinated largely by those under the age of 18. But most executives and politicians who are the target of these protests have yet to be moved into taking dramatic action.

A report issued by the United Nations last year concluded that the world had just 12 years (now 11) to limit climate change catastrophe. "We are the last generation that can prevent irreparable damage to our planet," General Assembly President María Fernanda Espinosa Garcés warned the United Nations in March.

A U.S. climate report issued by issued by 13 federal agencies last year also found that if significant steps weren't taken to prevent climate change, the U.S. would lose 10 percent of its economic power by the end of the century and sustain irreversible damage to its environment.

President Donald Trump has questioned both of the reports and regularly makes fun of the concept of climate change on Twitter during snow storms. In the past he has suggested that climate change is a hoax invented by the Chinese.

Climate March
Young demonstrators hold placards as they attend a climate change protest organised by "Youth Strike 4 Climate", opposite the Houses of Parliament in central London on February 15, 2019. Ben STANSALL / AFP/Getty
Millions Protest Climate Change: There's No Plan(et) B | Analysis