Widespread teen action necessary to climate change fight

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Jonas Gravel

Youth climate activist Greta Thunberg joins others worldwide to advocate for the planet. The participation of young people in the climate change effort is essential in order to make much needed change.

Spearheading the fight against one of the most existential threats we face, climate change, is not government officials, but kids. Our generation must come together to combat this expansive problem by depolarizing the issue so we can work together, accelerating the transition to clean energy and reducing our carbon footprint.

One such youth climate activist is 18-year-old Greta Thunberg who joined other climate activists to deliver an inspirational testimony before the Oversight Committee of Congress on Earth Day in April. 

During the hearing, the environmental impact of the fossil fuel industry was discussed and activists urged Congress to end fossil fuel subsidies and begin the  transition to clean energy sources. Sadly, Congress has politicized climate change, an issue that impacts everyone,  regardless of political party. While some limited action has been taken, including the United States rejoining the Paris Climate Accord, this politicization is preventing us from taking the necessary, drastic action needed to achieve its goals and protect our planet. 

In her testimony, Thunberg pressed the committee to listen to the science behind climate change. She explained that if we plan to respect the goals set by the Paris Climate Accord, it is urgent we “end fossil fuel subsidies, stop new exploration and extraction, completely divest from fossil fuels and keep the carbon in the ground.”

One of the most important and influential messages Thunberg expressed was the power that young people have in raising awareness to the climate crisis. When she said, “We will not give up without a fight,” it spoke to many teens, including myself, because we know that our generation will see and have to live with the effects of the decisions made now. This is all the more reason for young people to collectively join this fight. 

We will not give up without a fight. ”

— Greta Thunberg

Thunberg founded Fridays for Future (FFF), a movement of students who don’t attend school on Fridays to protest unsatisfactory government action. She was only 15 when she founded the organization which was launched with the intent of holding the Swedish government responsible for the promises they made in the Paris Climate Accords. The movement has since grown tremendously, sparking action among young people across the world. On March 15, 2019, more than one million people participated in 2,200 strikes across 125 countries alongside the movement in response to the 2019 European Parliament election. The strikes continue today, reaching almost 98,000 events worldwide. FFF has educated and brought awareness to the climate crisis and has inspired teens around the world to make their voices heard.

Teen involvement in the climate crisis goes beyond FFF.  Around the same time as the mass FFF strikes, about 200 Grady students participated in a climate walkout. Other youth-led environmental movements such as the Sunrise Movement and Sierra Student Coalition continue to take action across the country, not only making their voices heard but also spreading teen climate awareness. 

Following Thunberg’s testimony, several members of Congress and a member from the American Petroleum Institute argued the economic benefits of the oil and gas industry. 

Republican Representative Pat Fallon stated that bold action by the US to change to sustainable energy would “hamstring” the current energy industry, arguing the US is already a “global leader” in regards to reducing CO2 emissions. This claim is very misleading. According to the International Energy Agency, the United States did achieve the largest reduction of CO2 emissions of any country in 2019, however we also are one of the largest contributors to CO2 emissions, according to the Union of Concerned Scientists in 2020. 

Climate change is one of the most pressing issues of our time. Our generation’s voices are necessary tools to combat the approaching effects of global warming. Youth activists such as Thunberg have pioneered teen involvement in this issue and shown that even as young people, we can be impactful. Our collective action or inaction on climate change will determine what that future looks like. 

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