More than 200 California students rallied Friday at the state Capitol in Sacramento as part of a global Youth Climate Strike calling for action to combat climate change.
It was billed as the first march of its kind, with students from more than 100 countries participating in more than 2,000 strikes.
Students skipped school to call attention to the climate crisis and support measures including California’s Assembly Joint Resolution 7, which backs the “Green New Deal” to battle global warming that is now in front of Congress.
Students are also asking for compulsory, science-based climate education in schools, and calling for a halt to new fossil fuel infrastructure.
The students, some as young as 10, came largely from Northern California, including Sonoma County. Their county endured some the state’s most devastating wildfires, and scientists say climate change is one of the major factors.
“You cannot go home after this and expect this to be the one thing you will do,” said Carter Hill, 16, of Ponderosa High School in Shingle Springs. “This isn’t something we can fix in a day and we need to make sure we don’t forget that.”
Lincoln High School student Hana Uhler, 16, said she felt guilty about missing school Friday, but reminded herself that she missed two days of school when smoke from last year’s Camp Fire spread through the Sacramento area.
“In just a few years’ time, we will feel the effects of the climate crisis in far more extreme weather conditions, and this should scare us,” she said. “This should be a constant worry for everyone as it is for young people. We are here to urge our representatives not to just acknowledge the problem, but to do something about it.”
Student speakers told the crowd that the planet had only 11 years left to effectively address climate change. And many of those changes will be seen locally, in Sacramento, they said.
Sacramento currently sees an average of four extreme heat days of 104 degrees Fahrenheit and above each year. That number is expected to increase to 40 days by the year 2100, according to California’s Fourth Climate Change Assessment, which was led by UC Davis.
And climate change could be more threatening to Californians than previously anticipated, based on newly published research led by the U.S. Geological Survey. The region will also be at greater risk for flooding and wildfires.
Students voiced their concerns that government officials are not responding fast enough to what many called an unlivable future.
“As a kid I wanted to be many things. I dreamed of being a farmer, then an author, even an actress,” said Megan Phelps, 19, a UC Davis student and president of the Climate Reality Project Campus Corps. “But something that stayed constant was that I always dreamed of being a mother, and every day I read news of the worsening impact of climate change. I am crushed at the thought that if we don’t take immediate action, my dream like all of yours is at risk. “
Uhler said students are often reminded to do their small part in saving the planet by recycling, using reusable water bottles and straws, and turning off lights to conserve energy.
“Of course that’s all valid,” she said. “At the end of the day, human accountability to live on this planet is diminishing, because the generations before us ignored the climate crisis, and refused to accept the blame for it.”
Some cities like Sydney, Australia, saw more than 30,000 children teens march to combat climate change.
The School Strike 4 Climate Action movement began in Sweden last year when 15-year-old Greta Thunberg skipped school to protest outside the Swedish Parliament holding a sign that read, “School strike for climate.” The movement has since grown worldwide.
Thunberg was nominated this week for the Nobel Peace Prize.