Young climate activists fighting to have their voices heard

It began with one teenage girl skipping school on a Friday to push her government to do something about climate change.

Thirteen months after Greta Thunberg sat outside the Swedish Parliament, that small act of protest has erupted into the biggest climate demonstration in history and inspired a generation of young people to fight for a healthy planet.

Friday’s global climate strike saw more than a million people flood the streets in more than 150 countries around the world, including 250,000 in New York City, where Thunberg addressed cheering crowds and demanded global leaders act on the climate crisis.

“It felt like history in the making; it we felt like we were setting the tone for what the future holds,” said Caroline Merner, a 24-year-old climate activist from Vancouver who was among those marching in Manhattan. “The momentum young people have is incredible.”

In Canada, young activists will build on that energy during a week of climate action that will culminate on Friday in a series of youth-led strikes across the country. More than 100 events are planned that day, including rallies in Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal, where Thunberg will be in attendance.

Canadian youth say their voices are a vital addition to global calls for bold climate policies.

Many have already witnessed the effects of climate change — Canada is warming faster than the world average, and the Arctic three times as fast.

They’ve also watched politicians either fail on their promises to curb carbon emissions or try to reverse existing climate policies, including Ontario’s Progressive Conservative government fighting the federal carbon pricing strategy.

And they’ve taken to heart the stark report issued by the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) that warns the world has a 10- to 12-year window in which to make deep cuts in emissions to keep the world from warming by 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial levels. Staying below that threshold will limit the most dangerous consequences of climate change, including floods, droughts, extreme heat waves and rising sea levels, scientists say.

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