By Lee Van Der Loo
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Hundreds of youngsters are planning to skip school to join a rally in Washington on Friday as part of what organizers are calling an international Youth Climate Strike to seek action on climate change.
Organizers expect some 2,500 students to join the event in front of the Capitol Building, where Congress sits, with similar rallies taking place in 46 states.
The demonstrations, which will call on politicians to take action to combat climate change, express support for measures including the Green New Deal, an ambitious Democratic environmental proposal that has become a lightning rod for Republican criticism.
“So many kids are going to be in the street, so many kids are going to influence people, so many kids are finally going to be able to have their voices heard, so many adults are going to finally wake up,” said 12-year-old Haven Coleman of Denver, one of three youth organizers of the protest in the United States, in a phone interview.
The event is the offspring of youth strikes in Europe inspired by Greta Thunberg, a lone 15-year-old picketer at the Swedish Parliament. Organizers said they hope staging the event during the school day will signal the importance that students attach to fighting climate change.
The two other leaders of the U.S. movement are Isra Hirsi, the 16-year-old daughter of newly-elected Democratic U.S. Representative Ilhan Omar, of Minneapolis, and Alexandria Villasenor, 13, of New York.
The group is calling for a “national emergency” on climate change and for the United States to stop all greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.
The scientific community broadly agrees that greenhouse gas emissions must be reduced to net-zero by 2050 to halt the catastrophic effects of climate change.
Most of the declared Democratic candidates for the White House have already voiced support for the Green New Deal, a measure proposed by Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez – a sweeping 10-year blueprint for combating climate change that involves reducing carbon emissions and retrofitting infrastructure.
Republicans have dismissed the proposals as unreasonably expensive and disruptive to the U.S. economy. They have tried to use some of the measures to sow discord within the Democratic party, painting their political rivals as shifting to the left and embracing extreme policies.
(Reporting by Lee Van Der Loo, writing by Gabriella Borter; Editing by Scott Malone and Rosalba O’Brien)