Thousands of UK teens set for climate strike

Action: Last November, students in 27 towns across Australia skipped school for climate protests. © Getty

Scientists say we have 12 years to avoid climate catastrophe. In response, UK students are skipping school today for climate protests, joining other students around the world.

“I know this is a drastic action, this is quite a big step that I am taking,” says 14-year-old Zoe Bonnet. “But I do feel strongly that we have to solve it now … I have to do something.”

Zoe is just one of thousands of British pupils expected to skip lessons today to protest the world’s escalating climate crisis.

It will be the latest protest in a global movement.

It all started last year when 16-year-old Greta Thunberg held a solo protest outside the Swedish parliament. Now, up to 70,000 schoolchildren are taking part every week in hundreds of towns worldwide.

Thunberg was even invited to Davos where she addressed powerful leaders from around the world. “Our house is on fire,” she told them in an extraordinary speech. “I want you to panic […] I want you to act.”

According to researchers, urgent action is exactly what is needed. In a study released last year, UN scientists claimed that we have just 12 years to prevent the catastrophic impact of global warming.

Data shows that Earth is on track to exceed 1.5C warming as soon as 2030. Significant warming beyond this point would be devastating and potentially irreversible.

“Limiting warming to 1.5C is possible within the laws of chemistry and physics,” claims Professor Jim Skea. “The final tick box is political will.”

Hothouse Earth

But will the school strikes make a difference? People have been urging politicians to take actions for decades, but many do not feel they are being listened to. Why is this strike any different?

Should young people be given more of a voice? For many of the students involved, this may be their first taste of organised activism. Is it an encouraging sign for the future?

You Decide

  1. Is protest an effective way to cause change?

Activities

  1. Watch the first video link in Become An Expert — it shows 16-year-old Greta Thunberg delivering an impassioned speech to the World Economic Forum. How does she use language in an effective way? Do you find her speech inspiring? Why/why not?

Some People Say...

“Climate change is no longer some far-off problem; it is happening here, it is happening now.”

Former US President Barack Obama

What do you think?

Q & A

What do we know?
A Department for Education spokesperson has said that whether students were given official permission to take part in the strikes was a matter for individual schools.
What do we not know?
We do not know exactly how many students are taking part in the protests. According to the Daily Mail, protests were organised in 38 separate towns.

Word Watch

Escalating
When something is increasing rapidly, or in this case, getting worse.
Protest
Thunberg started by striking for three weeks outside the Swedish parliament. After the Swedish election, she continued to strike every Friday.
Davos
Swiss ski resort where the World Economic Forum meets every year. It is regularly attended by the world’s leading figures in politics and business.
Study
Written by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
Significant
According to the Paris Agreement, governments have committed to keeping climate change “well below” 2C of warming.

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