Youth and climate change: A message for us all


9/20/2019, 6 a.m.
We applaud the advocacy and activism of young people locally and across the country in their efforts to create change ...

We applaud the advocacy and activism of young people locally and across the country in their efforts to create change and a better world.

Such an effort is taking place Friday, Sept. 20, when young people around the world are leading a coordinated strike from school and work to protest government and business inaction on climate change.

The Global Climate Strike is being led by 16-year-old Greta Thunberg of Sweden, who last year began her own weekly strikes outside government offices in her home country to demand action on climate change. Others joining her cause brought her to the United States in late August on a zero-emissions sailboat — she refuses to fly because of the aviation industry’s high carbon emissions — and she met with U.S. lawmakers and activists in Washington before heading to New York City for Friday’s action and the United Nation’s Climate Action Summit on Sept. 23.

The impact of climate change is being felt around the globe, despite those who disregard the scientific data and proof showing that carbon emissions are destroying our planet.

At the U.N. summit, countries are expected to present new and more aggressive targets to curb greenhouse gas emissions and to commit to faster transitions to renewable energy.

Unfortunately and to the detriment of the United States and the world, President Trump announced in June 2017 that the United States would withdraw from the Paris Agreement on climate change. Our nation ranks either first — or second be- hind China, depending on the data source — for carbon dioxide emissions.

We laud Ms. Thunberg and the young people of metro Richmond and elsewhere for fostering public awareness and putting public pressure on global decision-makers and industry heads to make environmental concerns a priority. Our world cannot survive without clean air and water, an adequate food supply and a climate that can sustain life.

We were heartened this week by Gov. Ralph S. Northam’s executive order committing Virginia to making its electric grid 100 percent carbon free by 2050. That’s a big, hairy and audacious goal. But no progress is possible without a goal and a start.

We owe it to our children and our children’s children to make tracks in the right direction. We hope the public will listen to the young people on Friday and take action.