Students and activists from around the state of Indiana joined local marches calling for lawmakers to act immediately to end climate change.
The protests were part of a global movement led by 16-year-old Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg. Students went on strike from school for the day and attended protests in more than 1,000 locations around the U.S., including 13 in Indiana.
“This is a survival issue,” said Connie Thompson, 20, of Martinsville. “I grew up knowing that my future is limited because of the coming climate catastrophe. This is the first time it’s meant life or death for everybody.”
Thompson and other student protestors in downtown Indianapolis said they hoped to bring about climate change awareness and demand government action locally and at the U.N. Climate Action Summit in New York City beginning Sep. 23.
The United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released a report in August that found that stopping catastrophic global warming would require all sectors of the economy to drastically cut greenhouse gas emissions.
The world’s reliance on fossil fuels, a main source of greenhouse gas emissions, has made that reduction unlikely unless nations, including the U.S., adopt major shifts in policy.
Climate change is affecting different parts of the world differently, but researchers say is already having an effect on the state of Indiana.
The average temperature in the state has risen by 1.2 degrees Fahrenheit since 1895. Temperatures are projected to rise by about 5 degrees by mid-century.
Extreme heat increases the likelihood of heat-related illnesses to vulnerable parts of the population like children and the elderly.
Climate change is also reducing the number of extremely cold days during winter. That may sound pleasant, but the extremely cold days keep down the populations of disease-carrying insects like mosquitoes and ticks. Less extreme cold days could mean more pests and disease.
“We’re tired of the empty promises,” said Miranda Frausto, 19, a student studying sustainable management and policy at Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis. “We’re hoping that with this wave of people power our politicians will listen to what is the right thing, which is fighting climate change and becoming more resilient to it.”
Students were joined by supporters from different generations.
Michael Bean, a Sierra Club Hoosier Chapter member, said he decided to join the climate strike after a conversation with a high school student.
“She blamed my generation for leaving them a mess that they will have to deal with in the next 20 years, because we have known for 30 years that the climate was changing and that action needed to be taken. And we have done nothing,” said Bean. “It was an engaging conversation with the young people that they feel we have not done enough. So, I’m here to support them.”
Some supporters said current federal environment and energy policies more than justify the fervor possessed by the striking students.
“With the Trump administration, we’re going backwards, and it’s hard to miss that. The weather patterns have changed dramatically. Here we are standing at the end of September and it feels like 90 degrees. That’s very different than in the past,” said Julie Lowe, chair of the Sierra Club Hoosier Chapter’s Winding Waters Group. “I think when enough is enough, people stand up no matter how old they are and ask for change.”
The IPCC will release a new report on the effects of climate change on the ocean and the cryosphere, the frozen parts of the planet, Sept. 25.
A second worldwide strike is planned for Sept. 27.