Close to 100 Los Altos High School students took to the streets Friday to protest the Trump Administration and federal legislators for inaction on climate change, describing it as an existential threat to the planet that will deeply affect younger generations.
Marching down San Antonio Road to the corner of El Camino Real Friday morning, students chanted for climate justice and against public support for fossil fuel industries, calling out Democratic leaders like U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein for her failure to support ambitious climate change legislation. The event is scheduled to last until 2:30 p.m.
"We're out here because not enough is being done by the people with the power to make change," said Henry Lai, a Los Altos High senior.
To Lai, inaction is unacceptable in the face of new climate research and projected increases in temperature. Referring to a recent report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, he said countries like the U.S. really only have 11 years to bring down emissions before global warming trends cause catastrophic problems.
Student leaders released a statement calling out the "failure" of governments around the world to take effective steps to address climate change. Calling it an impending catastrophe, students called on government officials to sever ties to the fossil fuels industry and instead invest in a "Green New Deal."
"We are at one of the most critical points in human history -- if action is not taken right now, we will be facing a catastrophe unparalleled by anything the world has ever seen before," according to the statement. "We, the young people, are striking because we are scared for our future -- we are skipping school because there is no point in staying in school to study for a future we will not have."
The Green New Deal is a resolution introduced last month by U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and U.S. Sen. Ed Markey outlining prompt action to reduce carbon emissions. Main components of the resolution include switching to renewable and zero-emission energy sources and upgrading infrastructure with an eye towards "eliminating pollution and greenhouse gas emissions as much as technologically feasible." The scope of the resolution are intended to take place in a short 10-year period.
Students leading the Los Altos High protest encouraged attendees to send letters to Diane Feinstein urging her to support the Green New Deal, reversing a firm stance against the resolution for being infeasible and a political nonstarter that lacks the votes needed to pass.
"The proposed changes of the bill are the types of changes we need if we want to continue on as a civilization," students said in the statement. "We have just 12 years to cut our emissions down to zero, we simply do not have enough time for any bill less radical than the Green New Deal."
Lai said he was galvanized to protest Friday because the Trump Administration appears to be rolling back climate change initiatives and denying that it exists. Trump had previously tweeted that global warming is a "Chinese hoax," but has since walked back those comments and stated that climate change, while it may exist, is not a man-made phenomenon. He also implied strong action on climate change wouldn't be worth the economic drawbacks and potential jobs lost.
"It's worse than inaction," Lai said. "It's a step back."
Los Altos High students walked out in solidarity with an international protest among children and teens demonstrating in nearly 100 countries across the globe, all under the banner of a movement called "Fridays For Future." Many of the local protests were inspired, at least in part, by 16-year-old Swedish activist Greta Thunberg, who began protesting climate change in August last year and is largely credited for being the catalyst behind Friday's protests.