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Hundreds join Triangle Climate Strike to call for tougher action against climate change

Posted September 20, 2019 5:43 a.m. EDT
Updated September 20, 2019 6:55 p.m. EDT

— Hundreds of people gathered near the state legislature in downtown Raleigh on Friday to demand stronger action by government to battle climate change.

The Triangle Climate Strike was one of scores of similar protests worldwide before the United Nations’ Climate Action Summit begins in New York on Monday. The U.N. also will hold its Youth Climate Summit on Saturday.

An estimated 1,500 people rallied on Halifax Mall in solidarity with the protests, calling for an end to using fossil fuels, more renewable energy, reforestation – anything to keep the Earth's climate from warming to catastrophic levels.

The Raleigh event was organized by students such as 17-year-old Hallie Turner, who said she's been speaking out about climate change since she was 8. Adults simply aren't getting the job done, she said.

"People my age are going to be left dealing with the decisions that leaders from today make about our futures, and I can’t even vote yet," Turner said. "What really scares me is the effect that it’s having on my generation, and it’s easy to feel powerless in the face of that, which is why I think it’s important for young people to stand up today together."

Isis Barbour has Turner beat, as the 7-year-old is already worried about what the world will be like when she grows up.

"It might be trashed when I grow up, and I don’t want it to be like that. I want it to be how it is right now," she said.

Climate change is more than large-scale flooding events like Hurricane Florence, which left most of southeastern North Carolina under water last September, or the 40-plus inches of rain that Tropical Storm Imelda dumped on eastern Texas this week. It’s also about change averaged over long periods of time.

The average temperature at the Raleigh-Durham International Airport monitor of all the days and nights in 1970 was 57.9 degrees. Last year, it was 61.3 degrees.

While the 3.4-degree difference might not sound like much, more people are noticing the changes.

Polling by Yale University shows 69 percent of North Carolinians believe that climate change is real. However, only 55 percent believe that human actions are the primary cause of it.

"I don’t care how my leaders feel about climate change. Climate change doesn’t care how we feel about climate change," Turner said. "But I care that they accept the science, I care that they have the initiative to act on it, and I care that my generation gets to live on a habitable planet."

Turnout at the Triangle Climate Strike was more than twice as high as organizers expected – and several times higher than a climate strike held in April.

Chapel Hill high school students and students from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Duke University bicycled 30 miles to Raleigh to participate in the rally.

“The climate crisis is something that’s really going to impact my generation the hardest, so I really thought it would be a great idea if this would be kind of a youth-led movement," said 16-year-old Ember Penney, who organized the ride. “Typically, youth are left out of politics and how our future will be decided."

Penney said she wants the Chapel Hill Town Council to implement a citywide Green New Deal, or legislation that would promote environmental sustainability.

UNC-Chapel Hill organizers said the goals for combating climate change include reducing fossil fuel and stopping the use of coal-fired power plants, most notably the power plant operated by the university.

Like Turner, Penney said she was pleased with how many people were taking part.

“There’s a lot of power in youth, and I think that often they’re underestimated," Penney said.

Turner said more protests are likely in the coming weeks and months.

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