By JENNIFER PELTZ and FRANK JORDANS Associated Press
NEW YORK — Young people afraid for their futures protested around the globe Friday to implore leaders to tackle climate change, turning out by the hundreds of thousands to insist that the warming world can’t wait for action.
Marches, rallies and demonstrations were held from Canberra to Kabul and Cape Town to New York, and German police reported that more than 100,000 turned out in Berlin.
Days before world leaders gather for a U.N. climate summit, the “Global Climate Strike” events ranged from about two dozen activists in Seoul using LED flashlights to send Morse code messages calling for action to rescue the earth to Australian demonstrations that organizers estimated were the country’s largest protests since the Iraq War began in 2003.
“Basically, our earth is dying, and if we don’t do something about it, we die,” said A.J. Conermann, a 15-year old high school sophomore among several thousand who marched to the Capitol building in Washington.
“I want to grow up. I want to have a future,” Conermann added.
In New York, where public schools excused students with parental permission, tens of thousands of mostly young people marched through lower Manhattan, briefly shutting down some streets.
And in Paris, teenagers and kids as young as 10 traded classrooms for the streets. Marie-Lou Sahai, 15, skipped school because “the only way to make people listen is to protest.”
The demonstrations were partly inspired by the activism of Swedish teenager Greta Thunberg, who has staged weekly “Fridays for Future” demonstrations for a year, urging world leaders to step up efforts against climate change.
“It’s such a victory,” Thunberg told The Associated Press in an interview in New York. “I would never have predicted or believed that this was going to happen, and so fast — and only in 15 months.”
Thunberg spoke at a rally later Friday and is expected to participate in a U.N. Youth Climate Summit on Saturday and speak at the U.N. Climate Action Summit with global leaders on Monday.
“They have this opportunity to do something, and they should take that,” she said. “And otherwise, they should feel ashamed.”
The world has warmed about 1.8 Fahrenheit since before the Industrial Revolution, and scientists have attributed more than 90 percent of the increase to emissions of heat-trapping gases from fuel-burning and other human activity.
Scientists have warned that global warming will subject Earth to rising seas and more heat waves, droughts, powerful storms, flooding and other problems, and that some have already started manifesting themselves.
Climate change has made record-breaking heat temperature records twice as likely as record-setting cold temperatures over the past two decades in the contiguous U.S., according to National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration data.
Nations around the world recommitted at a 2015 summit in Paris to hold warming to less than 3.6 Fahrenheit more than pre-industrial-era levels by the end of this century, and they added a more ambitious goal of limiting the increase to 2.7F.
But U.S. President Donald Trump subsequently announced that he was withdrawing the U.S. from the agreement, which he said benefited other nations at the expense of American businesses and taxpayers.
Trump called global warming as a “hoax” before becoming president. He has since said he’s “not denying climate change” but is not convinced it’s manmade or permanent.
New York protester Pearl Seidman, 13, hoped the demonstration would tell the Trump administration “that if they can’t be adults, we’re going to be adults. Because someone needs to do it.” At least one Trump supporter waved a large “Trump 2020” flag as the demonstrators marched in Manhattan.
Amazon, which ships more than 10 billion items a year, vowed Thursday to cut its use of fossil fuels, and Google CEO Sundar Pichai told the Financial Times in a story published Friday that eliminating the company’s carbon emissions by 2030 didn’t seem “unreasonable.”
Friday’s demonstrations started in Australia, where organizers estimated 300,000 protesters marched in 110 towns and cities, including Sydney and the national capital, Canberra.