BY PHIL MERCER
Thousands of people in Asia and Europe took part in rallies Friday, demanding more action on climate change. Protesters urged world leaders to frame solutions at a U.N. conference next week.
The global rallies started in Australia, where there was anger and defiance as thousands of students walked out of classes to demand stronger action on climate change, which they blamed for making the country’s bushfire crisis worse.
In November, parts of eastern Australia were hit by an unprecedented fire emergency. Six people died and hundreds of homes were destroyed. Dozens of blazes continue to burn.
Scientists are warning that global warming is making Australia’s annual bushfire season longer and more extreme. Teenage protesters in Sydney said the threat is there for all to see.
“The fires are bigger, the fires are more dangerous, the fires are in spring, not summer,” one male teen said. “We are not in summer yet. I will tell you one thing unequivocally: If we do not so anything about climate change, it is going to get worse.”
“A lot of us in our generation cannot vote right now,” a female youth said, “but as soon as we can vote, there is going to be a massive change, because we are going to start taking over and and we are going to start fixing things.”
Demonstrators have called on Australia to end its use of fossil fuels. That, in the short term, appears unlikely. Coal generates most of the nation’s electricity, and exports pump billions of dollars into the economy.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison is an ardent supporter of the coal industry. He castigated local council leaders for linking the deadly bushfires with climate change. Morrison has insisted Australia is taking its environmental obligations seriously.
Friday’s climate strikes were expected to take place in more than 2,000 cities in 153 countries, according to the Friday for Future movement. There were protests in Mumbai, Tel Aviv, Vienna and Frankfurt.
Teenage Swedish activist Greta Thunberg, who has galvanized a global environmental movement of young people, was to have joined a student strike in Lisbon, Portugal, but her ecologically friendly voyage by yacht across the Atlantic Ocean from New York was hit by high winds, delaying her arrival by a few days.
The protests came ahead of the annual U.N. climate conference that starts Monday in Madrid. (VOA)