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Students worldwide skip class to demand action on climate

AP  |  Berlin 

From the to the edge of the Circle, students mobilised by word of mouth and skipped class Friday to what they believe are their governments' failure to take thorough action against

The coordinated 'school strikes,' were inspired by 16-year-old Swedish activist Greta Thunberg, who began holding solitary demonstrations outside the last year.

Since then, the weekly protests have snowballed from a handful of cities to hundreds, fuelled by dramatic headlines about the impact of climate change during the students' lifetime.

Thunberg, who was recently nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize, a rally in that the world faces an "existential crisis, the biggest crisis humanity ever has faced and still it has been ignored for decades by those that have known about it.

"And you know who you are, you that have ignored this and are most guilty of this," she said, as protesters cheered her name.

Friday's rallies were one of the biggest international actions yet. Protests were underway or planned in cities in more than 100 countries, including Hong Kong; New Delhi; Wellington, New Zealand; and Oulu,

In Berlin, police said as many as 20,000 protesters, most of them young students, gathered in a downtown square, waving signs with slogans such as "March now or swim later" and "Climate Protection Report Card: F," before marching through the capital's government quarter with a stop in front of Angela Merkel's office.

In Poland, thousands marched in rainy and other cities to demand a ban on the burning of coal, which is a major source of carbon dioxide. Some wore face masks as they carried banners that read "Today's Air Smells Like the Planet's Last Days" and "Make Love Not CO2."

In India's capital New Delhi, schoolchildren protested inaction on climate change and rising air pollution levels that often far exceeds limits.

"Now or Never" was among signs brandished by enthusiastic teenagers thronging cobblestoned streets around the domed Pantheon building, which rises above the in

Several thousand students gathered peacefully around the landmark. Some targeted Emmanuel Macron, who sees himself as the guarantor of the climate accord but is criticized by activists for being too business friendly and not ambitious enough in his efforts to reduce French emissions.

About 50 students protested in South Africa's capital, Pretoria, chanting "There's No Planet B." One protester held a sign reading "You'll Miss The Rains Down in "


Experts say Africa, with its population of more than 1 billion people, is expected to be hardest hit by even though it contributes least to the that cause it.

Police in said about 10,000 students rallied in the Austrian capital, while in neighbouring a similar number protested in the western city of

Last month, lawmakers in the northern Swiss canton of symbolically declared a "climate emergency."

In Helsinki, police said about 3,000 students had gathered in front of sporting placards such as: "Dinosaurs thought they had time too!" A website used to coordinate the rallies listed events in over 2,000 cities.

Carla Reemtsma, a 20-year-old university student who helped organise the in Berlin, said she's part of about 50 WhatsApp groups devoted to discussing climate change.

"A lot happens on because you can reach a lot of young people very quickly and show them: look there's lot of us," she told "There's a very low threshold so we reach a huge number of people."

"I think that's how we managed to get so big," said

Many protesters in took aim at politicians such as the of Germany's pro-business Free Democratic Party, Christian Lindner, for suggesting that complicated issues such as climate change were "a matter for professionals" not students.

Others, including Germany's economy minister, Peter Altmaier, have urged students to stage the protests outside school hours.

By contrast, scientists have backed the protests, with thousands signing petitions in support of the students in Britain, Finland, and the

Volker Quaschning, a at Berlin's University of Applied Sciences, said it was easy for politicians to belittle students.

"That's why they need our support," he said. "If we do nothing then parts of this planet could become uninhabitable by the end of the century."

Scientists have warned for decades that current levels of are unsustainable, so far with little effect. In 2015, world leaders agreed in to a goal of keeping the Earth's global temperature rise by the end of the century well below 2 degrees Celsius.

Yet at present, the world is on track for an increase of 4 degrees Celsius, which experts say would have far-reaching consequences for life on the planet.

In Germany, environmental groups and experts have attacked government plans to continue using coal and for decades to come.

Quaschning, who was one of more than 23,000 German-speaking scientists to sign a letter of support this week, said should aim to fully "decarbonize" by 2040. This would give less-advanced nations a bit more time to wean themselves off fossil fuels while still meeting the Paris goal globally.

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Fri, March 15 2019. 19:55 IST
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