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Students across Puget Sound skip school Friday to protest climate change

Students in Denmark take part in Friday's global climate change protests. (AP)

Hundreds of students across Washington left school Friday at 10 a.m. to take part in a national youth climate strike. Student organizers say that they will continue to skip school every Friday until leaders take “appropriate emergency action” on climate change.

“Why study for a future that may not exist?” said Grace Lambert, an organizer of the youth climate strike in Seattle.

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Youth climate strikes organized across the nation to kick off the effort Friday, March 15. There are eight such strikes in Washington — two in Seattle. Others include: Kingston; Poulsbo; Bainbridge Island; Bellingham; Wenatchee; and Spokane.

Washington State Governor Jay Inslee voiced his own support for the strike this week as well.

“We have to defeat climate change, and that’s why I’m so inspired by the young leaders who are taking action in this effort to strike against climate change,” said Gov. Inslee in a video he released Thursday.

Representatives from Seattle Public Schools have said they will count no-shows in class from students attending Friday’s rallies as unexcused absences.

One strike event on Facebook showed 164 people signed up, with 796 people interested in attending. The Seattle strike is started at 10 a.m. at Cal Anderson Park.

A Tacoma strike is scheduled for noon to 2 p.m. at Wright Park. That event has 46 signed up to go, with 225 interested (as of Tuesday). After Friday, some students plan to continue skipping school on Fridays until political leaders take action.

“This Friday is what is called a deep strike — many countries synchronizing together for large and very publicized strikes,” Lambert said. “These are different from the weekly strikes. The weekly strikes are very important, but generally do not draw as many people and generally are more low key (no stage, not as much planning). Since they take less planning, it is generally up to the students in the area to show up and strike in front of their city halls or other government buildings. These strikes generally pop up around the world by passionate students who see the importance and emphasis that missing school puts on this issue.”

“We are in no way asking every student to do this every Friday — that is a personal decision for a student to make based on what is best for them,” she said. “Our organization team is very dedicated to this subject and so these strikes will likely be made up of mainly us, but we welcome any and all students who wish to participate.”

The Seattle youth climate strike has issued three main demands:

  • A demand for a reduction in greenhouse gases emissions in line with the October 2018 IPCC Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5 degrees Celsius.
  • A demand for our world leaders take action that ensures global warming remains under 1.5 degrees Celsius.
  • A demand that our US legislators implement the Green New Deal and other legislative actions to decrease the climate crisis.

“Political leaders need to start by listening to the youth and hear from us what we need, rather than deciding for us,” Lambert said. “At that point, they need to implement substantial legislative actions aimed at reducing our greenhouse gas emissions (and extracting it from the atmosphere) as well as transitioning to 100 percent renewable energy.”

The students argue that there is roughly 11 years to stop burning fossil fuels before the scales dramatically tip against their future (according to a 2018 IPCC special report on global warming).

The strikes are inspired by 16-year-old Swedish activist — and Nobel Peace Price nominee —  Greta Thunberg, who has organized similar events.

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