Youth-Led Climate Strike Precedes UN Climate Action Summit

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The Climate Strike in Hamburg, Germany on Sep. 20, 2019.
Source: Brian Resnick and Danielle Scruggs, “Photos: What the Youth Climate Strike Looks Like around the World,”, Sep. 20, 2019

The United Nations convened its Climate Action Summit in New York on Monday, Sep. 23, 2019 on the heels of the youth-led global Climate Strike on Friday, Sep. 20, 2019, both meant to prompt action on climate change.

The Climate Strike took place in at least 163 countries on all seven continents with over 2,500 events scheduled, primarily led by young people such as Greta Thunberg, a 16-year-old Swedish student and environmental activist. An estimated four million people worldwide participated in the strike, according to event organizers.

Thunberg stated in an op-ed written with 46 youth activists that the goal of the march was to demand “that governments immediately provide a safe pathway to stay within 1.5C of global heating.” The UN estimated that a three- to five-fold increase in efforts to curb climate change would be required to stay under that 1.5 degrees Celsius rise in global temperature, a threshold at which scientists say irreversible damage would occur.

Janine, a 15-year-old who was at the Manhattan protest, stated, “I just want them to know there’s no time left. We have to fight for climate change, and we need to do it now before anything else happens, ’cause we’re probably going to die… As young people, we have a voice and we need to use our voices. We’re really strong as young people, and we can actually change the world, and we have to do it right now.”

Approximately 250,000 people were on strike Friday in New York City (where students were allowed to skip school to participate in the strike), the location of this week’s UN Climate Action Summit and a related event called Climate Week NYC.

At the start of Climate Week, 69 countries pledged to adopt stricter climate goals by the end of 2020; 66 countries said they want to reach net zero emissions by 2050; 13 oil and gas companies announced they will invest in new technology to capture gases that cause global warming; and companies including Amazon and AT&T have pledged to cut carbon or become carbon neutral.

Additionally, Thunberg and a group of 16 children aged eight to 17 have filed a legal complaint with the United Nations, alleging five countries are not curbing emissions and are promoting fossil fuel use despite knowledge of the dangers. The five countries are France, Germany, Brazil, Argentina, and Turkey.

President Trump made an unexpected visit to the climate summit, but stayed only a few minutes before leaving to give a speech about religious freedom. Trump has previously expressed skepticism that climate change is caused by human activity, although he told reporters on Sunday that climate change is “very important.”

Explore what the 2020 presidential candidates think about the US adopting a climate change plan such as the Green New Deal on’s 2020 Election site.


Discussion Questions – Things to Think About
1. Is protesting a good way to draw attention to a problem? What issues, if any, would motivate you to protest?

2. Is climate change primarily caused by humans? Why or why not?

3. Should the US adopt a climate change plan such as the Green New Deal? Why or why not?


Eliza Barclay and Brian Resnick, “How Big Was the Global Climate Strike? 4 Million People, Activists Estimate,”, Sep. 22, 2019

Anne Barnard, “1.1 Million Can Skip School for Climate Protest,”, Sep. 20, 2019

FT Reporters, “Greta Thunberg Tells UN Leaders ‘We Will Never Forgive You’: 2019 Summit Latest,”, Sep. 23, 2019

Global Climate Strike, homepage, (accessed Sep. 23, 2019)

Camilla Hodgson, “UN Youth Movement Led by Thunberg Files Suit against Five Countries,”, Sep. 23, 2019

Leslie Hook, “Almost 70 Countries to Pledge Tougher Climate Goals,”, Sep. 23, 2019

Jeva Lange, “The Climate Strike Kids in Their Own Words,”, Sep. 20, 2019

Stephen Lee, “Greta Thunberg Leads Young People in Climate Complaint to UN,”, Sep. 23, 2019

Nic Querolo, Christopher Martin and Will Wade, “Germany to Double Global Climate Spending: Climate Week Update,” (via, Sep. 23, 2019

Nic Querolo, Chris Martin, and Will Wade, “Trump Unexpectedly Shows Up at UN Summit: Climate Week Update,” (via, Sep. 23, 2019

Somini Sengupta, “Protesting Climate Change, Young People Take to the Streets in a Global Strike,”, Sep. 21, 2019

Greta Thunberg, et al., “Young People Have Led the Climate Strikes. Now We Need Adults to Join Us Too,” May 23, 2019

United Nations, “Climate Action Summit 2019,”, Sep. 23, 2019

David Wainer, “Trump Says Skipping UN Climate Summit Isn’t Meant as Snub,”, Sep. 22, 2019