What the Climate Strikers Want

First, the Youth Climate Strike sees the Green New Deal (GND) as the pivotal mechanism to enact climate action. (If you need to refamiliarize yourself, here’s the full text of Congress’ Green New Deal Resolution, introduced by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio Cortez.)

The Youth Climate Strikers want:

  • An equitable transition for marginalized communities that will be most impacted by climate change
  • An equitable transition for fossil-fuel reliant communities to a renewable economy
  • 100% renewable energy by 2030
  • Upgrades to the current electric grid
  • No new fossil fuel infrastructure like pipelines, coal plants, or fracking or projects
  • The creation of a GND committee whose members haven’t accepted fossil fuel industry donations and who accept climate science; moreover, this committee must have subpoena power to oversee its implementation

Second, they want all decisions made by the US government to be tied in scientific research, including the 2018 IPCC report. This means:

  • The world needs to reduce GHG emissions by 50% by 2030, and 100% by 2050
  • The US government needs to incorporate the research within the IPCC report into all policymaking

Third, the Youth Climate Strikers want the US government to stand tall and declare a National Emergency on Climate Change.

  • With only 11 years to avoid catastrophic climate change, a national emergency is prudent and necessary.
  • Since the US has empirically been a global leader, it should also be a leader on climate action.
  • Since the US is a major contributor to global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, it should be leading the fight in GHG reduction.

Fourth, compulsory and comprehensive education on climate change and its impacts throughout grades K-8 should be part of all US funded education, say the Youth Climate Strikers. They say that K-8 is the ideal age range for compulsory climate change education because:

  • Impressionability is high during that developmental stage; therefore, it’s easier for children and young adults to learn about climate change in a more in-depth manner and to retain that information.
  • Climate change becomes a nonpartisan issue when presented as science education, as it evident from the vast majority of scientific research on climate change.

Fifth, preserving our public lands and wildlife is integral to any climate change action, say the strikers.

  • Diverse ecosystems and national parks will be severely impacted by climate change.
  • It is our responsibility to strive to the best of our abilities to preserve the existence of green spaces and wildlife for their and our sakes.

Sixth, the Youth Climate Strikers demand that keeping our water supply clean is essential and non-negotiable.

  • Clean water is essential for all living beings.
  • When we pollute our water supply or the water supply of someone else, it’s a violation of an essential human right.

Youth Climate Strikers’ Proposed Solutions

All too often in life we hear people complaining about someone else’s ideas without offering any concrete alternatives. That seems to be the case with the Green New Deal, as many, many politicians and journalists are critiquing the resolution, focusing on what they perceive as wrong without taking that difficult next step of articulating a better plan.

The Youth Climate Strikers are calling for the extraction of greenhouse gases from the atmosphere, replenishing our forests by planting trees and allowing them to thrive alongside sustainable forestry, and reduced food waste, knowing that methane emissions from rotting food in landfills contributes to overall GHG emissions.

They want transportation emission standards and benchmarks that align with those expressed by the science community to avoid 2° Celsius warming. They argue that it’s time to change the agriculture industry with less carbon-intensive farming and more plant-based farming.

They foresee us all using renewable energy and building a renewable energy infrastructure. To do so, we must stop the unsustainable and dangerous process of fracking as well as mountaintop removal/mining.

“These are not the sole solutions, these are just some solutions that we approve of,” the Youth Climate Strikers state, knowing that, “to be effective, these solutions need to be implemented at a large scale by the United States government.”

Recognizing that they can’t stop climate change alone, they’ve built a coalition of some really influential official partners — the Sunrise Movement, Greenpeace US, 350.org, and others.


John G. Anasis, Mohammad Aslam Khan Khalil, Christopher Butenhoff, Randall Bluffstone, George G. Lendaris. Optimal energy resource mix for the US and China to meet emissions pledgesApplied Energy, 2019; 238: 92 DOI: 10.1016/j.apenergy.2019.01.072  

Portland State University. “Shifting away from coal is key to cutting greenhouse gas emissions.” ScienceDaily. 7 March 2019. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2019/03/190307103201.htm.

A study by the physics, economics, and system science departments at Portland State University claims the United States could meet its commitments to other nations agreed to in Paris in 2015 simply by eliminating coal as a source of electrical energy by 2024. The study appears in the March issue of the journal Applied Energy.  Although the Trump Administration announced in 2017 that United States would withdraw from the Paris Agreement, the U.S. cannot officially pull out until 2020.


The US and China are responsible for about 40% of all global carbon emissions. Shutting down coal-fired generating stations, transitioning to electric vehicles, and using electricity more efficiently would have the greatest impact on those emissions from both countries the researchers say.

The authors claim the US could make up for the loss of its coal generating stations. Renewables are much better replacements, especially considering siting and permitting for a new nuclear power plant generally take about 12 years on average in the United States.

The researchers say eliminating coal as an energy source is the most significant step the US could take to meet its emissions target “The declining costs of both natural gas and renewables is already displacing significant amounts of coal-fired generation,” Professor Bluffstone says.

According to Science Daily, John Anasis, the paper’s lead author, says the research shows a strong push towards energy efficiency and the adoption of electric vehicles would be one of the most cost effective strategies available for meeting the emissions targets the United States agreed to in the Paris accords.

John G. Anasis, Mohammad Aslam Khan Khalil, Christopher Butenhoff, Randall Bluffstone, George G. Lendaris. Optimal energy resource mix for the US and China to meet emissions pledgesApplied Energy, 2019; 238: 92 DOI: 10.1016/j.apenergy.2019.01.072  

Portland State University. “Shifting away from coal is key to cutting greenhouse gas emissions.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 7 March 2019. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2019/03/190307103201.htm>.


Cars Are Killing Us: It’s Time for What’s Next, Steve Hanley writes, March 2019, excerpt

The Lancet Commission on Pollution and Health,

“Pollution is the largest environmental cause of disease and premature death in the world today. Diseases caused by pollution were responsible for an estimated 9 million premature deaths in 2015—16% of all deaths worldwide—three times more deaths than from AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria combined and 15 times more than from all wars and other forms of violence. In the most severely affected countries, pollution-related disease is responsible for more than one death in four.”

With respect to the special dangers faced by our children, a study published December 23, 2017 by the National Institutes of Health reports, “Fossil fuel combustion by-products are the world’s most significant threat to children’s health and future and are major contributors to global inequality and environmental injustice.” It goes on to say,

“By impairing children’s health, ability to learn, and potential to contribute to society, pollution and climate change cause children to become less resilient and the communities they live in to become less equitable. The developing fetus and young child are disproportionately affected by these exposures because of their immature defense mechanisms and rapid development, especially those in low- and middle-income countries where poverty and lack of resources compound the effects.

“No country is spared, however: even high-income countries, especially low-income communities and communities of color within them, are experiencing impacts of fossil fuel-related pollution, climate change and resultant widening inequality and environmental injustice. Global pediatric health is at a tipping point, with catastrophic consequences in the absence of bold action.

“Fortunately, technologies and interventions are at hand to reduce and prevent pollution and climate change, with large economic benefits documented or predicted. All cultures and communities share a concern for the health and well-being of present and future children: this shared value provides a politically powerful lever for action.”

Larger, heavier cars are also a risk factor for fragile humans. In the US, pedestrian fatalities have soared by more than 50% since 2009. Monbiot attributes much of that increase in carnage to the rising popularity of SUVs and light duty trucks. Not only is it harder to see out of those behemoths, they cause far more damage when they come into contact with fragile human tissue and bones. “Driving an SUV in an urban area is an antisocial act,” he says.

Wars fought over fossil fuel resources have killed and maimed hundreds of millions of people. Monbiot mentions the never ending war in Iraq as just one example. Now the United States is considering military action against Venezuela, which just happens to be a major petroleum exporting country. Coincidence? You decide.

“We are told that cars are about freedom of choice. But every aspect of this assault on our lives is assisted by state planning and subsidy. Roads are built to accommodate projected traffic, which then grows to fill the new capacity. Streets are modeled to maximize the flow of cars. Pedestrians and cyclists are squeezed by planners into narrow and often dangerous spaces — the afterthoughts of urban design. If we paid for residential street parking at market rates for land, renting the 12 square meters a car requires would cost around £3,000 a year in the richer parts of Britain. The chaos on our roads is a planned chaos.

“Transport should be planned, but with entirely different aims: to maximize its social benefits, while minimizing harm. This means a wholesale switch towards electric mass transit, safe and separate bike lanes and broad pavements, accompanied by a steady closure of the conditions that allow cars to rampage through our lives. In some places, and for some purposes, using cars is unavoidable. But for the great majority of journeys they can easily be substituted, as you can see in Amsterdam, Pontevedra, and Copenhagen. We could almost eliminate them from our cities.

“In this age of multiple emergencies – climate chaos, pollution, social alienation — we should remember that technologies exist to serve us, not to dominate us. It is time to drive the car out of our lives.”

Now there’s a disruptive thought.


America is responsible for a large chunk of CO2 emissions.  We can do better

Our World in Data’s site CO₂ and other Greenhouse Gas Emissions to help answer this question. Let’s start at the turn of the 20th Century.

Which countries were already racking up big emissions? The UK was in the lead with 17.7 billion tons as befits its status as origin of both the steam locomotive and the Industrial Revolution. The USA wasn’t far behind at 11.4 billion tons. Germany was lagging at 6.73 billion tons. China? 95 thousand tons.

But things have changed since then, right? Oh, yeah. Let’s fast forward to 1966.

Hmmm… what’s that intensely dark country? The USA with its 138 billion tons it looks like. China is at 7.6 billion tons, basically where Germany had been 65 years earlier, but with a lot more people. At this point in time, only the UK, France and Germany had broken into double digit billions, while the USA had rocketed past triple digits.

But things are all better now, right? The USA is great again and emissions are falling. China and India are the evil bad guys, right, not the folks in the USA?

Ummm, no. It takes about 300 years for CO2 to leave the atmosphere and the USA is responsible for more than any other single country. By 2016, it was a hair under 400 billion tons of CO2 cumulatively. Evil baddy China was less than half the total historical cumulative emissions of the USA with four times the population. As of that point, any eight Chinese people might share about as much culpability as a single American.

Meanwhile, India is under 50 billion tons. Except for China and the USA, no other country is over 100 billion tons.

This percentages chart illustrates it nicely. As of 2016, the USA had contributed more CO2 than any other country or even region. The only grouping close was the EU and its 28 countries, including the coal and industrial heavy regions. You have to put 28 countries who were among the first to industrialize together to get close to US contributions. China’s net contribution is less than half of the USA’s. India’s contribution is an order of magnitude smaller.

But the USA has cleaned up its act, right! It’s a good citizen of the world with really low emissions now, right? Pull the other one.

While USA’s emissions have slowed, it’s still emitting over 5 billion tons a year. China’s definitely the leader on a country scale with roughly twice the emissions. But remember, China has four times the people. Once again, that moral calculus suggests each American is as culpable for today’s emissions as two Chinese people.

And India is at half of the emissions of the USA annually with once again four times the people. Yeah, India’s the problem for sure. Half the emissions and four times the people and the USA has clean hands?

Let’s look at that per capita view a bit more, shall we?

Yup, some ugly colors there. Saudi Arabia is a bit worse per capita than the USA, and Australia is literally a hair worse. Canada, where I’m sitting right now, doesn’t have a good look either, and some of the ‘stans are pretty bleak.

China? India? Barely visible due to the light shading per capita.

And what, pray tell is China doing? Let’s take a look at annual generation of electricity in terawatt-hours (TWh) to get a sense of scale.

As of 2014, China was producing just over 3,000 TWh of electricity annually. Coal’s total and relative contribution was already declining. What’s happened since then and where’s it going? I recently published an article on China’s low-carbon mix and it’s worth bringing in the chart I developed for that piece that projects out through 2030. How is China doing?

How about generating TWh more electricity from clean sources than the USA? China is on track to exceed its entire 2010 generation in TWh from low-carbon sources only by 2030, undoubtedly allow a lot more coal to go away. It’s been hammering in wind and solar so fast that it exceeded total US deployment in under six months of construction last year. And while it has, sensibly, slowed its nuclear deployment, it still has a lot of TWh of low carbon electricity coming from fission. But that’s not all.

China deployed about 130,000 electric transit buses 2016 and over 100,000 in 2017. Meanwhile, Americans celebrate when New York gets six and has a goal of having a fully electric bus fleet by 2040. There’s a huge city over in China whose entire fleet of 16,000 buses is solely electric.

Oh, and look at this 2017 data on electric cars sales in China. In 2018, Chinese people bought over a million electric cars — basically as many as the rest of the world combined.

And China is forcing all manufacturers, legacy and startups, to focus on electrification with strict policies. What exactly is the USA doing? Trying to dismiss Tesla as GM and Ford abandon cars to sell more trucks with gas and diesel engines, mostly.

And of course the USA has elected a climate change denying conspiracy theorist who is trying to bring coal back.

Okay, it’s not all doom and gloom. Mostly due to adoption of efficiency measures and a lot of manufacturing moving offshore, the USA has bent its CO2 emissions curves and is emitting less than it was.

But it’s still the second biggest emitter of CO2 in the world, one of the biggest per capita, and has an administration which is actively hostile to global warming at present. And, oh yeah, under President Trump, US emissions are rising again.

Is America to blame for global warming? Yes, it has the single biggest slice of that ugly pie. It’s not alone in the blame, but you have to put the entire EU together to find someone that’s in the same ballpark of shame.

And you know what’s really scary about all of the above? It excludes the US military, which is almost entirely run on fossil fuels and is bigger than the next 10 militaries put together. Military emissions were excluded from the Kyoto Protocol.

They were required to start reporting after the Paris Accord, but crickets on that count, especially with the Commander in Chief walking away from climate change action. Some analysts have suggested that the US military is the single biggest CO2 source in the entire world, and that’s possible actually. But what it really means is that the USA is actually even worse than the charts above show.

Good Americans, and there are a lot of them, get this and are striving to fix it.

Bad Americans, and there are a lot of them, look at the data above and say, “To heck with the people all over the world we’ve screwed over. I’m not going to pay for the messes we made in the past.” Since the Libertarian perspective is that harm should be legally sued for retrospectively, it’s pretty much ripe hypocrisy that they are against paying reparations for their past actions.

America. Americans. You can do better. And you have an opportunity in 2020. Don’t screw it up, as you did the last time.

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