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Wednesday, September 25, 2019

By Stacy M. Brown


Young people from around the country and world united to help fight climate change last Friday, just three days before the United Nations Climate Action Summit in New York this week.

Officials at the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) said youth lead adults, institutional and grassroots organizations, and others, to demand the changes necessary to save the world's future.

The summit will feature heads of state, representatives from the private sector, UN officials said.

Teen activist Greta Thunberg is also expected to attend.

UN Officials have called climate change the defining issue of this generation.

"The Summit will present practical and new measures to speed up the transition from coal to clean energy, and to cut the pollution that is harming our health," Amina J. Mohammed, the UN Deputy Secretary-General, said in a news release.

It counts among five major UN events that look at health, and the supporting of small island developing states.

Global emissions are reaching record levels and show no sign of peaking, according to the intergovernmental organization.

The information posted on the UN's website, notes that the last four years were the four hottest on record, and winter temperatures in the Arctic have risen by 3°C since 1990.

Sea levels are rising, coral reefs are dying, and officials said they are starting to see the life-threatening impact of climate change on health through air pollution, heatwaves and risks to food security.

"Climate change is disrupting national economies, costing us dearly today and even more tomorrow," Mohammed said.

But there is a growing recognition that affordable, scalable solutions are available now that will enable cleaner, more resilient economies, she said.

The latest analysis shows that if there's immediate action, carbon emissions can be reduced within 12 years.

Also, the increase in the global average temperature can be held to well below 2°C and even, as asked by the latest science, to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels, according to UN officials.

In her statement, AFT President Randi Weingarten said it's important to note the youth-led actions planned before and during the summit.

"From students walking out in solidarity against gun violence, to young people marching for action on climate change across the world, we see powerful examples of what happens when young people take action for change," Weingarten said.

"Today's students are tomorrow's elected officials, engineers, researchers and scientists; they are designing solutions to preserve the earth's riches, forging a path for a future they want to inherit," she said.

The AFT is a union of professionals who support students and their future, Weingarten said.

"Our educators and paraprofessionals, nurses and healthcare workers, and public employees support students every day as they take leadership roles and find solutions to issues that affect their communities—the places we all live and work," she said.

"If we can help students learn about the science of climate change, help them understand free speech and citizen advocacy as part of civic education, and encourage their belief in themselves, we've done our job in helping the next generation secure their future,” Weingarten said.