More than 100 young climate activists, including students from the state of Kentucky, rallied outside Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's office in Washington, D.C. Monday to demand the Republican leader either support the Green New Deal or present his own comprehensive legislation to fight climate change.
“Climate change is the biggest threat to my future. And just because I can’t vote right now, that doesn’t mean I don’t have a voice. I’m speaking from the perspective of someone who is scared and afraid for their future," Lily Gardner, a 15-year-old student from Eastern Kentucky, told Refinery29 of why she joined the protest Monday. "It’s not a question of who knows more or who has been in the business for longer, it’s the question of who is going to be disproportionately impacted by climate change. When people don’t take me seriously, they are not taking my future seriously.”
The Green New Deal, which began gaining steam last November, is an ambitious reform that seeks to tackle climate change and income inequality at the same time. Earlier this month, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Sen. Ed Markey introduced a resolution outlining the goals of the reform, which included transitioning the country to 100% renewable energy in the next decade, the upgrade of infrastructure to make it energy-efficient, decarbonizing manufacturing and agriculture, and the creation of new green jobs. Nine senators and 60 House members supported the resolution. Earlier this month, McConnell announced he would bring the measure to the floor for a vote — not because he supports it, but because it would force vulnerable Democrats to either publicly support or reject the resolution. (In the past the Republican has cast doubt on the scientific consensus around climate change. “For everybody who thinks [the planet is] warming, I can find somebody who thinks it isn't," McConnell said in 2014.)
Last week, young Kentuckians visited McConnell’s Louisville office but were turned away. He also refused to meet with the protesters on Monday. Student Scotty Monteith, 17, told Refinery29 he traveled to D.C. because the Green New Deal is the "first real big piece of legislation" that adequately matches the dangers posed by climate change — and McConnell should know that. "It’s our only hope right now," he said of the reform. Scotty will turn 18 this summer, which means that he will be able to vote in the 2020 presidential election. He made it clear that he wants candidates to back the Green New Deal and make the issue of climate change one of the main aspects of their platforms. "It should be on both sides of the aisle," he said. "I come from a conservative family and I don’t know if any Republicans currently back the Green New Deal, but I really wish they would. There should be bipartisan support."
BREAKING: Destine has been camping outside of #OilMoneyMitch office in Kentucy. Today she is leading 200 young people into his DC office to demand that he #LookUsInTheEyes and stop playing games with the lives of future generations. Sign the GND petition https://t.co/dDxKbtPBxT pic.twitter.com/VlO5Pfq9ou— Sunrise Movement 🌅 (@sunrisemvmt) February 25, 2019
Climate change is perhaps the greatest threat to humanity today. A report released by the United Nations’ scientific panel on climate change last year found that by 2040 — 21 years from now — the globe would face a multi-faceted crisis of disastrous magnitudes, including everything from food shortages and extreme poverty around the world to wildfires, droughts, and the death of all coral reefs. The panel reported in order to cut carbon emissions and try to minimize the damage, the world economy would have to be transformed at a scale and pace that has "no documented historic precedent." Another report, commissioned and released by the U.S. government in November, found that climate change also would put public health and the national economy at unprecedented risk in the next century. Quanta Magazine reported Monday that a simulation predicts climate change could cause stratocumulus clouds — which the outlets describes as "the low-lying, blankety kind that have by far the largest cooling effect on the planet" — to disappear in the next century. Per the simulation, the loss of these clouds would be a disaster, making Earth 8°C (14°F) warmer.
Monday's protest was organized by the youth-led organization Sunrise Movement, which has also been in charge of similar demonstrations in the offices of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, and other Congress members. Capitol Police arrested 42 people for unlawfully demonstrating outside of McConnell's office.
Despite the threat of arrests, it doesn't look like young people will stop demanding that their elected officials take action. Lily is cognizant of the impact their lack of political will have on her generation and beyond. "I’m absolutely terrified about the consequences of climate change. We have only 12 years to radically transform our economy — in 12 years, I will only be 27," she said. "If we don't do anything, I won’t have the opportunity to live my life."