Young People Are Leading the Movement Against Climate Change

How youth activists are fighting for the planet and the future


Photo by Markus from Pexels

Iris Stanfill, Editor-in-Chief

“We must act decisively now to keep 1.5 alive.”

United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres included this phrase in his statement responding to a 2021 report from the IPCC.


What exactly is “1.5,” and how in the world would one go about keeping it alive? Why did it gain the attention of the head of the UN?

In the context of climate change, the number refers to a temperature: 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit). According to the IPCC report, a 1.5-degree increase in global temperature levels from pre-industrial times marks a line in the acceleration of climate change. And if that line is crossed, extreme weather-related events—including severe hurricanes and floods like we’ve seen in recent years—will only become more constant, according to a story from NPR. The piece, “This Is What the World Looks Like if We Pass the Crucial 1.5-Degree Climate Threshold,” also talks about the impacts of global warming on our oceans, saying that nearly all coral reefs would perish if the 1.5-degree threshold is passed.

The only way to keep this 1.5-degree goal “alive,” involves “pursuing the most ambitious path” in the fight against climate change, the Secretary-General said.

Average global temperatures have been rising ever since the dawn of the Industrial Revolution. According to NASA, “Human activities (primarily the burning of fossil fuels) have fundamentally increased the concentration of greenhouse gases in Earth’s atmosphere, warming the planet.”

In other words, the issues of global warming and climate change are primarily human-made; most scientists assert that the solutions, therefore, must be human-made, too.

Around the world, there are people fighting for these solutions. Notably, many of the grassroots organizations demanding climate action are being led by young people, activists tired of waiting for change.

Fridays for Future

One of the most well-known activists is 19-year-old Greta Thunberg. At age 15, Thunberg founded Fridays for Future, a worldwide, youth-led movement. Fridays for Future members participate in frequent school strikes, during which participants spend the school day outside of their local government buildings and demand comprehensive climate action on a legislative level. While the strike began with Thunberg holding up her “Skolstrejk För Klimatet” (School Strike for Climate) sign outside of the Swedish Parliament, it has now gained the support of millions of people around the world.

Fridays for Future’s demands, according to their website, include living up to that 1.5-degree limit, guaranteeing climate justice, and following up-to-date science.

The Sunrise Movement

Youth climate activism doesn’t stop there. Founded in 2017, another organization that has gained national attention is The Sunrise Movement, “a youth movement to stop climate change and create millions of good jobs in the process,” according to their website.

Not only have Sunrise leaders championed the fight against climate change through nationwide marches, but they’ve also gotten heavily involved with national politics. They’ve released formal endorsements for a variety of candidates who they believe have exemplified their values. During the 2020 primaries and general election, their coalition of activists contacted over 6.5 million voters to encourage political participation, according to their website. In addition, they’ve voiced support for people like Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) and Senator Ed Markey (D-MA), both of whom teamed up to introduce and sponsor a congressional climate resolution dubbed The Green New Deal.

The Green New Deal had taken great precedence for The Sunrise Movement as they’ve advocated for its provisions since their founding. According to Sunrise, the Green New Deal works to “mobilize every aspect of American society to 100% clean and renewable energy, guarantee living-wage jobs for anyone who needs one, and a just transition for both workers and frontline communities—all in the next 10 years.”

Defend Our Future

Another organization that has placed a focus on creating sustainable, well-paying, and climate-friendly jobs is Defend Our Future.

Emphasizing an across-the-aisle approach to this fight, Defend Our Future encourages solutions to the problem, not denial of it. According to their website, “Whether you’re liberal or conservative, Democrat or Republican, America needs young people of all persuasions to work together on climate solutions.”

Taking Action

It is possible for anyone to join this fight for climate justice. Many organizations have local chapters which are open to new participants, plus the opportunity for young leaders to start their own climate activism hubs. A little time and a lot of passion can go a long way in the fight for 1.5.