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Rebuffing Prime Minister's Order to Stay in Class, Australian Students Forge Ahead With #ClimateStrike Walkouts

"We're at the stage where we can't vote and by the time we're in power, it's going to be too late to start making change."

Australian students ranging in age from five to 18 are planning a national strike this week to demand that their elected representatives take concrete action to curb the climate crisis. (Photo: @StrikeClimate/Twitter)

As the United Nations issued its latest report detailing the climate emergency facing humanity—finding that world governments must triple their efforts to reduce carbon emissions in order to stop the dangerous warming of the globe—schoolchildren in Australia demonstrated that young people are largely taking the lead in fighting the climate crisis while many of their elected officials debate scientific conclusions and argue in favor of protecting corporate polluters' profits.

Thousands of students in Australia applauded the Senate on Tuesday as it voted in favor of supporting a national "School Strike 4 Climate Action," comprised of several walkouts across the country planned for this week.

The strike was organized by a national collective of students, ages 5 to 18, who say they've grown fed up with politicians' support for fossil fuel projects like the mine that coal giant Adani is planning to build in Queensland.

While nearly three-quarters of Australians support halting the expansion of coal mining, according to the Australian Conservation Foundation, the country's political parties have not taken a firm stand stopping the Adani project from going forward.  

"As young people we're already seeing the devastating impacts of climate change and will be forced to endure the consequences of our government's inaction. We need all politicians and any future government to take the action scientists tell us we need," said 14-year-old Jean Hinchliffe, who is organizing a strike in Sydney.

According to Buzzfeed News, the strikes will take place over three days starting on Wednesday. Other walkouts took place at the beginning of November, with 30 students winning a meeting with Member of Parliament Lisa Chesters after protesting the Adani mine outside her office.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison drew outcry—and eye-rolls—from the students on Monday when he demanded that they stay in school this week, saying in Parliament, "What we want is more learning in schools and less activism in schools."

"When young people try to have a voice in politics, Scott Morrison is shutting them down, yet he's happy to listen to the coal lobby and big corporations who continue to profit from making climate change worse," spokesperson Laura Sykes told Oil Change International.

"To those who voted against our motion for climate action in Parliament today, we say: your decisions have far more weight than you seem to acknowledge, and they will determine our future," Hinchliffe said. "You may not have to live through 50 degree [122 degrees Fahrenheit] days, bushfires, and crippling drought, but we will. Already, we are living with climate impacts and the toll it is taking on us as young people is huge. Right now, we're literally fighting for our lives."

The School Strike 4 Climate Action movement has compiled a list of demands for their elected officials, asking that they block the Adani coal mine as well as new coal and gas projects, and support legislation that would help Australia to shift to 100 percent renewable energy by 2030.

The students join other young people around the world in fighting for climate action. Earlier this year 15-year-old Greta Thunberg of Sweden skipped school to sit outside her country's Parliament, calling attention to the climate crisis. In the U.S., the Sunrise Movement has successfully convinced 15 House Democrats to back the Green New Deal, while several young people are suing the U.S. government for failing to protect them from the harmful effects of carbon emissions.   

"We're at the stage where we can't vote and by the time we're in power, it's going to be too late to start making change," Hinchliffe told Buzzfeed News. "So I think it's really important that we can start taking action in any way we can."

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