Young Colorado Climate Activists Join Forces With Greta Thunberg In DC

Caitlyn Kim/CPR News
Xiuhtezcatl Martinez, a young climate activist, comes to Washington, D.C., on Sept. 18, 2019, asking lawmakers to act on climate change.

Standing on the steps of the Supreme Court, 19-year-old Xiuhtezcatl Martinez from Boulder said his concerns about climate change were spelled out in smoke on the skyline.

“In Colorado, we see it with the wildfires every summer or very frequently in the summertimes that have destroyed the homes of my friends and my people,” Martinez said.

Martinez is one of two Coloradan plaintiffs in a lawsuit, Juliana v. United States, filed by 21 young Americans who say the government failed to protect them from climate change. Seven of the plaintiffs were in Washington, D.C. on Wednesday to call on legislators to back their case and to act on climate change.

The lawsuit was filed at the end of the Obama administration, but has taken added significance under the Trump administration, which withdrew from the Paris Climate Agreement and has been rolling back environmental protections.

If the lawsuit, which is awaiting a ruling in the Ninth Circuit, is successful, the government would be required to come up with an enforceable plan to phase out fossil fuels and stabilize the climate system. Whatever the ruling, it is likely to be challenged.

The plaintiffs were joined by teenage Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg. She testified in front of a House Foreign Affairs subcommittee hearing on climate change Wednesday. Instead of opening remarks, she submitted an Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report to the committee.

“I am submitting this report as my testimony because I don’t want you to listen to me. I want you to listen to the scientists,” Thunberg said. “And I want you to unite behind the science. And then I want you to take action.”

Youth climate activists plan to take action Friday with a coordinated strike from school. 

Martinez will be joining the strike in New York City. The action takes place just days before world leaders arrive at the UN for the Climate Action Summit and weeklong High-level Political Forum.

“The strike is a massive mobilization demanding politicians to act on behalf of future generations and present generations in preserving a stable climate that is livable,” Martinez said.