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story.lead_photo.caption A crowd gathers Friday morning on the steps of City Hall in Little Rock for a climate-change rally. More photos are available at - Photo by John Sykes Jr.

The protesters were children.

A lot of them were, anyway.

One sign held by a teenage protester Friday at Little Rock's City Hall summed up their message to officials that immediate action is necessary:

"You'll die of old age. I'll die of climate change."

Gallery: Crowd gathers for city hall climate rally

About 200 people gathered at City Hall to demand action to counteract the effects of pollution and carbon emissions on a warming planet. They were college student-activists, high schoolers who had ditched their pencils in favor of cardboard posters, and even toddlers toting signs with pictures of the Earth they had colored in with markers.

Other signs read: "If you were smart, we'd be in class," and "Climate change is worse than homework."

The protest was one of many held across the world Friday. Millions of young people from more than 150 countries rallied as a part of the "Global Climate Strike" ahead of Monday's United Nations Climate Action Summit, The Washington Post reported. The rallies were partly inspired by Swedish teenager Greta Thunberg, who has organized weekly demonstrations for the past year to insist that global leaders take action on climate change, The Associated Press reported.

The world has warmed about 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit (1.0 Celsius) since before the Industrial Revolution, and scientists have attributed more than 90% of the increase to emissions of heat-trapping gases from fuel-burning and other human activity, according to The Associated Press.

Scientists have warned that global warming will subject the planet to rising seas and more heat waves, droughts, powerful storms, flooding and other problems, and that some already have started manifesting themselves, The Associated Press reported. Climate change has made record-breaking high temperature records twice as likely as record-setting low temperatures over the past two decades in the contiguous United States, according to data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

President Donald Trump withdrew the United States from a 2015 agreement nations made at a Paris summit to keep the warming at less than 2 degrees Celsius more than pre-industrial-era levels by the end of this century. Trump said the agreement benefited other nations at the expense of Americans.

Trump called global warming a "hoax" before becoming president. He has since said he's "not denying climate change" but is not convinced it's man-made or permanent.

Doug Barton, an organizer with Climate Emergency Arkansas, said the aim of Friday's protest was to urge leaders to pass a Green New Deal, put a price on carbon, divest from fossil fuels, stop subsidizing the fossil fuel industry and to increase incentives for renewable energy.

On a local level, he said the group wants Little Rock to hire a full-time employee to conduct a greenhouse-gas inventory, contract to build solar arrays and set emission goals for the city.

Climate Emergency Arkansas worked with Sunrise Little Rock, another grass-roots advocacy group, to organize the Little Rock protest.

Mayor Frank Scott, Jr. addressed the protesters after he said he saw them through a City Hall window.

"It is a proud day to see so many young people ... focused on policy," Scott said.

He went on to discuss a plastic-bag study he said the city is planning.

Members of the Central High School Sierra Club left school to join the protest with permission from the principal, their three co-presidents said.

The high school group is newly formed, and Matthew Thompson, a 16-year-old co-president, said one of the next goals is to put solar panels on the roof of the Central High School Museum with funding from the Sierra Club.

Lily Ryall, another co-president, said the group gathered about 30 people to go the protest but that she saw more of her classmates there.

"I think we showed up," said Ryall, 16.

Tyler Childers, 16, drove to Little Rock with his dad for the event and read a message to leaders that he had written on notebook paper and covered with tape for safekeeping.

"You failed us," Childers read to the crowd. "It's your responsibility to protect the youth, but when faced with the choice of fossil fuel money for your campaigns, or the well-being of your children, you picked fossil fuels."

Megan Duggan had her three children with her -- Owen, 8; Gwyn, 4; and Violet, 3. The three had colored pictures of the Earth on the backs of packing material their mom had recycled from her office.

Owen said he went to the protest "to save the planet," and because he likes animals. His favorites are puppies and kittens.

When asked why she was there, Gwyn glanced at her brother. She then looked up and said she wanted to make sure the elephants were safe, but first of all:

"To save the Earth."

Metro on 09/21/2019


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