Vancouver police estimate between 12,000 to 15,000 people descended on the Vancouver Art Gallery on Friday, where Swedish activist Greta Thunberg attended a climate strike.
“It is unbelievable how many you are,” Thunberg told demonstrators, after joining the crowd on a march through downtown Vancouver.
“It is always so hopeful to see this every Friday. This is a movement with millions upon millions of people telling world leaders to act on the science and demanding a safe future for us and for everyone. And together we will make a change.”
Thunberg said carbon emissions had increased 65 per cent since 1992, amounting to about half of all CO2 emitted since pre-industrial times.
“If world leaders would have started to take action back then when this crisis became known to them, then imagine the suffering that could have been prevented,” she said.
“It is shameful that for so long the ongoing climate and ecological emergency has been ignored. It is the year 2019, and the people in power are still acting as if there was no tomorrow.
“Change is coming whether you like it or not.”
Friday was a Pro-D day for students, and organizers hoped it would bump up the number of attendees.
“It is after the federal election, so I think it’s really great that Greta is going to be here to amplify the existing climate justice movement that we’ve built here and to celebrate as well,” said Naia Lee with the Sustainabiliteens.
Sustainabiliteen Samantha Lin said organizers are urging politicians to put aside their partisan differences and think about the future.
“This sends a really strong message to the federal government,” she said.
“These people are not going away. We will never go away until we see bolder climate plans, we see commitments to Indigenous sovereignty, and a just transition away from fossil fuels.”
Environmental activist and broadcaster David Suzuki addressed the crowd, with a plea for leaders to listen to scientists.
“For decades we have been working to educate people about climate change, its causes and its perils and have urged politicians to take the steps needed to avoid the threat that climate change now poses, all with very little success,” he said.
“We will not stop this work, we will continue to educate and advocate because we cannot give up. But it has taken a child, Greta Thunberg, to point out that despite all the promises, the treaties, the assurances, emissions continue to rise.”
Thunberg inspired a global youth climate justice movement when she began skipping school and sitting outside the Swedish parliament every Friday to demand climate action last year.
She stopped in Montreal after the UN climate summit in September, and visited Alberta last week where she attended a rally at the legislature and met with local First Nations.
She has been travelling by Tesla and sail boat in an effort to minimize her emissions footprint as she tours North America.
Thunberg paid a visit to Jasper National Park on her way to Vancouver, where she was joined by freshwater and climate change researcher Prof. John Pomery of the University of Saskatchewan to learn about receding glaciers.
“You can see climate change in the glaciated areas of the Rockies and other parts of the world that are glaciated perhaps more clearly than anywhere else,” Pomery told Global News.
“It’s very stark. You can walk down and see where the Athabasca glacier was when you were born.”
The 2019 IPCC report released last month suggests the Earth has already reached a climate change tipping point, and that devastating storms that used to happen once every century will become annual occurrences by 2050, whether emissions reduced or not.
However, it said supplies of fresh drinking water and the fisheries needed to feed millions can be preserved if emissions are reduced.
The IPCC says global temperatures must be held to 1.5 C in order to avoid the worst impacts of climate change.
Friday’s rally comes on the same day a group of 15 youths plans to file a lawsuit against the Canadian government claiming young people will disproportionately suffer the effects of climate change.
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