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Public Radio's Environmental News Magazine (follow us on Google News)

Youth Testify for Climate Action

Air Date: Week of

Juliana youth plaintiff Aji Piper, center, testifies before the House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis on April 4, 2019. (Photo: House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis)

Four young people testified at the first hearing of the House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis on April 4, 2019. Chris Suggs, Lindsay Cooper, Aji Piper, and Melody Zhang spoke of their concerns about climate impacts on their generation, especially on low-income and minority groups. The committee members recognized their concerns, though some Republican members argued strong climate action could pose economic risks.


CURWOOD: By the way, Representative Castor says the House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis plans to hold a series of hearings across the country. Its first hearing invited young people to Capitol Hill on April 4th. 18-year-old Aji Piper of Seattle is one of the plaintiffs in the Juliana suit that demands the government recognize the right to a livable climate in the years to come.

PIPER: It is the constitutional duty of the government to protect public trust resources on which we all depend, and to protect us from any damages it may inflict upon its citizens. Instead, the government is taking actions that are directly contributing to destruction of our planet. It is actively abusing the trust of its most vulnerable citizens – the youth.

CURWOOD: Melody Zhang of the Christian social justice group “Sojourners” invoked her faith as her inspiration for climate action.

ZHANG: As a Christian, I believe God calls us to a total and radical re-imagination and transformation of our relationship with others and the earth. As political leaders, especially ones of faith, I implore you to respond faithfully and with full force to love God and neighbor by enacting just, compassionate and transformative climate policies which rise to the challenge of the climate crisis.

CURWOOD: Lindsay Cooper of the Louisiana Governor’s Office of Coastal Activities said her family had to relocate after Hurricane Katrina, and many of her friends never moved back.

From left: Aji Piper, Melody Zhang, Congresswoman Kathy Castor, Chris Suggs, and Lindsay Cooper. (Photo: Rep. Kathy Castor’s Office)

COOPER: Some call us a canary in the coal mine or harbingers of bad things soon to happen around us. We have already lost 2,000 square miles of coastline since the 1930s and stand to lose much more in the years to come without significant action. To others, we are a living laboratory, a testing ground for new opportunities, and a place where community needs, cutting edge science, effective natural and manmade infrastructure, and good public policy can come together to balance the interests of economy and environment.

CURWOOD: Republican Congresswoman Carol Miller, a climate committee member from West Virginia, spoke out against regulations designed to limit global warming gas emissions.

MILLER: I’ve seen the devastation that a top-down one size fits all government approach can cause. We saw this with the war on coal from Obama administration. The decimation of the coal industry in my state ravished our economy, particularly in the southern part of the state.

CURWOOD: As the hearing was winding down, Republican Congressman Gary Palmer of Alabama spoke up and then was challenged by California Democrat Jared Huffman and Chairwoman Castor.

PALMER: I want to ask unanimous consent to enter a couple things into the record - one is the IPCC's climate change fiscal science basis and just want to point out, what they found in this report - there's no robust trends in annual numbers, tropical storms, major hurricanes counts that have been identified over last 100 years in north Atlantic basin.

HUFFMAN: And Madam Chair, just for clarification, we're entering the entire reports into the record, right? Not select schedules that may tell partial stories. I mean I certainly wouldn't want any misleading partial sections, I wouldn't want Bob Barr redacting it, I'd like to see the whole report! [LAUGHTER]

CASTOR: Without objection those are entered into the record. I'd also like to note, I did have an opportunity to glance at Mr. Palmer's request here and while it talks about the trends in the number of tropical storms, hurricanes, major hurricane counts - I can tell you as a Floridian that's lived through the past few years – that yes, the number may not be impacted, but the intensity, the size, the amount of moisture in the atmosphere when you're talking about flooding - those are at issue. And those are going to be some of the issues we'll address here going fwd.

CURWOOD: The House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis plans to continue holding bipartisan hearings under the leadership of Democrat Kathy Castor. Senate Democrats formed their own “Special Committee on the Climate Crisis" on March 27th after Republican Majority Leader Mitch McConnell refused to establish a bipartisan Senate climate crisis committee.



More about the young people who testified at the hearing

Watch the April 4, 2019 House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis “Generation Climate” hearing


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