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Young climate activists come before Congress to urge ‘action’

Young climate change activists told Congress on Thursday that their lives are at risk unless the U.S. government takes bold steps to curb greenhouse gas emissions.

“The government is taking actions that are directly contributing to the destruction of our planet,” said Aji Piper, an 18-year-old high school dropout from Seattle who is suing the federal government for failing to curb carbon emissions.

But systemic change is possible, Piper, joined by four other young witnesses, told lawmakers.

“The hat hasn’t dropped on the climate crisis. We still have time to act. I will not feel despair because we haven’t failed yet,” Piper said.

Despite their age, the young activists who testified before the House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis Thursday are experienced organizers, some of whom have been protesting for climate action in Washington, D.C., for years. Just last month, many joined the surge of young people who turned out in protests around the world in what was estimated to be the largest global day of climate action ever.

Piper is one of 21 plaintiffs in Juliana vs. U.S., a lawsuit that claims that, if the U.S. government fails to protect the environment, members of his generation could be denied their constitutional rights to life, liberty and property. The lawsuit, filed in 2015, has seen many delays but is set for a hearing before the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. Earlier this year, 30,000 young people signed onto a legal brief asking the appeals court to move the case forward.