Close this search box.

Student valedictorians focus speeches on ‘climate change’

Climate change and how to curb it is the most important issue on the minds of young Americans — an issue that will likely influence their vote.

We’re already seeing young voters more vocally active on climate change.

Earlier this year, thousands of college and high school students around the world staged a Youth Climate Strike to call attention to the climate crisis and demand policy solutions.

And over the last two months, as part of the “Class of 0000” movement, hundreds of college and high school valedictorians have used their graduation speeches to urge their peers and guests to pressure 2020 presidential candidates to address the crisis.

“I think the reason that the climate change issue has gained so much traction among people my age and younger is because, in reality, policies related to climate change are going to affect us more than anyone else,” said Rebecca Tone, an 18-year-old who just graduated from Morristown-Beard School in Morristown.

Tone, of Randolph, was valedictorian of her class and participated in the Class of Zero movement in June. The youth-led movement was organized to “build a coalition of first-time voters prioritizing climate,” according to its website.

Since the late 19th century, the Earth’s average surface temperature has risen about 1.62 degrees Fahrenheit, driven largely by increased carbon dioxide and greenhouse gases from human activity that trap heat in the atmosphere, according to NASA.

Climate scientists say instances of damaging, extreme weather driven by global warming will continue to occur at increasing rates.

Generation Z, which encompasses those who are 14 to 22 years old, has grown up witnessing some of these catastrophic events — Superstorm Sandy in 2012, the record flooding that came from Hurricane Harvey in 2017 and the recent California drought that lasted seven years, for example.