Most politicians go to great lengths to avoid alienating large sections of the population, but Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison apparently didn’t get the memo as he blasted schoolchildren who are organizing protests for climate action.
“What we want is more learning in schools and less activism in schools,” Morrison said during question time in Parliament Monday.
Young people are planning a series of strikes over three days starting Wednesday, walking out of classes to draw attention to the lack of political action on climate change.
“We don’t support the idea of kids not going to school to participate in things that can be dealt with outside of school,” said Morrison.
“Each day I send my kids to school and I know other members’ kids should also go to school but we do not support our schools being turned into parliaments.”
The Prime Minister listed a number of ways in which the government is tackling climate change, before making clear his opposition to the walkout.
“We are committed to all of these things, but I will tell you what we are also committed to – kids should go to school,” Morrison said.
Schoolchildren have organized strikes in all of the state capitals under the banner of School Strike 4 Climate Action.
Their demands include the cancellation of the proposed Carmichael coal mine in Central Queensland, no new coal or gas projects, and a move to 100% renewable energy by 2030, according to a statement on the organization’s website.
“Maybe if the people in power like Scott Morrison listened to the climate scientists and took action to stop dangerous climate change then we wouldn’t have to resort to all become climate activists,” the organizers told CNN via email.
“We are temporarily sacrificing our education in order to save our futures from climate change,” they said. “People’s lives are on the line. It’s time to act before it’s too late.”
The vast majority of Australians accept human-induced climate change is real and scientists have linked the current record-slashing drought to global warming, yet the subject is still highly controversial in Australian politics, and climate change skepticism is still given political space.
“The history of Australian politics is that climate policy has proven in the past to be so controversial that it has resulted in prime ministers losing their jobs,” Bob Ward, policy director at the Grantham Research Institute at the London School of Economics, told CNN in August.