JANESVILLE - Rock County residents joined thousands of demonstrators from around the world in a climate change strike on Friday.
Demonstrators gathered outside the Rock County Courthouse to bring awareness about the impact climate change has on the world today and in the future.
Students and other activists gave speeches at the strike, which were followed by a march in downtown Janesville.
Many of the global demonstrations were organized by high school and college students who want political leaders to take action to address climate change, and the Rock County gathering was no different.
Kenneth Forbeck, a senior at Craig High in Janesville, organized and spoke at the local strike. Several dozens of people turned up to the Janesville event; in Madison, authorities estimated that 3,000 people gathered for a climate strike around the state Capitol.
In his speech, Forbeck said he should have spent his Friday night playing with the school pep band or hanging out with friends. Instead, he led the protest because he is scared for his future.
The government and society has let down Forbeck's generation by not acting sooner to prevent climate change, he said.
Brittany Keyes, a Beloit physical therapist who ran for the 31st Wisconsin Assembly seat last fall, said she was inspired by the young organizers.
But she also expressed her anger over her children growing up in a world where temperatures and carbon dioxide levels continue to rise, Keyes said.
Global leaders are scheduled to meet Monday in New York for a United Nations climate summit. The U.N. wants the world's carbon pollution to be cut by 45% in the next 10 years, The Associated Press reported.
Citing data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association, AP also reported the world has warmed nearly a degree and that carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere have increased 15% since global leaders first met in 1992 to discuss climate change.
Keyes urged people to reach out to their elected officials, vote in every election and be the change they want to see. Her call to action echoed other speakers.
Beloit City Council member Clinton Anderson also spoke and praised the activists.
Others encouraged attendees to contact Gov. Tony Evers' office and demand he declare a climate emergency for the state.
"I don't want you to be hopeful. I want you to panic," Forbeck said. "Act like your house in on fire, because it is."
Climate change awareness strikes, mostly lead by young people, were held in the United States as well as Europe, Australia, Turkey and elsewhere as demonstrators demanded action to curtail the advancement of global warming.