[Question] Anatomy of a full school climate strike

If students decided to indefinitely strike (Mon-Fri) over climate inaction, what might it look like, and how might it play out? Here is my preliminary brainstorm:

Who would participate?

The most likely participants are aged 12-17. Below that age you are less independent-minded, and above that age you are likely paying for your education. At 12-17, the main thing you are risking are academic results, which a lot of folks may consider a risk worth taking.

Why would politicians care?

Education matters?

I suspect politicians would worry at least a bit about a generation falling behind in their education, if only because they have grade numbers to hit that they don’t want to look bad by missing. A bit further down the line, they might worry about resulting employability, and unemployment figures. Beyond this, I’m foggy on why/​how much politicians might care about non-voters’ education unless it actually bothered voters. Which brings me to....

Angry parents?

At least at first, I imagine a lot of parents would support their kids, and direct their anger at politicians. And fortunately for the kids, their parents can vote.

Obstacles to parental support might include fear for their kids’ grades, logistical difficulties of not having a school looking after their kids for ~8 hours a day (although working from home due to COVID might help here), and fear of government retribution (more on that later). But most adults also view climate change as a major threat (https://​​www.pewresearch.org/​​fact-tank/​​2019/​​04/​​18/​​a-look-at-how-people-around-the-world-view-climate-change/​​) and are invested in their kids’ futures.

So I think there’s a decent chance of supportive, angry parents, and that it might be enough to spur meaningful political action. But this would depend on how long the situation lasted....

Strike breakers

Political threats/​prosecution

I suspect attempts to legislate/​punish parents and kids for striking would be met with a lot of indignation, but politicians might be able to leverage existing laws to threaten parents, and I think this could be more effective. For example, in the UK parents can actually face a short jail term for failing to school their kids: https://​​www.gov.uk/​​school-attendance-absence/​​legal-action-to-enforce-school-attendance.

While I think threats of this sort might be effective, I’d also guess that actually following through on them and punishing parents would be a massive overplay that would politically backfire.

Minority parents

Even before accounting for fearful parents, not all parents even believe climate change is a threat. These parents would likely be pretty mad at the striking, their kids would still be in school, and the conflict of opinion could spur a national debate. Maybe the minority group would win the political fight.


When things drag on long enough, sometimes movements run out of steam. Kids and their parents give up, start worrying more about grades and college, and the whole thing just winds down without having achieved its objectives.


In the interest of accountability and self-improvement, here are the probabilities I’d assign to some of the events above in the hypothetical event of a student climate strike. I’m assuming these would be assessed using a Tetlock style Brier score (roughly brier_score = sum((actual_outcomes - forecasts) ^ 2) / number_of_forecasts) (https://​​en.wikipedia.org/​​wiki/​​Superforecasting:_The_Art_and_Science_of_Prediction).

  • >2/​3rds of participants are aged 12-17: 0.9

  • Majority parental support for 1 month: 0.8, 2 months: 0.5, 3 months: 0.4.

  • Definitively strike-breaking political threats against parents: 0.4.

  • Definitively strike-breaking politicial punishment of parents: 0.05.

  • Movement wins policies in line with IPCC recommendations: 0.4.

But I’m making these guesses so I can see how wrong I was if this happens, not because I’m some kind of authority.

I don’t know that much about this space, which is why this is a question post! What are better ways of reasoning about how this might play out?