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The debate about climate change is heating up, and the Climate Reality Project at UCF wants students to help fuel the fire.

World leaders from 194 countries will meet in December in Paris, France, to discuss an agreement to cut global carbon emissions. Until then, grassroots movements such as the Climate Reality Project will be mobilizing students — including UCF students — across the United States to demand climate action from President Obama.

The Climate Reality Project, an international nonprofit organization founded in 2001 by Al Gore, has branches at 60 colleges in the United States. The universities involved will be hosting events throughout the fall semester to raise awareness about the talks and get students to voice their environmental concerns, including those at UCF.

The first big event for the nationwide project is Know Tomorrow, a National Campus Day of Action. The Climate Reality Project at UCF will be hosting an eco-fair on Friday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. in the Student Union’s Key West Ballroom, where UCF’s environmental organizations will have tables set up to educate attendees through interactive lessons and other activities.

The Climate Reality Project at UCF will be hosting one of several satellite Climate Marches in mid-October, and in November, Climate Reality Project teams in eight countries will participate in 24 Hours of Reality, a “live global event covering the climate crisis in every region of the world,” according to the Climate Reality Project website.

UCF will be one of only 10 U.S. universities participating in the marathon-type event to get students, especially millennials, excited about the climate talks.

“Our voices can be so strong when we unite together against a common cause,” said Jasmine Noval, a senior biology major and Climate Reality Project at UCF intern. “Climate change is something that’s going to affect us all in the near future. It’s something we should all care about and unite for.”

The group wants its influence to reach across campus, said Joanie Coker, the field organizer for the Climate Reality Project at UCF.

“My goal is to have every student at UCF — so 60-plus thousand people — to at least hear or see our name somewhere, so they know that this is happening and that we’re here and we’re looking for all the help we can get,” Coker said.

Coker said she hopes to get 5,000 signatures on a petition to demand “that President Obama sign a strong agreement at the Paris Climate negotiations in December.” In the three weeks her team has been on campus, it has gotten more than 1,300 signatures. The Climate Reality Project wants to get 100,000 signatures on the petition nationally.

Along with petitioning, the Climate Reality Project aims to change climate deniers’ minds.

“Climate-change denial should not be accepted,” Coker said. “It should be equivalent to thinking the world is flat.”

Those interested in getting involved can sign the petition or email Coker directly at joanie@greencorps.org to volunteer. Volunteers can petition, phone bank or help prepare for and run the eco-fair.

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Allison Miehl is a Contributing Writer for the Central Florida Future.

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