A group of Broadneck High School students armed with paint tubes squeezed their message onto the front of lime green T-shirts: We're here to the save the planet.
Those messages spelled out last week are meant to be read by state legislators when the students present a petition asking them to support the Global Warming Solutions Act. It would require state officials to cap greenhouse gas emissions at 1990 levels.
Members of Broadneck High School's environmental club are trying to collect at least 1,000 signatures for the petition and attract more students to lobby the General Assembly, said Melissa Duvall, who founded the club earlier this year.
"We're the younger generation - a lot of their actions are going to directly affect us," she said.
The group is working with the Chesapeake Climate Action Network, which is organizing the lobby day next week for House Bill 890, sponsored by Democratic Del. Kumar P. Barve of Montgomery County, and its companion measure, Senate Bill 409, sponsored by Democratic Sen. Paul G. Pinsky of Prince George's County.
Greenhouse gases trap heat in the Earth's atmosphere and warm the Earth's surface. According to a consensus of scientists, a small increase in temperature over the past 100 years has started to melt glaciers and intensify storms.
Estimates show that emissions would need to be reduced by 16 to 20 percent to meet 1990 levels, said Claire Douglass, chapter coordinator of the network.
The bills would establish an office of global climate change in the Maryland Department of the Environment. The office would be charged with coordinating the effort across state agencies and industries.
"Up until this point, we've been chipping away at emissions by different sectors," Douglass said, referring to regulations regarding emissions from coal-fired power plants. She said this act would create a "gold standard" to measure progress statewide.
Duvall, 17, decided to become active after taking an Advanced Placement course in environmental science last year. She approached her teacher about starting a club to earn Broadneck a "green school" designation through the Maryland Association for Environmental and Outdoor Education. The Green Schools program recognizes schools that provide environmental education, model "best management" practices and address community environmental issues.
Club members became interested in lobbying the legislature after they heard Douglass speak about the lobbying day.
The Chesapeake Climate Action Network is trying to mobilize more than 100 people to lobby the State House on March 12. In addition to other lobbying organizations, the network has mobilized students from several Montgomery County high schools.
Although the Broadneck students can't vote, their early political action is a sign that they will exercise their right as soon as they are old enough, Douglass said.
"What students learn during this process, they keep with them during their whole lives," she said.
Douglass will return to Broadneck tomorrow to coach the club members on what to say to the delegates.
Several students acknowledged that they were nervous about their first foray into political lobbying. Brian Muhitch, a sophomore, said he will be more confident after hearing Douglass speak. "As long as I know what to say, I won't be nervous," he said.
Although sophomore Lilly Datchev plans to let her classmates do the talking, she finds herself rehearsing lines in her head.
She is ready in case a legislator argues that emissions-controlling equipment on cars and in power plants is too expensive and will cause businesses to cut jobs.
"It's going to cost a lot more once global warming sets in," Lilly said.
Several club members have been to a lobbying education day, sponsored by the Maryland League of Conservation Voters and a coalition of environmental groups. The Feb. 19 event focused on environmental bills.
Jenna Burns, a sophomore, said the underlying message of the day was to focus on sharing a personal story with legislators about why they should support a particular bill. She said she is going to focus on her love of nature, which was nurtured by her family.
"I come from a family of sailors," said Jenna, who also likes to go mountain biking and rock climbing. "We do a lot of camping and outdoor adventures."
Taylor Sturm, a sophomore, said an office of climate change would be an important step for Maryland to acknowledge its role in global warming.
Taylor said she thinks global warming is "something we need to pay attention to in the future."