Post by Richard Graves and Erin Condit-Bergren, U.S. youth delegation.

Nusa Dua, Bali. We have been sitting outside the closed conference rooms where delegates from around the world engage in the grueling process of working out an international climate policy, line by line. Campaigners, delegates, and journalists mill about, trading rumors and whispering strategy. Everyone has been working nonstop for two whole weeks, and it all has come down to this one long session.

The milling crowd reflects nothing of the nuance of the international negotiations, which will determine the future of international climate change policy. Instead, the din reveals the clanking of glasses and the milling hubbub of various national representatives, sound and fury, signifying nothing. The air may be charged, but what exactly are we all waiting for? Everyone is as edgy and nervous as an expectant father banished from the maternity room, yet there will be no agreement born today. At the moment, all we hope for is a plan to negotiate another plan.

Why on earth are we here at 2:00 a.m.? We know that in the end, despite all our efforts at the conference and over the last year, the White House delegates will ignore the will of the American people and even the plight of their own children. The sad truth is that while we have done so much over the last year and won so many victories, when we try to get our own government to represent us it is like we are the nagging conscience they have grown comfortable ignoring.

Earlier, before the negotiations dragged into the wee hours, we moved the assembled delegates to tears with our plea and call for action. We shamed the U.S. delegation for lying to us before the world. We told the stories of young people losing their homes, their livelihoods, and their human rights; how we felt betrayed by those that refused to protect us when we needed them. Finally, we simply, quietly, begged them to act.

The U.S. delegates only smiled and continued on. They are blithely acting as if our collective future, the very fate of our society, is nothing but another diplomatic chessboard to advance the narrow economic issues of one industrial sector. It is no longer shameful, it is beyond embarrassing, it is a moral outrage.

It is time for accountability. We cannot trust this generation of “leaders” to safeguard our future. We have no choice, but to rise to the challenge ourselves.

At this conference, we have talked about building a global youth climate movement and how it could help our regional or national organizations coordinate. But we can no longer think just in terms of organizational development — we must galvanize our generation. We must communicate, in as stark terms as possible, the two paths that lie before us.

Down one path lies a world where we have overcome the shame of global poverty, the terror of rising conflict, and embraces sustainability to uplift humanity. The other is almost too terrible to contemplate, where nations war over declining resources, the world’s most vulnerable pay the terrible cost of inaction, and we play Russian roulette with our very future.

With the choices so clear, our duty is even clearer: we are the ones that must act. We must act to make this generation, which represents almost half the population of the Earth, the one that rises to the climate challenge. We have but one chance, one future, and one climate.