In a world where the grown-ups are too preoccupied with hiding their accounts, breaking laws, and outright lying to the world about the existence or severity of climate change, it seems we have to turn to the kids for sense.
But, as 16-year-old climate activist Greta Thunberg passionately told the UN climate action summit in New York yesterday, that is not how it should be.
“This is all wrong,” she stated. “I shouldn’t be up here. I should be back in school, on the other side of the ocean. Yet you all come to us young people for hope. How dare you.
“You have stolen my dreams and my childhood with your empty words. Yet I’m one of the lucky ones. People are suffering, people are dying. Entire ecosystems are collapsing, we are in the beginning of a mass extinction. All you can talk about is money and fairy tales of eternal economic growth. How dare you.”
Thunberg, who hails from Sweden, recently made waves by sailing from the UK to New York to attend the climate summit after refusing to fly due to the environmental impact. She first caught the public eye last August when she began protesting about the lack of climate action outside the Swedish parliament. Other young people followed suit, striking from school to raise awareness of the urgency of the climate crisis. Last week, the movement triggered the largest global climate protest ever as millions of people ditched school or work to campaign for climate action across the world.
But despite surges in environmental activism and the immense mountain of scientific evidence proving that we are devastating our planet and that leaders must take drastic action with immediate effect, policies and plans simply aren’t good enough.
“For more than 30 years, the science has been crystal clear,” Thunberg said. “How dare you continue to look away, and come here, saying that you are doing enough when the politics and solutions needed are nowhere in sight.
“The popular idea of cutting our emissions in half in 10 years only gives us a 50 percent chance of staying below 1.5°C and the risk of setting off irreversible chain reactions beyond human control,” she added. “Fifty percent may be acceptable to you, but those numbers do not include tipping points, most feedback loops, additional warming hidden by toxic air pollution or the aspects of equity and climate justice. They also rely on my generation sucking billions of tons of your CO2 out of the air with technologies that barely exist.
“A 50 percent risk is simply not acceptable to us; we will have to live with the consequences.”
While Thunberg’s emotional speech resonated with many and allowed the worries of younger generations to be heard by representatives from 60 countries, not everyone was listening. An infamous climate denier, who just so happens to be the 45th president of the United States, took to Twitter to mock Thunberg, proving he has far less maturity than a teenager 57 years his junior.
Young people around the world are suffering from “eco-anxiety”, afraid of what the future holds for them when world leaders are failing to protect the planet from further degradation.
“You are failing us. But the young people are starting to understand your betrayal,” concluded Thunberg. “The eyes of all future generations are upon you. And if you choose to fail us, I say we will never forgive you. We will not let you get away with this. Right here, right now is where we draw the line.
“The world is waking up, and change is coming whether you like it or not.”