Donald Trump is under fire for a thinly-veiled attack on 17-year-old climate activist Greta Thunberg in his keynote speech on the opening day of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland yesterday.
The president hit out at environmental “alarmists” and told world business leaders to reject “perennial prophets of doom and their prediction of the apocalypse,” instead insisting this was a “time for optimism," before going on to boast of his administration's economic achievements.
“They want to see us do badly, but we don’t let that happen,” Trump said, reports The Guardian.
“These alarmists always demand the same thing: absolute power to dominate, transform and control every aspect of our lives. We will never let radical socialists destroy our economy, wreck our country or eradicate our liberty.”
The theme of this year’s annual meeting – which gathers political, business, and cultural leaders together to shape global and industry policies and agendas in the publish interest – is sustainability and addressing climate change. Trump told the forum the US would defend its economy, extolling the virtues of oil and gas, but would join an initiative to plant a trillion trees, something Thunberg later called “nowhere near” the action required to avert catastrophe.
It’s not the first time Trump has attacked Thunberg, despite telling the Wall Street Journal at the forum he “didn’t really know anything about her”. He previously called her “very angry” and said that she must have an “anger management problem” after she was awarded Time’s coveted Person of the Year 2019 award in December. It was revealed in 2017 that Trump, who was one of the finalists last year, had to be asked to remove framed fake Time covers featuring himself at some of his resorts by the magazine.
Thunberg, who spoke soon after Trump at a panel featuring other young activists, also didn’t name names in her address but it was clear she was frustrated at the president’s avoidance of the real issues.
“[The] world, in case you hadn’t noticed, is currently on fire," she said. “Planting trees is good, of course, but it’s nowhere near enough, and it cannot replace real mitigation. We don’t need to lower emissions. Emissions need to stop.”
Thunberg's impassioned speech wasn't just aimed at Trump though. She urged world leaders to listen to the science, which is widely available, and think about future generations.
"I wonder, what will you tell your children was the reason to fail and leave them facing... climate chaos that you knowingly brought upon them? That it seemed so bad for the economy that we decided to resign the idea of securing future living conditions without even trying?"