UNITED NATIONS— Greta Thunberg shocked the United Nations Climate Action Summit on Monday with an angry, accusatory tone and direct, frank talk.
“This is all wrong,” said the 16-year-old climate activist from Sweden, fighting back tears. “I shouldn’t be up here – I should be in school, across the ocean.”
Taking an angry tone, she continued, “You come to young people for hope? How dare you? You have stolen my dreams and my childhood with your empty words.”
“And yet,” she said, “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 and all you can talk about is money and fairytales of eternal economic growth. How dare you?”
Thunberg’s rage hearkened back to the youth-led Climate Strike last Friday, in which an estimated 4 million people took to the streets across the globe.
“For more than thirty years,” Thunberg said, “the science has been crystal clear. How dare you continue to look away?”
Thunberg said she would prefer to believe that present-day leaders simply do not understand the extent of the crisis.
“You say you hear us and understand the urgency,” she said. “But no matter how sad and angry I am, I don’t want to believe that. Because if you really understood the situation and went on failing to act, you would be evil, and that I refuse to believe.”
President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence were briefly in attendance. Trump has publicly questioned the scientific consensus that humans are causing the earth’s climate to change in dangerous ways (97 percent of the world’s climate scientists say that is the case).
Thunberg said that even existing efforts to cut greenhouse gas emissions in half within ten years are woefully inadequate.
“The popular idea of cutting our emissions in half in ten years only gives us a 50% chance of staying below 1.5C degrees, and the risk of setting off irreversible chain reactions beyond human control,” she said. “But those numbers don’t include tipping points, most feedback loops, additional warming hidden by toxic air pollution or the aspects of justice and equity.”
But, she said, “there will not be any solutions or plans presented in line with these figures today. Because these numbers are too uncomfortable. And you are still not mature enough to tell it like it is.”
“You are failing us,” Thunberg concluded. “But the young people are starting to understand your betrayal. 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.”