A week after putting a Republican congressman in his place during a climate hearing in Washington, D.C., teenage activist Greta Thunberg took it to the world leaders gathered in New York on Monday for the United Nations Climate Action Summit, delivering a passionate indictment of their hesitation to take action to combat the climate crisis.
“This is all wrong,” the 16-year-old’s much-anticipated speech began. “I shouldn’t be standing here. I should be back in school on the other side of the ocean. Yet you all come to me for hope? How dare you! … For more than 30 years the science has been crystal clear. How dare you continue to look away, and come here saying that you are doing enough, when the politics and solutions needed are still nowhere in sight?”
— Luis Velarde (@luivelarde) September 23, 2019
The Swedish teenager, who last month arrived in the United States by boat to raise awareness of the role jets play in the climate crisis, wasn’t afraid to drop some statistics, noting that cutting emissions in half in the next 10 years only offers a 50 percent chance of keeping the world’s temperature below 1.5 Celsius, which scientists have cited as a red line for climate disaster.
“Maybe 50 percent is acceptable to you,” said Thunberg. “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. They also rely on my and my children’s generation sucking hundreds of billions of tonnes of your CO2 out of the air with technologies that barely exist. So a 50 percent risk is simply not acceptable to us — we who have to live with the consequences.”
She continued: “To have a 67 percent chance of staying below a 1.5 Celsius global temperature rise — the best odds given by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change — the world had 420 gigatons of carbon dioxide left to emit back on January 1st 2018. Today that figure is already down to less than 350 gigatons. How dare you pretend that this can be solved with business-as-usual and some technical solutions. With today’s emissions levels, that remaining CO2 budget will be entirely gone in less than eight and a half years.”
Thunberg was one of 16 children from 12 nations who earlier on Monday filed a formal complaint to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child. The complaint alleges that the lack of action UN member states have taken to combat the climate crisis represents a violation of child rights. Thunberg concluded her speech at the General Assembly by noting that young people won’t forgive any abdication of responsibility to protect the planet for future generations. This is it. The time is now.
“You are failing us,” Thunberg said. “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. 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.”