Teen activist Greta Thunberg has delivered a searing address at the United Nations Climate Action Summit in New York City, excoriating world leaders for their reckless inaction in the face of a world-changing crisis.
More accurately, a sixteen-year-old schooled the planet’s top diplomats for idly watching as the planet burns, and she was pissed off she even had to do that.
“This is all wrong,” she said.
A strong opening if there ever was one.
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 am 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 challenged the idea that current global emissions reduction targets are enough to curb the devastating and irreversible effects of severe climate change, again calling for a radical transformation of the planet’s leading economies to address the issue.
“A 50% risk is simply not acceptable to us, we who have to live with the consequences,” Thunberg said.
The didn’t drop the mic so much as she dropped the hammer.
“You are failing us. But the young people are starting to understand your betrayal,” she said.
“The eyes of all future generations are upon you. And if you choose to fail us, I say ‘we will never forgive you.'”
Her speech marks a high point in her year-long campaign for climate justice, which started with her simple, solitary decision to skip school in Sweden.
Whether her speech has any lasting impact is yet to be seen.
The ongoing Climate Action Summit, the most significant gathering of its kind since the 2015 Paris UN Climate Change Conference, has gathered diplomats in the hopes they’ll reveal new emission reduction targets which heed the warnings of last year’s ground-shaking Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report.
Of course, some nations (like Australia) are expected to reveal less than others at the conference, but Thunberg’s speech has rendered the issue in no unclear terms: to deny the science is to permit untold suffering on future generations.Image: Justin Lane / EPA