‘You Are Failing Us’: Greta Thunberg Rips Into World Leaders for Lack of Climate Action, Glares at Trump
Swedish 16-year-old Greta Thunberg, who was instrumental in launching the Fridays for Future school strike movement, refused to let world leaders off the hook in an emotional speech at the start of the UN Climate Action Summit Monday.
"This is all wrong," Thunberg said, according to a transcript published by The Guardian. "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! You have stolen my dreams and my childhood with your empty words. And 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. And all you can talk about is money and fairytales of eternal economic growth. How dare you!"
Thunberg is taking a year off from school to attend conferences and meetings in an effort to urge action on the climate crisis, CNN reported. Because she refuses to fly, she traveled to New York for the UN summit on a zero-emissions yacht.
The UN Climate Action Summit was billed as a chance for world leaders to up their commitments under the Paris agreement before the 2020 deadline. But Thunberg excoriated them for failing to act so far.
"You say you 'hear' us and that you understand the urgency," she said. "But no matter how sad and angry I am, I don't want to believe that. Because if you fully understood the situation and still kept on failing to act, then you would be evil. And I refuse to believe that."
UN Secretary General António Guterres had asked attending countries to present plans for reducing emissions 45 percent over the next decade, but Thunberg suggested this goal did not go far enough. She said there was only a 50 percent chance that achieving it would limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.
"Maybe 50 percent is acceptable to you. 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," she said. "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."
Thunberg's comments came three days after four million people around the world attended the largest youth-led climate protest yet, something she alluded to at the end of her speech.
"You are failing us. 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," she concluded.
The change Thunberg called for was largely not promised by the summit that followed. China, the world's largest emitter, did not promise to up its climate ambitions, and the U.S., the world's second largest, did not speak at all, The New York Times reported.
Thunberg had previously said she did not plan to talk to U.S. President Donald Trump, who has promised to withdraw the country from the Paris agreement, during her visit.
"Why should I waste time talking to him when he, of course, is not going to listen to me?" she told CBS in August.
But the two did cross paths when Trump arrived at the UN Monday. The stare Thunberg fixed on the climate-denying president was caught on camera and then went viral on social media, HuffPost reported.
Democratic presidential candidates were among those who retweeted the clip.
"Same," wrote Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.)
"I think a lot of us can relate," wrote former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Julián Castro, according to The Guardian.
I think a lot of us can relate.— Julián Castro (@JulianCastro) September 23, 2019
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From Greta Thunberg to Sir David Attenborough, the headline-grabbing climate change activists and environmentalists of today are predominantly white. But like many areas of society, those whose voices are heard most often are not necessarily representative of the whole.
1. Wangari Maathai<p>In 2004, Professor Maathai made history as the <a href="https://www.nobelpeaceprize.org/Prize-winners/Prizewinner-documentation/Wangari-Maathai" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">first African woman to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize</a> for her dedication to sustainable development, democracy and peace. She started the <a href="http://www.greenbeltmovement.org/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Green Belt Movement</a>, a community-based tree planting initiative that aims to reduce poverty and encourage conservation, in 1977. More than 51 million trees have been planted helping build climate resilience and empower communities, especially women and girls. Her environmental work is celebrated every year on <a href="http://www.greenbeltmovement.org/node/955" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Wangari Maathai Day on 3 March</a>.</p>
2. Robert Bullard<p>Known as the 'father of environmental justice,' Dr Bullard has <a href="https://www.unep.org/championsofearth/laureates/2020/robert-bullard" target="_blank">campaigned against harmful waste</a> being dumped in predominantly Black neighborhoods in the southern states of the U.S. since the 1970s. His first book, Dumping in Dixie, highlighted the link between systemic racism and environmental oppression, showing how the descendants of slaves were exposed to higher-than-average levels of pollutants. In 1994, his work led to the signing of the <a href="https://www.nrdc.org/experts/albert-huang/20th-anniversary-president-clintons-executive-order-12898-environmental-justice" target="_blank">Executive Order on Environmental Justice</a>, which the <a href="https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/presidential-actions/2021/01/27/executive-order-on-tackling-the-climate-crisis-at-home-and-abroad/" target="_blank">Biden administration is building on</a>.<br></p>
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Pollution has a race problem. Elizabethwarren.com
3. John Francis<p>Helping the clean-up operation after an oil spill in San Francisco Bay in January 1971 inspired Francis to <a href="https://planetwalk.org/about-john/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">stop taking motorized transport</a>. Instead, for 22 years, he walked everywhere. He also took a vow of silence that lasted 17 years, so he could listen to others. He has walked the width of the U.S. and sailed and walked through South America, earning the nickname "Planetwalker," and raising awareness of how interconnected people are with the environment.</p>
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4. Dr. Warren Washington<p>A meteorology and climate pioneer, Dr. Washington was one of the first people to develop atmospheric computer models in the 1960s, which have helped scientists understand climate change. These models now also incorporate the oceans and sea ice, surface water and vegetation. In 2007, the <a href="https://www.cgd.ucar.edu/pcm/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Parallel Climate Model (PCM)</a> and <a href="https://www.cesm.ucar.edu/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Community Earth System Model (CESM)</a>, earned Dr. Washington and his colleagues the <a href="https://www.nobelprize.org/prizes/peace/2007/summary/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Nobel Peace Prize</a>, as part of the <a href="https://www.ipcc.ch/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change</a>.</p>
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5. Angelou Ezeilo<p>Huge trees and hikes to pick berries during her childhood in upstate New York inspired Ezeilo to become an environmentalist and set up the <a href="https://gyfoundation.org/staff/Angelou-Ezeilo" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Greening Youth Foundation</a>, to educate future generations about the importance of preservation. Through its schools program and Youth Conservation Corps, the social enterprise provides access to nature to disadvantaged children and young people in the U.S. and West Africa. In 2019, Ezeilo published her book <em>Engage, Connect, Protect: Empowering Diverse Youth as Environmental Leaders</em>, co-written by her Pulitzer Prize-winning brother Nick Chiles.</p>
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