Heads of state that oppose climate action are targeting climate activist Greta Thunberg. The teenage climate warrior is undeterred by the fact that she is in the cross-hairs of a generational struggle. She has steadfastly spoken truth to power and unflinchingly confronted
the inaction and lies of global leaders. She called out U.S. President Donald Trump saying, “Unlike you, my generation will not give up without a fight. Our house is still on fire. Your inaction is fueling the flames.” She accused Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison of, “failing to make the connection” between rising temperatures and extreme weather events like the bush fires. “Not even catastrophes like these seem to bring any political action. How is this possible?” she tweeted to her 3.7 million followers.
Greta rails against political leaderships that equivocate on the science of climate change. During a speech at COP25 in Madrid, she warned world leaders, saying “we no longer have time to leave out the science.” She stressed the point that we are exhausting our carbon budget and risk triggering tipping points from which we may not be able to recover. She said countries are doing nothing but clever accounting and creative PR. “Our leaders are not behaving as if we were in an emergency. In an emergency you change your behavior.”
Her moral clarity has helped to galvanize the largest and most international movement the world has ever seen. Her message resonates in the streets and in the halls of power. She has even helped to shape the climate advocacy of French President Emmanuel Macron. Her influence is so pervasive that it prompted Collins Dictionary to name “climate strike,” the word of the year.
Greta started her journey by skipping school, she then inspired 4 million people to join her in a global protest. The school strike on September 20, 2019 was the largest ever global protest and she led the largest ever individual climate strike which took place one week later in Montreal. At the end of the year she was named Time Magazine’s Person of the Year and one of Nature’s top ten most influential people in science.
In the face of her global popularity a small group of conservative political leaders have criticized her for speaking out. In December President Donald Trump lashed out at Greta, the day after she was named by Time as its Person of the Year. Trump called her selection “ridiculous.” Trump then tweeted, “Greta must work on her Anger Management problem, then go to a good old fashioned movie with a friend!” He added: “Chill Greta, Chill!” Thunberg responded by changing her Twitter profile bio to read: “A teenager working on her anger management problem. Currently chilling and watching a good old fashioned movie with a friend.” Brazilian strongman Jair Bolsonaro called Greta a “brat” for her comments lamenting the rising toll of murdered
indigenous activists. Bolsonaro used the Portuguese word “pirralha”
meaning pest or brat, then Greta added the word to her Twitter bio.
On January 22 Trump was at it again criticizing Greta at Davos for mentioning U.S. climate inaction. This was then followed by caustic remarks from Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.Speaking at a press briefing at the World Economic Forum, on January 23, Mnuchin facetiously asked, “Is she the chief economist or who is she? I’m confused,” Mnuchin said sarcastically, before adding this was “a joke. That was funny. After she goes and studies economics in college she can come back and explain that to us,” Mnuchin said.
Greta responded, “it doesn’t take a college degree in economics to realize that our remaining 1.5° carbon budget and ongoing fossil fuel subsidies and investments don’t add up. So either you tell us how to achieve this mitigation or explain to future generations and those already affected by the climate emergency why we should abandon our climate commitments.”
Greta is a symbol of the frustration and desperation felt by millions of young people who see their futures being destroyed by a bunch of selfish, short-sighted old men. She is also an icon of a special kind of hope, one that she explained this Christmas, this is the kind of hope that can only come from action.
“Our house is still on fire,” Greta said during her speech at the World Economic Forum (WEF) “we are telling you to act as if you loved your children above all else.” She demanded an end to fossil fuel subsidies and all investments in fossil fuel exploration and extraction. “Either you do this, or you’re going to have to explain to your children why you are giving up on the 1.5-degree target, giving up without even trying,” she said. “I am here to tell you that, unlike you, my generation will not give up without a fight.”
The fact that world leaders have failed to reign-in emission is tantamount to an act of war against future generations. Greta has channeled the rage of young people who will inherit the mess we have made. She stands for a generation that is fighting for their lives. Time described her as the “standard bearer in a generational battle”. Early in December, after she completed the voyage across the Atlantic by sailboat, she said, “We are angry and frustrated, and that is because of good reason. If they want us to stop being angry then maybe they should stop making us angry.”
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