Teen climate activist Greta Thunberg blasted world leaders at the UN Climate Action Summit on Monday for showing more interest in making money than in saving the planet by reducing carbon emissions.
“People are suffering,” the 16-year-old Swedish student told the global leaders and delegates assembled at the United Nations in New York. “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!” she thundered.
Nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize, Thunberg spoke on a panel at the summit, convened by UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to assess what needs to be done to meet the goals of the 2017 Paris Climate Agreement.
The Side-Eye Seen Around the World
Before she took the stage, President Donald Trump — who has incorrectly called climate change a hoax perpetuated by the Chinese — made an unscheduled stop at the summit for 15 minutes. He walked by the teen, who was caught on camera flashing him a seemingly icy stare that went viral and sent the social media world into a frenzy.
“I felt that,” one Twitter user wrote.
I felt that pic.twitter.com/0uuYf94COb
— marv (@mrvndn) September 23, 2019
Trump later tweeted, “She seems like a very happy young girl looking forward to a bright and wonderful future. So nice to see!”
Since Trump took office, his administration has rolled back numerous environmental protections, including major clean water regulations earlier this month. In 2017, Trump famously announced that he was pulling the U.S. out of the Paris agreement that leaders and delegates came to the summit to discuss.
While onstage Monday, Thunberg berated global leaders for not doing enough to stem global warming, saying, “You have stolen my dreams and my childhood with your empty words.”
Thunberg — who has Asperger’s, a form of autism she calls her “superpower” — became the de facto face of the youth climate movement last year after school strikes she held to protest climate inaction caught on with other young people around the world.
In August, she sailed across the Atlantic in a zero-carbon boat to come to the United States to address the UN at the summit. Last week, she testified before members of Congress, urging them to “listen to the scientists” to keep the world from overheating to the point where the planet becomes uninhabitable, The New York Times reports.
On Friday, she led the most massive climate strike of all time, with millions of teens and adults from more than 150 countries taking to the streets to demand that world leaders take immediate action to lower carbon emissions.
‘The Science Has Been Crystal Clear’
Her frustrations with world leaders’ inability to preserve the planet for future generations came to a head in her passionate and fiery speech at the summit.
Shaking and at times with tears in her eyes, Thunberg started her address by saying, “This is all wrong. I shouldn’t be up here. I should be back in school on the other side of the ocean.”
For more than 30 years, she said, “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,” she continued.
Cutting emissions in half in 10 years — which many believe will stave off disaster — is not enough, she said, citing the UN’s own Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
On my way to the United Nations. Today I’m speaking in the General Assembly at the Climate Action Summit. This is such a crucial day, world leaders are gathering at the UN in New York to decide on our future. The eyes of the world will be upon them. pic.twitter.com/0GSjmfqoxW
— Greta Thunberg (@GretaThunberg) September 23, 2019
Doing so only gives the world a 50 percent chance of staying below 1.5C degrees “and the risk of setting off irreversible chain reactions beyond human control,” she said.
“Maybe 50 percent is acceptable to you,” Thunberg added. “But those numbers don’t include tipping points, most feedback loops, additional warming hidden by toxic air pollution or the aspects of justice and equality.”
Thunberg said a “50 percent risk is simply not acceptable to us,” because “we who have to live with the consequences.”
She ended her speech by saying that world leaders are failing their young people, who aren’t going to ease pressure on them until action is taken.
“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. 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.”
‘A Race We Can Win’
Not all world leaders are ignoring the climate crisis.
“We’ve seen the emotion this morning,” French President Emmanuel Macron said later that day at the summit, the Washington Post reported. “We cannot let our youth spend every Friday demonstrating for the climate and simply answer, ‘Everything is fine, we are doing everything right.’ We are still far from the account.”
German Chancellor Angela Merkel met with Thunberg on Monday.
During the summit’s opening remarks, UN Secretary-General Guterres said, “The climate emergency is a race we are losing, but it is a race we can win.”
And it’s a race Thunberg wants us all to win. On Monday, she and 15 other teens including U.S. teen climate activist Alexandria Villasenor filed a landmark complaint with the UN’s Committee on the Rights of the Child, suing polluting countries such as Brazil and Turkey for failing to take enough steps to protect children from the effects of climate change, UNICEF said in a release.
— UNICEF (@UNICEF) September 23, 2019
Read more: people.com