Greta Thunberg, 16-year-old Swedish climate activist, joined other youth leaders in the US climate movement to speak to the House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis on Wednesday morning. Thunberg has inspired young people all over the globe to take immediate and direct action to bring awareness of the existential threat of the climate crisis. As a fifteen-year-old, Thunberg drew attention by sitting in front of the Swedish Parliament building every Friday with a sign announcing her “school strike for the climate.” Students and adults all over US and in more than 25 countries have joined her Fridays for Future Movement and walked out of school or work to strike for the climate.
No one has more at stake in the Climate Crisis than young people and they have become a formidable political force in the movement to raise public awareness and as advocates for real action to mitigate climate change. During recent months, in her characteristic direct and blunt style, Thunberg has stunned world leaders at conferences by telling them that they have failed by merely talking about the Climate Crisis and then doing nothing about it. With her small stature, baby face, pigtails and unwavering voice, she has accused adults of shirking their responsibility to protect the planet from the devastation threatened by global warming and leaving their work for children like her to accomplish. She said that since adults have behaved like children, children must now act like adults.
Thunberg, one of four youth climate activists in attendance, told the Congressional Select Committee that she would not offer prepared remarks and instead was submitting the October 8, 2018 IPCC Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5 C Degrees. She said to the members of Congress, “I don’t want you to listen to me. I want you to listen to the science. I want you to unite behind the true science and take real action.” “This is the time to wake up.”
In remarks by Republican congressman Garret Graves from Louisiana, he praised the US for its reduction of carbon emissions during the last few years. Instead he placed the blame for the amount of greenhouse gases emitted into the atmosphere by countries like China who he said is responsible for 30 percent of annual emissions. Thunberg struck back in a speech on Wednesday evening when she said, “The US is the biggest carbon polluter in history.” “It’s also the word’s number one producer of oil, and yet you are the only nation in the world who has signaled with strong intentions to leave the Paris Agreement.”
The US has only 4 percent of the world’s population, but it is responsible for 15 percent of annual carbon emissions. During its industrial development it has contributed 25 percent of the accumulated carbon in the atmosphere. The Chinese and most of the world’s population on average emit 4 metric tons of carbon per person per year into the atmosphere. The US population emits a shocking 20 metric tons of carbon per person per year, the highest level in the world.
On September 23 Thunberg will speak at the UN Climate Summit in New York. She’s making a powerful impact in the public discourse on the climate crisis. She led climate rallies in front of the White House, accompanied other youth climate activists in closed meetings with congressional leaders and spoke privately with former President, Barak Obama. Thunberg will be interviewed on the Trevor Noah show and next week will receive Amnesty International’s top award.
Another youth climate activist at the hearing, Jamie Margolin, 17, from Seattle, and leader of Zero Hour, spoke forcefully to members of Congress. She told the committee that, “We must be well on the path to climate recovery. It should have started yesterday.” “I’m spending time fighting climate change, missing college applications and homework. But its nothing compared to the time Congress has spent – hours with corps of fossil fuel lobbyists who make billions off the destruction of my generation’s future.” “To add insult to injury we keep getting promised what’s not there. That we have something to look forward to in our lives.”
Ms. Margolin continued passionately and with visible frustration. “You are promising me lies that I have such a bright future ahead of me.” “It does not matter what our dreams are, or how talented we are. My generation has been committed to planet that is collapsing.” “Youth climate activism should not have to exist. That you are listening to a panel of youth who are pleading for a livable Earth should not fill you with pride. It should fill you with shame.” “Youth climate activism should not have to exist.” “I can’t wait ‘til I’m in your seats. You have to use the seats you have now, because when I reach there it will be too late.”