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When a 16 Year Old Shows Us What a Real Leader Looks Like.


[Image: Greta Thunberg | © Anders Hellberg]

It is a sign of the times we now live in that a 16 year old from Sweden called Greta Thunberg is showing all of us what true leadership is.

Not a Prime Minister, not a CEO of a Multinational Company, and certainly not a President. A 16 year old girl who, as she says herself, really should be in school rather than calling out the continued failure of all the so-called leaders of the developed world to act on climate change.

Greta has found herself as the face of global climate change action just over one year after she first went on strike from school for climate action; during which time she has not only inspired millions of school children and their parents to act, but also attracted some truly astounding personal attacks from climate deniers worldwide.

I was already inspired by this amazing young person before her remarks at the United Nations' Climate Action Summit last week. Words that are worth repeating in full here, because if they fail to make you stop and think about what more you could and should be doing to help solve the climate crisis, I don't know what will.

Greta Thunberg, UN's Climate Action Summit in New York City, 23 September 2019.

"My message is that we'll be watching you.

This is all wrong. 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. 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 fairy tales of eternal economic growth. How dare you!

For more than 30 years, the science has been crystal clear. How dare you continue to look away and come here saying that you're doing enough, when the politics and solutions needed are still nowhere in sight.

You say you hear us and that you understand the urgency. But no matter how sad and angry I am, I do not want to believe that. Because if you really understood the situation and still kept on failing to act, then you would be evil. And that I refuse to believe.

The popular idea of cutting our emissions in half in 10 years only gives us a 50% chance of staying below 1.5 degrees, and the risk of setting off irreversible chain reactions beyond human control.

Fifty percent may be acceptable to you. But those numbers do not include tipping points, most feedback loops, additional warming hidden by toxic air pollution or the aspects of equity and climate justice. They also rely on my generation sucking hundreds of billions of tons of your CO2 out of the air with technologies that barely exist.

So a 50% risk is simply not acceptable to us — we who have to live with the consequences.

To have a 67% chance of staying below a 1.5 degrees global temperature rise – the best odds given by the IPCC – the world had 420 gigatons of CO2 left to emit back on January 1st, 2018. Today that figure is already down to less than 350 gigatons.

How dare you pretend that this can be solved with just 'business as usual' and some technical solutions? With today's emissions levels, that remaining CO2 budget will be entirely gone within less than 8 1/2 years.

There will not be any solutions or plans presented in line with these figures here today, because these numbers are too uncomfortable. And you are still not mature enough to tell it like it is.

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.

Thank you."

If you haven't already seen Greta speak these words, you can see a recording of her at the UN's Climate Action Summit on 23 September here. Both inspiring and guilt-inducing at the same time, but also hopefully a spur to do more to combat climate change in whatever way you can.

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