Greta Thunberg’s speech at the United Nations Climate Action Summit in New York Monday, Sept. 23 was a necessary push in the fight against climate change. While it had mixed reviews among liberals and conservatives alike, I think those opposing Thunberg’s speech are missing the true issue at hand: climate change.
It seems many people are hung up on meaningless details, like the fact that Thunberg is only 16. While some view Thunberg’s age as a reason not to trust or even listen to her impassioned call to action, I think her outspokenness and bravery at such a young age make her role as an activist all the more impressive. She’s incredibly inspirational and can serve as a role model across all age demographics. I’m 22 and watching Thunberg fight back tears while calling out generations before us, as well as the government, for robbing us of our futures brought tears to my own eyes. It also made me want to act. If a 16-year-old Swedish girl can generate this much buzz around a topic as serious and relevant to our world as climate change, then why can’t the rest of us join her?
Additionally, since when did age discredit someone from intelligently creating a discussion full of science-backed research and statistics? Are we not taught to write research essays and debate in high school? Do we not celebrate incredible feats of bravery and intelligence in children younger than Thunberg? Ellen Degeneres features tons of children exhibiting remarkable strides of intellect on her television show daily, and we don’t hesitate to celebrate their achievements, so what makes Thunberg different?
I think those opposed to Thunberg aren’t afraid of her message, but rather they’re fearful of what it means for them. In her speech, Thunberg called out those in favor of cutting our emissions in half, which she said would only give us a 50% chance of staying below 1.5 degrees celsius. This figure, however, does not include tipping points, feedback loops and additional warming which is hidden by toxic air pollution. Further, even with reduced emissions use, Thunberg said the science has shown our remaining CO2 budget will still be entirely gone in less than 8.5 years. This means we all will have to make huge changes quickly if we want to guarantee a future for our generation and generations to come.
I think Thunberg’s hard-hitting facts and fearlessness in calling out those who continue to deny climate change and their role in contributing to it as a whole has people scared. It’s easier to call someone unqualified to speak on a topic when the topic is one you want to ignore. Unfortunately, the issue of climate change is too big to glance over, and it’s up to all of us to take a page from Thunberg’s book and speak out, regardless of who disagrees. Our future is in our hands, and we need to channel our inner Greta Thunberg and advocate for ourselves and our planet.