By Rachel Koning Beals
Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg opened a youth climate summit on Tuesday saying she’s still not buying what most global leaders are selling.
Leading nations have let decades go by with little action to slow climate change. They now are “shamelessly congratulating themselves” for the pledges they do make, while still falling down on promises of financing developing nations to help meet global warming demands, she said.
The Youth4Climate event that featured the 18-year-old Thunberg — who began her popular and growing Friday “School Strike for Climate” campaign with a solo protest outside Swedish parliament at age 15 — is one of many agenda-pushing conferences in the tense weeks ahead of a pivotal deadline for climate-change policy: the U.N.’s Glasgow summit the first week of November.
The teen, who is also a champion for autistic individuals like herself, lobbed the common climate buzzwords back to the crowd, as she said there’s too big a gap between words and action: “There is no Planet B, there is no planet blah, blah, blah.”
She shared the stage with Ugandan climate activist Vanessa Nakate.
How much developed polluters, especially the two largest, China and the U.S., come through to help African and other developing regions, is a key objective of the Glasgow meeting. Developing countries pollute less in general, yet are more vulnerable to rising warm seas and other concerns.
U.S. President Joe Biden told the U.N. General Assembly last week that he would work with Congress to double funds by 2024 to $11.4 billion per year to help developing nations deal with climate change. That’s only a portion of the global goal set more than a decade ago of $100 billion per year to support climate action in vulnerable countries by 2020. A deadline that was missed.
Biden has pledged policies meant to halve the U.S.’s emissions by the end of the decade and flip to net zero emissions by 2050 mainly through the adaption of renewable energy — including nuclear power — and carbon capture. The U.S. is the globe’s second-largest polluter behind China, which has said it can hit net zero by 2060.
Young people have already made it clear they feel climate anxiety.
Teenagers and people in their early 20s are increasingly worried that older generations and political leaders aren’t doing enough to prevent a climate-change catastrophe, they said in a study out earlier this month. They’re so concerned, in fact, that four in 10 aren’t sure they’ll have children of their own.
A group of researchers publishing in the journal Science this week say the average 6-year-old will live through roughly three times as many climate disasters as their grandparent . The child will see twice as many wildfires, 1.7 times as many tropical cyclones, 3.4 times more river floods, 2.5 times more crop failures and 2.3 times as many droughts over their life as someone born in 1960.
The analysis found that only those under 40 years today will live to see the consequences of the choices made on emissions cuts. Those who are older will have died before the impacts of those choices become apparent in the world.
But, the authors suggest, cutting global emissions to keep global warming to the 1.5 degree Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) target laid out in the voluntary Paris climate pact would almost halve the heatwaves today’s children will experience, while keeping under 2 degrees would reduce the number by a quarter.