When sixteen-year-old Greta Thunberg addressed the United Nations climate change summit on Monday (September 23, 2019), her fear and fury over its lack of urgency were palpable. “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.”1
It is an appalling tragedy that, in fact, empty words did steal much of Greta’s childhood—words she’s spent irreplaceable hours learning to recite with a passion that makes her parents (an actor and an opera singer) proud. Greta, though, clearly isn’t acting. Through tears of genuine terror, the Swedish teenager told applauding adults:
The popular idea of cutting our emissions in half in ten years only gives us a 50 percent 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, feedback loops, additional pollution, or the aspects of equity and climate justice.
If the ability to recall statistics from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and a few other scientists makes one a climate expert, then Greta is one. “For more than thirty years, the science has been crystal clear,” she—with an air of unquestionable authority—told world leaders. And she scolded them: “How dare you continue to look away?”
But Greta is not the only “expert.” In 1989, exactly thirty years ago, Noel Brown, director of the New York office of the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP), said that by the year 2000, global warming would melt enough polar ice to put the Maldives and other flat islands underwater; that “ecological refugees will become a major concern”; and that governments had only a ten-year window to solve the greenhouse effect before the damage would be irreversible.2 . . .
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1. Tim Hains, “Greta Thunberg to UN Climate Summit: If You Really Understand the Situation and Still Do Nothing, ‘You Are Evil,’’ Real Clear Politics, September 23, 2019, https://www.realclearpolitics.com/video/2019/09/23/greta_thunberg_to_un_climate_summit_you_have_stolen_my_dreams_and_my_childhood_with_your_empty_words_how_dare_you.html.
2. Myron Ebell and Steven J. Milloy, “Wrong Again: 50 Years of Failed Eco-pocalyptic Predictions,” Competitive Enterprise Institute, September 18, 2019, https://cei.org/blog/wrong-again-50-years-failed-eco-pocalyptic-predictions.
3. Andy May, “Some Failed Climate Predictions,” Watts Up with That, October 30, 2017, https://wattsupwiththat.com/2017/10/30/some-failed-climate-predictions/; Jonathan Amos, “Arctic Summers Ice-Free ‘by 2013,’” BBC, December 12, 2007, http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science/nature/7139797.stm.
4. May, “Some Failed Climate Predictions.”
5. May, “Some Failed Climate Predictions.”
6. May, “Some Failed Climate Predictions.”
7. Ebell and Milloy, “Wrong Again.”
8. Scott Adams, “A Message for Children about Climate Change,” Scott Adams Says, September 23, 2019, https://www.scottadamssays.com/2019/09/23/a-message-for-children-about-climate-change/.
9. Ryan Cooper, “The Long-Overdue Rise of Climate Radicalism,” The Week, September 24, 2019, https://theweek.com/articles/867008/longoverdue-rise-climate-radicalism.
10. “Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez on Climate Change: ‘We Must Go from Capitalism to Socialism,’” Democracy NOW!, December 12, 2012, https://www.democracynow.org/2012/12/12/video_venezuelan_president_hugo_chavez_on_climate_change_we_must_go_from_capitalism_to_socialism.