The Swedish teenager’s clarity and urgency have cut through layers of obfuscation and helplessness – and forced climate change up the agenda
Nobody could have predicted that a Swedish teenager would shift the terms of the global climate debate in the way that Greta Thunberg has done. Since she began her school strike in Stockholm last August, Greta has addressed the World Economic Forum in Davos, the European parliament and the UN climate talks in Poland. Last week she met the pope in Rome. On Tuesday she met UK political leaders at the House of Commons. That Theresa May opted out of an encounter with one of the world’s foremost young activists is an embarrassing error of judgment. By any rational calculus, Greta is in the process of doing humanity a huge favour.
That is because we struggle to give the global warming and wildlife crisis the attention they deserve. We have the science, with predictions of a manmade greenhouse effect dating back to the 1890s. (One of Greta’s distant relatives, Svante Arrhenius, was a pioneer in the field.) We have the international structures to collate the experts’ findings: the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) issued its first report in 1990. We have some, although not all, of the knowledge and technology we need to wean us off our addiction to fossil fuels: wind and solar energy; healthy alternatives to meat; bicycles and trains. Many nations have laws to help us transition to a low-carbon future. The world has the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change and the agreement struck in Paris in 2015.
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