advertisement
advertisement

Read Greta Thunberg’s powerful speech to the U.N. Climate Summit

Greta Thunberg: “We will be watching you.”

Read Greta Thunberg’s powerful speech to the U.N. Climate Summit
Greta Thunberg speaks at the United Nations on September 23, 2019. [Photo: Spencer Platt/Getty Images]

Today, 16-year-old Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg went onstage at the U.N. Climate Summit and talked to the world’s leaders, her voice shaking and angry. Here’s what she had to say:

advertisement

“My message is that we will 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, 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 the 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 [brings] 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 6 to 7% chance of staying below 1.5 degrees of global temperature rise, the best odds given by the IPCC [are that] the world had 420 gigatons of CO2 left to emit back on January 1, 2018. Today, that figure is down to less than 350 gigatonnes. How dare you pretend that this can be sold 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 eight and a half 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.”

advertisement
advertisement

About the author

Adele Peters is a staff writer at Fast Company who focuses on solutions to some of the world's largest problems, from climate change to homelessness. Previously, she worked with GOOD, BioLite, and the Sustainable Products and Solutions program at UC Berkeley, and contributed to the second edition of the bestselling book "Worldchanging: A User's Guide for the 21st Century."

More