A truly momentous and one of the most historic speeches of our time.
Such an important and informed message shared with emotional resonance and superb poise:
My message is that we’ll 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. And 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 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 [Celsius], 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, 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 67% chance of staying below a 1.5 degrees global temperature rise – the best odds given by the [Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change] – the world had 420 gigatons of CO2 left to emit back on Jan. 1st, 2018. Today that figure is already down to less than 350 gigatons.
How dare you pretend that this can be solved 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 8 1/2 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.
If you prefer to take your instructions from older white men how about this chap:
You are here, I’m here, because we care, not just for today, but we care passionately for the future.
We know that we only have the possibility of avoiding a looming climate catastrophe if people like us refuse to give up. The future of humanity is at stake. While you work to meet the challenge of climate change, I beg of you: don’t forget nature. The destruction of nature accounts for more global emissions than all the cars and trucks in the world. We can put solar panels on every house and turn every car into an electric vehicle, but as long as Sumatra burns, we will have failed. So long as the Amazon’s great forests are slashed and burned, so long as the protected lands of tribal/Indigenous people are allowed to be encroached upon, so long as wetlands and bog peats are destroyed — our climate goals will remain out of reach, and we will be shit out of time.
If we don’t stop the destruction of our natural world, nothing else will matter. Why? Because protecting and restoring forests, mangroves, wetlands — these huge dense carbon sinks — represent at least 30% of what needs to be done to avoid catastrophic warming. It is, at this time, the only feasible solution for absorbing carbon on a global scale. Simply put — if we don’t protect nature, we can’t protect ourselves.
This is what we need to do — we need to: include nature in every corporate, state, and national climate goal; put in place the plans, the timetables to meet those goals; invest in mangroves and tropical forests; in the same way, invest in renewable energy; work to end the destruction of these ecosystems, and commit in the next decade, to secure them for the future; pursue research in reforestation, like we pursue research in carbon capture and storage; set a goal to cut costs and increase scale dramatically; empower Indigenous communities to use their knowledge, history, imaginations, our science, to save their heritage and lands — respect and ensure their rights.
Stop, for god’s sake, the denigration of science. Stop giving power to people who don’t believe in science — or worse than that, pretend they don’t believe in science for their own self-interest. They know who they are; we know who they are. We are all — rich or poor, powerful or powerless — we will all suffer the effects of climate change and ecosystem destruction.
We are facing what is quickly becoming the greatest moral crisis of our time — that those least responsible, will bear the greatest costs. So never forget who you’re fighting for — it’s the fishermen in Colombia, the fishermen in Somalia — who wonder where their next catch is coming from and why the government can’t protect them from factory fishing from across the world. It’s the mother in the Philippines who’s worried that the next big storm is going to rip her infant out of her arms.
People on the East Coast are facing the worst storms in recorded history. It’s our own country, our own community, our own families. This is the core truth: if we are to survive on this planet, the only home any of us will ever know, for our climate, for our security, for our future — we need nature. Now, more than ever.
Nature doesn’t need people, people need nature. Let’s turn off our phones. Let’s roll up our sleeves and let’s kick this monster’s ass.