Teen activist Greta Thunberg delivered a powerful rebuke to world leaders at the United Nations Climate Action Summit on Monday, accusing them of turning a blind eye to global climate problems in exchange for profits and temporary economic growth.
“I shouldn’t be standing here. I should be back in school on the other side of the ocean. Yet you all come to me for hope? How dare you! You have stolen my dreams and my childhood with your empty words,” the 16-year-old Swede said while appearing to fight back tears.
“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!” she continued.
Thunberg, who sailed across the Atlantic to New York on a zero-emissions yacht to campaign for environmental action, rattled off a series of alarming calculations.
“The popular idea of cutting our emissions in half in 10 years only gives us a 50% chance of staying below 1.5C degrees and the risk of setting off irreversible chain reactions beyond human control,” she said, adding that the full equation didn’t leave wiggle room for any other expected or unexpected pollution.
“A 50% risk is simply not acceptable to us -– we who have to live with the consequences,” Thunberg said, highlighting today’s youth and future generations who will be stuck with the repercussions of climate change.
“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,” the teenager said before being interrupted by applause. “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.”
President Donald Trump, who is in New York to headline a religious liberty event, unexpectedly attended a few minutes of Monday morning’s event after his administration initially said he would skip it. He listened to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, with whom he’d attended a rally in Houston on Sunday, and German Chancellor Angela Merkel before leaving.
Thunberg said last month that she had no plans to try to talk with Trump while in the U.S. “Why should I waste time talking to him when he, of course, is not going to listen to me?” she told CBS News. “I can’t say anything that he hasn’t already heard.”