Greta Thunberg is over it. The 17-year-old Swedish climate activist spoke at the annual World Economic Forum (WEF) meeting in Davos, Switzerland on Tuesday where she told all the business leaders, bankers, and politicians in the audience that they need to get their shit together if we are to survive the climate crisis.
The climate crisis is growing more urgent by the day. Thunberg knows as much. Just take a look at Australia, where bushfires are threatening cities and wildlife amid extreme heat and drought. We keep breaking heat records around the world. Everything is suffering: oceans, forests, people, the Arctic and even freaking Pokémon (OK that’s not the real world but still!).
Seriously, though, Thunberg is 100 percent right. We need to panic.
“Our house is still on fire,” she said during her speech. “Your inaction is fueling the flames by the hour, and we are telling you to act as if you loved your children above all else.”
Thunberg’s warning to the gathered rich and powerful mirrors WEF’s own assessment. Experts polled by WEF for its annual risk report ranked the climate crisis and other related issues as the biggest threats we face today (including strikers like Thunberg who threaten the status quo). Addressing the climate crisis will require momentous change. Planting trees isn’t enough. Lowering emissions isn’t either. The world needs to stop carbon pollution completely or we all are at tremendous risk.
The fossil fuel industry has spent decades funding climate denial and inaction. And it’s paid dividends as profits have soared. It also means as Thunberg said quite pointedly, politicians on all ends of the political spectrum who let it happen are to blame (though some left-wing politicians are clearly trying to change that).
“This is not about right or left,” she said. “We couldn’t care less about your party politics. From a sustainability perspective, the right, the left, as well as the center, have all failed.”
Young people around the world have risen to call out the world’s failure to address the climate crisis. The movement has seen students take to the streets and strike as well as using international and national legal mechanisms to hold leaders to account. They’re also increasingly showing up in the halls of power to state their demands. Ahead of Davos, Thunberg and other youth climate activists laid out those demands in a piece for the Guardian. In her speech, she reiterated them.
“We demand, at this year’s World Economic Forum, participants from all companies, banks, institutions, and governments immediately halt all investments in fossil fuel exploration and extraction, immediately end all fossil fuel subsidies, and immediately and completely divest from fossil fuels,” Thunberg said, noting those actions needed to be taken immediately.
There has been an ongoing shift in the financial community recently with regards to fossil fuels. Goldman Sachs recently announced it wouldn’t fund drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge after tribes put pressure on the bank. Blackrock, the world’s largest asset management firm, also bowed to activist pressure recently to cleanse its portfolio of fossil fuel investments. There’s still many details be hammered out and billions of dollars flowing to the fossil fuel industry, but money is starting to talk. Activists like Thunberg are a large reason why, and they’re not quitting anytime soon.
“Either you do this, or you’re going to have to explain to your children why you are giving up on the 1.5-degree target, giving up without even trying,” she said. “I am here to tell you that, unlike you, my generation will not give up without a fight.”