Yesterday, teen climate spokesperson Greta Thunberg spoke at Italy’s Youth4Climate summit in Milan. She opened up with her core message: Mockery of world leaders as failures.
She started by mockingly echoing some of the political language about climate change. “We must seize this opportunity. We can achieve a win-win both ecological conservation and high-quality development,” she said. She continued, “Fighting climate change calls for innovation, cooperation and willpower to make the changes that the world needs. We need to walk the talk. If we do this together we can do this.
“When I say climate change, what do you think of? I think of jobs. Green jobs.” That brought a laugh from the audience.
And then she made her criticism more specific. “We must find a smooth transition to a low carbon economy. There is no planet B,” she said, referencing what French President Emmanuel Macron said to the US Congress back in 2018. She mocked his words, “There is no planet blah. Blah, blah, blah. Blah, blah, blah.”
Next she mocked something PM Boris Johnson said earlier this year. “This is not about some expensive, politically correct, green act of bunny hugging or blah, blah, blah,” she said.
She even mocked US Democrat’s “Build Back Better” bill (the $3.5 trillion monstrosity that hasn’t even passed yet). “Build back better blah, blah, blah. Green economy blah, blah, blah. Net zero by 2050 blah, blah, blah.”
“This is all we hear from our so-called leaders,” she explained. “Words. Words that sound great but so far has led to no action. Our hopes and dreams drown in their empty words and promises,” she said.
Her point was clear. She doesn’t care about green jobs or a smooth transition to the future. She only cares about dramatic action. Specifically, she cares about action from western countries whose leaders she is mocking.
There’s a passing line in the speech about “equity and historic emissions.” That’s her way of brining up the fact that historically the US and Europe have contributed the most to carbon emissions and are therefore most responsible for bringing the numbers down. She went on to complain about the predicted rise in global emissions over the next few years (“16% by 2030”) but she never mentioned one critical but inconvenient fact. A single nation is responsible for most of the rise in emissions in the past decade: China. That is expected to continue until 2030. In fact, China has explicitly said that its emission levels will peak around then (meaning they will continue to climb for several more years). So why isn’t Greta focused on mocking Xi Jinping? Why is she excusing China from criticism by focusing on historic emissions?
Of course there’s a more obvious problem with this speech. Some of what she’s saying is a little tone deaf. Here she is at a climate conference in beautiful Milan mocking western world leaders for talking too much and doing too little. But ultimately, what she’s doing is…talking. Granted, at the end of this particular speech, she does a little chanting with the crowd, but…so what. It’s spirited talk but it’s still talk. Allow me to paraphrase a bit of the close of Thunberg’s speech.
Hope is an action and hope blah, blah, blah…
What do we want? Blah, blah, blah! When do we want it? Blah!…
The leaders like to say we can do this. They obviously blah, blah, blah. We can blah, blah…It starts with blah, blah, blah. It starts with blah, blah, blah.
Thunberg frames it as if the world is full of talkers and she’s a doer. But in fact, she’s done nothing but talk and give speeches and talk on social media and meet with world leaders to talk. If talk is the antithesis of action then Greta Blah-blah is all blah and no action.
But of course Thunberg is a treasure and everything she does is a triumph. There’s no room for criticism of anything she says in the media coverage. Now she’ll get on a train and head to the next big conference where she’ll once again give a splashy speech before the world media mocking world leaders for giving too many splashy speeches before the world media. Rinse and repeat, over and over. What a fantastic gig she has. What a racket.
“We can no longer let the people in power decide what hope is. Hope is not passive. Hope is not blah blah blah. Hope is telling the truth. Hope is taking action”
My speech at #Youth4Climate #PreCOP26 in Milan. pic.twitter.com/BA62GpST2O
— Greta Thunberg (@GretaThunberg) September 28, 2021