Photo and story from The Guardian.
She was asked to talk to the billionaire entrepreneurs in Davos.
- “I don’t want you to be hopeful. I want you to panic. I want you to feel the fear I feel every day. And then I want you to act,” she told them.
Here she is at Davos:
Greta was about eight she learnt about climate change:
- she was shocked that adults did not appear to be taking the issue seriously. It was not the only reason she became depressed a few years later, but it was a significant factor.
So depressed that she could not go to school. At home she did not learn to distract herself with other activities, she researched climate change, discussing it with her parents. She convinced them with her reasoning. Her father became a vegetarian, and her mother gave up flying, inconvenient for an opera singer.
- “Over the years, I ran out of arguments,” says her father. “She kept showing us documentaries, and we read books together. Before that, I really didn’t have a clue. I thought we had the climate issue sorted,” he says. “She changed us and now she is changing a great many other people. There was no hint of this in her childhood. It’s unbelievable. If this can happen, anything can happen.”
Greta is exceptionally bright. Four years ago, she was diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome and has had selective mutism. Yet she has had no problems addressing large gatherings and meeting with French president Emmanuel Macron, and sharing a podium with the European commission president Jean-Claude Juncke. She has come to understand and accept her own personality, her lack of social skills, which means that she must act alone rather than start a lobbying group. Greta was part of a group, inspired by the Parkland students in Florida going on school strike over gun laws. The group wanted to do something similar to raise awareness about climate change, but they couldn’t agree what.
Last summer, after a record heatwave in northern Europe and forest fires that ravaged swathes of Swedish land up to the Arctic, Thunberg decided to go it alone. Day one was 20 August 2018.
She handmade a sign, took it on her bike and sat on the steps of parliament. The next day others joined her, and more again the next day. She turned up every day until the election on 9 September.
The rest, as they say, is history.
Greta has a message for pollies who say kids should not skip class:
- “They are desperately trying to change the subject whenever the school strikes come up. They know they can’t win this fight because they haven’t done anything.”
Asked whether she is now more hopeful since people have listened to her:
- “No, I am not more hopeful than when I started. The emissions are increasing and that is the only thing that matters. I think that needs to be our focus. We cannot talk about anything else.”
So what would convince her that the powerful in society are effecting change for the better?
- The emissions are increasing and that is the only thing that matters.
No joy there.
On page 19 of the pdf the report gives this graph of all major long‑lived greenhouse gases, carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), nitrous oxide (N2O) and a group of synthetic greenhouse gases converted to an ‘equivalent CO2 (CO2‑e)’ atmospheric concentration:
The 500 ppm threshold was crossed in mid-2018. That’s the one that James Hansen says needs to come down to 350 ppm.
This one which I’ve cropped for legibility shows the pattern of the extra greenhouse gases which we haven’t paid much attention to so far:
We are adding 3.2 watts per square metre of energy into the climate system each year compared to pre-industrial times. From previous work we know that 93.4% of the extra heat goes into the ocean:
This gives us the second important graph to check on how we are doing – global ocean heat content. From the BOM report:
The effects of this extra heat will play out in the disintegration of ice sheets and long-term effects on other components of the earth system over thousands of years.
For just how much, see Climate change by the numbers.
So far the best that can be said is that our efforts have held the annual rate of increase steady.
Quite frankly, we need someone like Greta Thunberg to keep an eye on what politicians, billionaires and even scientists are doing and saying, someone who won’t be distracted by fake news, stunts and noise.
Meanwhile it is best to set aside emotions of hope, which can only morph into despair if we are rational and clear-eyed about what is going on.
As Greta says:
- ‘…Even if there’s no hope left and everything is hopeless, we must do what we can.”