On July 1, 150 weeks passed since we started to school strike for the climate. During this time more and more people around the world have woken up to the climate- and ecological crisis, putting more and more pressure on you—the people in power.
Eventually the public pressure was too much, you had the world’s eyes on you. So you started to act. Not acting as in taking climate action. But acting as in roleplaying. Playing politics, playing with words, playing with our future.
Pretending to take responsibility. Acting as saviors as you tried to convince us that things are being taken care of, meanwhile the gap between your rhetoric and reality keeps growing wider and wider. And since the level of awareness is so low you almost get away with it.
But let’s be clear—what you are doing is not about climate action or responding to an emergency. It never was. This is communication tactics disguised as politics. You—especially leaders from high income nations—are pretending to change and listen to the young people while you continue pretty much exactly like before.
Pretending to take science seriously by saying “science is back” while holding climate summits without even inviting a single climate scientist as speaker. Pretending to wage war against fossil fuels while opening up brand new coal-mines, oilfields and pipelines. You don’t only continue business as usual as before, in many cases you are even speeding and scaling up the process.
Pretending to have the most ambitious climate policies while granting new oil licenses, exploring future oilfields. Bragging about your so-called ambitious climate commitments, which if you look holistically are vastly insufficient, and then get caught not even trying to reach those targets.
Pretending to care about nature and biodiversity while the world is cutting down a forest area the size of a football field every second. Pretending to be a climate leader while locking in a future common agricultural policy that will basically make the Paris Agreement impossible to reach.
Pretending that you will “build back better” after the pandemic even though astronomical sums of money have already been locked in, and not in green projects, whatever green means. The G7, as an example, is spending billions more on fossil fuels and fossil fuel infrastructure than on clean energy.
This you compensate with beautiful words and promises that someone in the future will somehow undo your actions and make them ”net zero”. And when your empty words are not enough, when the protests grow too loud—you respond by making the protests illegal.
Of course we welcome all efforts to safeguard future and present living conditions. And these distant net zero emissions targets could be a great start, if they weren’t full of gaps and loopholes. Like leaving out emissions from imported goods, international aviation and shipping, as well as the burning of biomass, using baseline manipulation, excluding most feedback loops and tipping points, ignoring the crucial global aspect of equity and historic emissions as well as making these targets completely relying on fantasy scaled, currently barely existing negative emissions technologies.
But as your acts continue, more and more of us are seeing through your manuscripts and roleplaying. The gap between your actions and words is becoming impossible to ignore. While more and more extreme weather events are raging all around us.
As a result, young people all over this planet are no longer falling for your lies. You are distancing yourselves further and further away from us and from reality. Some years ago you could still claim that we were moving in the right direction. Today, that is no longer possible. 2021 is currently forecasted to be the year with the second highest emission rise ever.
You say we need to move slowly to bring the public along. However, how do you honestly expect to bring the people along if you don’t treat this crisis like a crisis?
If it is one thing the pandemic has proven once and for all it is that the climate- and ecological emergencies have never ever been treated as emergencies.
The climate crisis is today—at best—being treated only as a business opportunity to create green new jobs, new green businesses and technologies.
As the pandemic unfolded you did not say “this will benefit the face mask manufacturing industry” or “this will create new jobs in healthcare and hospitals”. Taking bold climate action will naturally bring many advantages and benefits. Yet needless to say we will not be able to solve a crisis we do not treat as a crisis and that we do not understand the magnitude of.
Perhaps playing a role helps you to sleep at night? Saying things just for the sake of it—because the words are in your script. But while you are busy working the stage, you seem to forget that the climate crisis is not something distant in the future, it is already taking so much from the most affected people in the most affected areas.
This might just be a game to you, a game to win votes, popularity, points on the stock market or your next high paid position in a company or lobbying firm. The ones who focus on the packaging rather than on the actual content and the ones with the most beautiful speeches and the most shortsighted likable policies wins.
You can—and will—of course choose to continue to play your parts, say your lines, wear your costumes. You can and will continue to pretend. But nature and physics will not fall for it. Nature and physics are not entertained nor distracted by your theater.
The audience has grown weary. The show is over.
Greta Thunberg is a Swedish environmental activist who is known for challenging world leaders to take immediate action for climate change mitigation. At age 15, she began the Friday school strikes for climate change, sparking a worldwide student movement for climate justice.