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The Do-Nothing Attitude on Climate Change

Environmental activist Greta Thunberg, of Sweden, addresses the Climate Action Summit in the United Nations General Assembly, at U.N. headquarters, Monday, Sept. 23, 2019. (AP Photo/Jason DeCrow)

As always, Greta Thunberg’s utter contempt for global political leaders doing nothing but talking about climate change is the correct position.

Greta Thunberg is “open” to meeting with United States President Joe Biden at the United Nations climate summit in Glasgow, though the young Swedish activist does not expect much from either the US leader or the make-or-break summit that runs October 31 to November 12.

In an interview with the global media collaboration Covering Climate Now last Wednesday, Thunberg expressed surprise at the idea that Biden, or any world leader, might want to sit down with her at COP26, but said she was open to the possibility, if asked. “I guess that will depend on the situation,” she said. “I don’t see why these people want to meet with me, but yeah.”

A week before she entertained the question about whether she would meet with Biden, Thunberg had accused the US president and other world leaders of offering pretty words but no real action on climate, only “blah blah blah,” in a speech to the Youth4Climate summit. That September 28 clip went viral. In the CCNow interview, conducted by NBC News, Reuters, and The Nation, she complained that youth climate activists “are not being taken seriously” by world leaders. “They’re just saying, ‘We listen to you,’ and then they applaud us, and then they go on just like before.”

The suggestion that Biden has not only spoken strongly about the climate crisis but also is trying to pass the most ambitious climate legislation in US history does not impress Thunberg. The climate measures in the Democrats’ spending plan now under ferocious negotiation in Washington have “been so much watered down by lobbyists,” she said; “so we should not pretend that this would be a solution to the climate crisis.” Biden’s political problem—that as president in a democracy, he shares power with a legislative body where he faces unanimous Republican opposition that is determined to block his agenda—does not interest her. She judges by results only: “Emissions are still going up.”

You can argue that Thunberg is being unrealistic about politics. OK. But you know what doesn’t care about your politics? The ecosystems going bezerk and getting worse now every single year. We are on the verge of being completely overwhelmed by climate change. Unless emissions actually decline rapidly, it’s going to be very, very bad. This is why Thunberg is correct in her position.

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