After arriving in America from Sweden on a boat instead of a plane in order to reduce carbon emissions, Greta Thunberg, a teenage environmental activist from Sweden, testified before a Senate climate crisis task force on Tuesday, September 17th, to draw attention to the threat posed by climate change and urge lawmakers to act. Thunberg, who is known for her direct and blunt style of speaking, appeared alongside youth climate activists Jamie Margolin, Vic Barrett and Benji Backer this week. Yesterday, after introducing herself to the committee and receiving praise from lawmakers for her strength and determination, Thunberg tried to shift the focus to the science, submitting the 2018 global warming report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change as her testimony and saying “I want you to listen to the scientists. And I want you to unite behind the science. And then I want you to take action.”
Thunberg went on to chastise lawmakers, telling them “I know you are trying but just not hard enough. Sorry,” prompting laughter and applause from supporters. Although Congress is sharply divided by partisanship, sympathetic members of Congress such as Representative Ed Markey encouraged Thunberg and her peers, telling her that she represents the future of political leadership and that voices like hers are essential in combating political inaction on climate change. Though she received support from representatives like Markey, who is a sponsor of the Green New Deal which aims to take radical action on climate change, other representatives were less sympathetic. Representative Garret Graves from Lousianna, for instance, argued that the U.S. is not to blame for climate change because America doesn’t produce most of the world’s carbon emissions, prompting a rebuttal from Thunberg in which she stressed the importance of American leadership in this field.
The issue of climate change is of particular importance to young people, who belong to a generation which will experience the majority of its effects
Thunberg’s trip to the Americas coincides with a planned international strike from school in protest of climate change inaction on Friday, which is likely to be among the largest environmental protests in history. The strike comes just a few days before the UN is set to meet for the Climate Action Summit, during which representatives from signatories of the 2015 Paris Climate Accord are expected to articulate new goals for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. During the strike, Thunberg will lead a demonstration at Foley Square in New York City, after which she will lead a rally and march to Battery Park. The absences of public school students who wish to protest will be excused in New York City, and students from cities around the world are expected to participate in parallel protests, with additional demonstrations, rallies, and marches planned. The issue of climate change is of particular importance to young people, who belong to a generation which will experience the majority of its effects, and who do not remember a world in which climate change was not one of the top political concerns around the globe.
The nature of Thunberg’s trip to the United States on a speedboat is notable for its uniqueness and for how it demonstrates Thunberg’s personal commitment on climate change. The sailing yacht, called the Malizia II, was equipped with solar panels and underwater turbines in order to allow for a carbon-neutral trip. The journey took 15 days, and the conditions onboard were not particularly luxurious, as the boat lacked a kitchen, toilet, and shower. Nevertheless, Thunberg and her crew enjoyed the experience, and in an interview with Democracy Now! she described seeing dolphins and other wildlife as well as the stars in the night sky free of light pollution. The boat’s sails were decorated with the phrase “Unite behind the science,” and other environmentalist messages and carried the flags of Germany, Monaco, Sweden, and the European Union. Thunberg currently does not know how long she’ll stay in the Americas and doesn’t know what mode of transportation she will use to get back home, but is likely to employ another carbon-neutral or low-carbon mode of transport.