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Climate Activist Thunberg Leads Rally at United Nations to Demand Action on Global Warming

Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg joined several hundred other young people Friday outside the United Nations to demand action

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Climate, Activist, Thunberg
Young climate activist Greta Thunberg, center, listens during a rally outside the United Nations in New York to demand action on global warming, Aug. 30, 2019. (M. Besheer/VOA) VOA

Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg joined several hundred other young people Friday outside the United Nations to demand action on global warming.

To chants of “Greta! Greta!” the petite 16-year-old climate rock star made her way through a sea of young people, many of whom said they had drawn inspiration from her activism.

She rose to fame last year after she started skipping school on Fridays, leading strikes over the lack of action on climate change.

Greta arrived in New York on Wednesday, ahead of a Sept. 21 Youth Climate Summit at the United Nations, which she will address. Adult leaders will meet two days later to have a climate summit of their own.

 

Climate, Activist, Thunberg
Youths gather Aug. 30, 3019, outside the United Nations in New York to demand action on global warming. (M. Besheer/VOA) VOA

She has said she will not fly because air travel leaves too big a carbon footprint, and she put her principles to the test, crossing the Atlantic in a zero-emissions, no-frills sailboat with her father and a small crew. The trip took two weeks and the seas were often rough.

On Friday, she looked tired and perhaps a bit overwhelmed by the large and enthusiastic crowd and the aggressive pack of photographers and reporters. She answered a few questions, but her comments were mostly inaudible because there was no sound system and she is not one to shout her message. But it did not dampen the enthusiasm of the many young people who had come to see her.

“We came today because we want to support Greta,” 12-year old Tilly told VOA. She had a sturdy grip on the hand of her 8-year old sister, Izzy. Tilly noted that her family recycles.

Olivia, 15, from Long Island, New York, came by commuter train with her friend Defna, also 15, to see Greta. Olivia said her school is very conservative and climate change is not a subject that gets much attention. She wants to change that.

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“We want to start being a voice for our school, because we have to, because no one else is,” Olivia said. “We don’t have any clubs about the environment. We don’t have anything. We are trying to start, we have to, because people need to know about it, because they think it’s not as bad as it is.”

This youth movement is angry at world leaders and adults who they think are not taking rising atmospheric temperatures, melting ice caps and greenhouse gas emissions seriously.

“They [adults] have to strike with us, definitely,” Defna said. “And people who do not believe in the issue have to come here and support the kids, because it is our future.”

Demonstrators carried signs that warned, “Protect the planet because your life depends on it,” “Our house is on fire,” and messages to the grownups that included, “Act now or we will!”

Climate, Activist, Thunberg
A speaker addresses young climate activists outside the United Nations in New York, Aug. 30, 2019. The rally preceded a Sept. 21 Youth Climate Summit at the U.N.; adults will meet two days later for a climate summit of their own. (M. Besheer/VOA) VOA

Greta received an impromptu invitation to meet with the president of the U.N. General Assembly, María Fernanda Espinosa Garcés. She took two of the young New York activists with her, Alexandria Villasenor, 14 and Xiye Bastida, 17.

As they entered the U.N. building, Thunberg noted, “There is a lot of air conditioning.”

‘Tipping point’

In her meeting, she spoke of the upcoming summit.

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“I think this U.N. summit needs to be some kind of breaking point, tipping point, where people start to realize what is actually going on,” Thunberg said. “And, so we have high expectations in you, too, and all member states to deliver. And we are going to try to do our part to make sure that they have all eyes on them and they have put the pressure on them so they cannot continue to ignore it.”

Espinosa told VOA that she was impressed with Thunberg because of all that she has done and for “her commitment, strength and intelligence.”

She said they discussed how governments, the private sector, citizens and youth all have roles to play to change the tide of global warming.

Also Friday, a Brazilian delegation met with U.S. President Donald Trump at the White House, “to thank [him] for his support during the crisis surrounding the fires in the Amazon rainforest.”

The meeting was not previously announced in the president’s daily schedule but was tweeted by Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro late Thursday.

Speaking to reporters after the meeting, Minister of Foreign Affairs Ernesto Araújo downplayed the fires. “It’s basically on average of the last years, and Brazil is already controlling the fires,” he said.

More than 75,000 fires covering the Amazon region have been detected this year, with many of them coming this month. Experts have blamed farmers and ranchers for the fires, accusing them of setting them to clear lands for their operations.

About 60% of the Amazon region is in Brazil. The vast rainforest also extends into Bolivia, Colombia, Venezuela, Ecuador, Peru, Guyana, Suriname and French Guiana.

At the Group of Seven summit in Biarritz, France, last weekend, French President Emmanuel Macron and Bolsonaro went head to head several times over the Amazon fires issue. (VOA)

Next Story

Here’s How Climate Change Led To An Unequal World

The "war on nature must end"

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A man stands in front of the ancient Colosseum blanketed by the snow in Rome, Feb. 26, 2018. VOA

BY AMIT KAPOOR

When a 16-year-old girl who has avowed air travel has to cross the Atlantic in a solar-powered race boat to speak at a conference on Climate Change while the Amazon rainforests are still burning in evidence to everything she has argued at the highest public forums, it is evident that the adults in the room are not doing enough. The “war on nature must end”, Greta Thunberg appealed as she reached the shores of America. But just over the last few years, Bolsonaro in Brazil has allowed deforestation to take place unchecked under his watch while the Trump administration has been handing out leases of public land and waters for oil and gas drilling that are estimated to produce more carbon emissions than the entire European Union does in a year.

In the face of the world’s biggest crisis, a few world leaders seem to be moving in the opposite direction in denial. The myopic economic interests of countries have clearly taken precedence over the global environmental concerns regarding climate change. Nevertheless, the impact of the climate crisis has not been more evident than today through the unpredictable weather conditions and changing trends in climate, melting glaciers, rising sea levels, as well as ocean acidification. Warming temperatures triggered by greenhouse gas emissions have increased the frequency and intensity of floods, droughts and storms across countries and regions. However, the consequent environmental degradation does not have a uniform impact on countries with varying levels of economic development.

Climate, Change, Fires
Macron said the fires were “two times the surface area of France” and were damaging the “most important lungs of the planet”. Pixabay

A recently published study by researchers from the Stanford University has found that between 1961 and 2010, the poor countries with lowest carbon emissions suffered bigger losses as compared to wealthy countries with highest emissions. The study emphasized that most poor countries of the world are poorer, and the rich countries are richer due to the impact of global warming. The ratio between incomes of the richest 10 per cent and the poorest 10 per cent of the global population has been estimated to be 25 per cent more than it would have been during that time period otherwise.

A similar impact has been observed within countries where people who are least responsible for the climate crisis are the most vulnerable to the risks associated with it. The local communities living in rural parts of developing countries (that are already at a disadvantage) are directly affected due to the consequent impact on agricultural production, water availability, industry and human health. As a result of rising inequality among and within countries, India’s GDP is estimated to be 31 per cent lower than it would have been without climate change. By contrast, the GDP of Canada and EU are 32 per cent and 9.5 per cent higher respectively.

These findings further the ongoing debate on the division of responsibility for causing climate change and its mitigation. Historically, developed countries have had a major contribution to the greenhouse gas emissions which makes it imperative for them to lead the fight against climate change and its adverse effects. The fact that their development which caused climate change muted the growth prospects of the next wave of developing countries puts additional onus on the developed economies to make efforts to address the crisis.

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Given that all countries continue with their efforts to promote an ecosystem of sustainable production and consumption, the developed countries should not only take responsibility for their own actions, but also compensate for their negative contribution of the past. In 2015, the Global Climate Fund was created with the objective to support the efforts of developing countries to tackle climate change through investments in the form of grants, loans, equity and guarantees. In addition to financial assistance, transfer of green and clean technologies to the low-income countries could further stimulate their transition to become green economies. Thus, a comprehensive action plan should be advanced to encourage adoption of sustainable alternatives by providing fiscal incentives, regulatory support for resource-incentive sectors and building of climate-resilient infrastructure in developing countries. Stringent laws regarding green subsidies and carbon taxes levied on traded goods and services could initiate the establishment of carbon-free markets. Green innovation through investment in research and technology could also play a key role to find global solutions to the global issue of climate change.

Therefore, global value chains based on cooperation and coordination have the capacity to enhance productivity through innovation-driven production processes. International forums and bilateral trade agreements should also focus on enabling the transfer of environmentally-sound technologies for renewable sources of energy, water conservation and waste management from developed to developing countries. Lastly, since leaders like Trump and Bolsonaro cannot be expected to alter their stance on climate change, currently it is only the people who need to do their part by changing dietary habits, for instance, until the developed world can lead by example. (IANS)