Greta Thunberg meets Obama and demands action from congress on climate change

Andy Gregory
Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg met with former US president Barack Obama: Obama Foundation

Former US president Barack Obama met with teenage climate activist Greta Thunberg on Monday, describing her as “one of the planet’s greatest advocates”.

The pair discussed the school strikes for which Thunberg achieved fame, with the Swedish activist praising the enthusiasm of the schoolchildren who gathered to protest in Washington and New York.

Following this seemingly cordial exchange, the 16-year-old attended a meeting of the senate climate change task force, where she rebuffed lawmakers’ praise and accused them of not trying hard enough to address the climate crisis.

Co-sponsor of the green new deal bill, Ed Markey, told the activist: “We need your leadership. Young people are the army politically, which has arrived in the United States. You put a spotlight on this issue in a way that it has never been before, and that is creating a new X factor.”

“Please save your praise. We don’t want it,” Thunberg replied. “Don’t invite us here to just tell us how inspiring we are without actually doing anything about it because it doesn’t lead to anything. I know you are trying, but just not hard enough. Sorry.”

Thunberg emphasised that lawmakers should be looking to scientists for ways to best address the climate crisis.

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To highlight this point, she sent congress the IPCC’s 2018 Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5C, with eight sentences of her own, rather than submit the personal statement customary at such testimonies.

“I am submitting this report as my testimony because I don’t want you to listen to me,” she wrote. ”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.

Those lawmakers gathered at the packed testimony were among the most ardent supporters of climate action in congress, but they have struggled to pass meaningful legislation in a senate controlled by Republicans.

Perhaps surprised by the bluntness of Thunberg’s accusation that they were not doing enough to address the climate crisis, some politicians reportedly laughed while others applauded. Mr Markey vowed that those in attendance would ensure climate change was placed at the heart of US politics.

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“We hear you,” Mr Markey responded, vowing that lawmakers “will redouble our efforts to make sure that we inject this issue into the politics of this building and this country because time is running out.”

In addition to Thunberg, a number of youth activists from across the Americas were invited to address the task force in an attempt to build momentum for serious climate action in the run-up to a week of global climate strikes beginning on Friday.

There will be 4,638 events in 139 countries, Thunberg said. In New York City, children will not be penalised for skipping school, while in Australia, the government of Victoria has encouraged people to strike.

"We want our kids to be engaged in the world around them, so we don’t think it’s fair to criticise students for holding a peaceful protest about an issue as important as this,” a government spokesperson said. "We should celebrate the fact they care enough to want to do something about it."

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