Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday dismissed Greta Thunberg’s recent speech at the United Nations, where the Swedish teenage climate activist denounced world leaders for failing to combat climate change.
“I may disappoint you, but I don’t share the common excitement about the speech by Greta Thunberg,” Putin said at an energy forum in Moscow, according to Reuters’s translation of his remarks.
“No one has explained to Greta that the modern world is complex and different,” Putin continued. “People in Africa or in many Asian countries want to live at the same wealth level as in Sweden.”
Putin said children who are passionate about environmental issues, like Thunberg, should be supported. But he also accused her parents of exploiting that passion.
“When someone is using children and teenagers in personal interests, it only deserves to be condemned,” Putin said. “I’m sure that Greta is a kind and very sincere girl. But adults must do everything not to bring teenagers and children into some extreme situations.”
Thunberg’s mother, Malena Ernman, is an opera singer; her father, Svante Thunberg, is an actor. They wrote a parenting book, called “Scenes From the Heart,” that chronicles their daughter’s climate awakening. An English-language version, under the revised title “Our House Is on Fire,” is due to be published next year.
Last month, Thunberg excoriated attendees at the United Nations climate summit for their inaction.
“This is all wrong,” Thunberg said, reading from a piece of paper. “I shouldn’t be up here. I should be back in school on the other side of the ocean, yet you come to us young people for hope. How dare you.”
“People are suffering,” she continued through tears. “People are dying. Entire ecosystems are collapsing. We are at the beginning of a mass extinction, and all you can talk about is money and fairy tales of eternal economic growth. How dare you.”
President Trump, whose administration has rolled back environmental protections and withdrew the U.S. from the Paris climate accord, seemed to mock Thunberg in a tweet that included a video clip of her speech.
“She seems like a very happy young girl looking forward to a bright and wonderful future,” Trump tweeted. “So nice to see!”
The 16-year-old responded by changing her Twitter bio to read: “A very happy young girl looking forward to a bright and wonderful future.”
Thunberg, who has been nominated for a Nobel Prize for her work raising awareness about climate change, has become an inspirational figure for fellow teens. Last month, she sailed from Europe to the United States on a zero-emission yacht.
Before her U.N. speech, Thunberg testified on Capitol Hill, urging lawmakers to “listen to the scientists” who say climate change is real and that humans are responsible — conclusions that Trump has resisted.
“I want you to unite behind science,” Thunberg said. “I want you to unite behind science. And then I want you to take action.”
“This is not political views or my opinions,” she added. “This is science.”
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