Morgan Shelhamer, Writer

     Ecosystems are dying. Temperatures are rising. Droughts and heat waves are increasing.

     But what can we do? 16 year-old Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg states that “…the climate crisis has already been solved. We already have all the facts and solutions. All we have to do is to wake up and change.” 

    Simply put, the answer is action. 

      Thunberg is a source of hope for, quite frankly, anyone who cares about our Earth and the environment. In fact, she was even nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize this year, although she did not win. When Thunberg was 11, she became very depressed about the climate situation and was later diagnosed with Aspergers. According to Mayo Clinic, “People with this condition…have an all-absorbing interest in specific topics.” Clearly, Thunberg’s all-absorbing interest is the climate—and thank goodness for that.

      Thunberg first began her movement on August 20, 2018, when she skipped school to protest outside the Swedish Parliament for more action against climate change. That singular action quickly evolved into a regular routine, for she encouraged other students to stage walkouts every Friday, starting a campaign known as “Fridays for Future.” As of this October, people across 180 countries are striking for a change, one of whom is senior Derrick Kowalczuk. While traveling around Berlin with a foreign friend, Kowalczuk had the opportunity to participate in one of the strikes. As he described it, “Everyone skipped school, and we all met at a park in Berlin and marched…to the big government buildings…and chanted and had signs and people spoke.”  

      This leads to an important question: does protesting actually make a difference? According to a Google Trends graph, protesting does spark interest and increase awareness. The graph shows that not only did searches for “climate change” increase sharply after President Donald Trump dropped out of the Paris Agreement, but also when the 2019 Global Climate Change Strike Week took place. The Harvard Business Review also finds that protesting is important because it is “crucial for creating the groundwork for change”—and that’s exactly what Greta wants. 

      Along with protesting every Friday, Thunberg has been traveling around the world to speak at different venues. She recently visited the U.S.A. and, after paying a visit to Wyoming, Idaho, and Montana, will be traveling to Alberta, Canada. For her transportation to the United States, she embarked on a two week sailing trip across the Atlantic to New York on a zero-emissions yacht, Malizia ll. Utilizing this boat not only showcased its amazing technology (which generated electricity through solar panels and wind turbines), but also helped her raise awareness about the greenhouse gases emitted by commercial airplanes. She then attended the U.N.’s Youth Summit on Climate Change on September 21, the Climate Action Summit on September 23,  and protested at the U.S. Congress building.

      As expected, haters are going to hate, and in this situation, the haters namely appear to be Right Wing politicians. Instead of proving that the science Thunberg believes we must pay heed to is wrong, they have resorted to picking her apart by bullying her for her age, mental status, and even her facial expressions. According to Nigel Thomas, professor of childhood and youth at the University of Lancashire, these politicians seem to be “retreating into various forms of denial.” Some insults, discussed in a BBC article, included calling Thunberg a  “mentally ill Swedish child” and “ a vulnerable young drama queen who should go back to school.” But, as Thunberg has said, “Why should I be studying for a future that soon may be no more, when no one is doing anything to save that future? And what is the point of learning facts when the most important facts clearly mean nothing to our society?”

      In the end, as Thunberg herself has maintained, she is only a mouthpiece. All of the facts used in her speeches are found in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) latest report. According to the IPCC’s official website, it was created to “provide policymakers with regular scientific assessments on climate change, its implications and potential future risks, as well as to put forward adaptation and mitigation options.” The basis of her argument, which is also the section she cites the most, is found on page 108, which falls under section 2.3: “Overview of 1.5°C Mitigation Pathways.” 

     Summarized, that section discusses our planet’s carbon dioxide budget of 420 gigatons, aimed to prevent a 1.5°C temperature rise. Once we surpass that budget and emit 420 gigatons of carbon dioxide, we will have, as stated by global citizen.org, reached a “point of no return…when the fruits of all efforts to save the planet will be squandered.” It is estimated that, at the current rate in which approximately 42 gigatons are released every year, we have until the year 2030. In order to be successful, all countries, especially the largest emitters such as China, the United States, and the European Union, must unite toward this common goal and reduce emissions to zero as fast as possible. These scientific predictions do have room for error because “there are many factors that are hard to pin down precisely, such as how much methane will be released in the Arctic as ice melts or how much more heat oceans can absorb”(globalcitizen.org). Also, greenhouse gas emissions will have a warming effect later on, for they can sit in the atmosphere for decades or even centuries. Because of this dire situation, Thunberg calls for us all to “unite behind the science.”


The next global climate strike is November 29. If you would like to organize a school strike at your school, visit fridaysforfuture.org to register.