It's been two years since Greta Thunberg led millions of kids and young adults around the world in participating in the largest known demonstration demanding climate action. How much has changed since then? Well, some of the countries responsible for the most greenhouse gas emissions in the world have made new pledges to reduce their impact and corporations across all industries have started promising to launch initiatives to go green.
So what does Thunberg think of it all? Nothing but talk, she said. “Blah, blah, blah.”
That became Thunberg's refrain while she spoke at the Youth4Climate summit in Milan, Italy, on Tuesday, where the young activist took to the stage to criticize the all-talk-and-no-action approach that most world leaders have taken on climate change. In particular, she showed a disdain for sloganeering that isn't followed with the type of truly revolutionary changes needed to address the crisis at hand.
“Build back better. Blah, blah, blah. Green economy. Blah blah blah. Net zero by 2050. Blah, blah, blah,” she said during her speech, taking shots at President Biden, U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson, and others who she feels have fallen short. “This is all we hear from our so-called leaders. Words that sound great but so far have not led to action. Our hopes and ambitions drown in their empty promises.”
Thunberg has a point. We're six years into the Paris Climate Agreement's already-loose reins were put in place, and so far it has not made much of a difference. According to a recent analysis published by Climate Action Tracker, no country in the Group of 20 — a collection of the world's largest industrialized nations — has implemented a plan that would meet the requirements of the 2015 accords. Even the United States, which has renewed its commitment to addressing climate change under the Biden administration, is coming up woefully short: An analysis of Biden's climate pledges found that, even if the U.S. hit all of its new benchmarks, the planet would still warm to 2.4 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.
Thunberg said she was sick of world leaders “shamelessly congratulating themselves” on their promises while the very real impacts of climate change continue to affect people around the world, with expectations that matters will only get worse. A recent study in the journal Science found that a child born today will experience twice as many wildfires, three times the flooding, and seven times the heatwaves as their grandparents.
Now, some people (who are wrong, but still) might try to make the case that Thunberg would have better luck if she'd let off on some of these people. They're trying their best! They're making progress! These things take time!
“Of course we need constructive dialogue,” Thunberg acknowledged. “But they’ve now had 30 years of blah, blah, blah, and where has that led us?”