DAVOS, Switzerland (AP) – Four young climate activists, including Greta Thunberg, told the elites gathered at the World Economic Forum they are not doing enough to deal with the climate emergency and warned them that time was running out.
At a panel in the Swiss ski resort of Davos, the four said Tuesday that they hoped their generation had found its voice and can work with those in power to bring about the necessary change to limit climate change. Yet Thunberg said not enough has been done.
â€œWe need to start listening to the science, and treat this crisis with the importance it deserves,” said the 17-year-old, just as U.S. President Donald Trump was arriving in Davos, where he later gave a speech. Trump has pulled the U.S. out of the Paris accord to limit climate change and has traded barbs with Thunberg on social media.
â€œWithout treating it as a real crisis we cannot solve it,â€ Thunberg said.
The Swedish teenager came to fame by staging a regular strike at her school, sparking a global movement that eventually earned her Time Magazine’s award as the 2019 Person of the Year.
She said that people are more aware about climate issues now. â€œIt feels like the climate and environment is a hot topic now, thanks to young people pushing.”
The others on the panel were just as forceful and passionate about the effects of global warming and how they, as young people, need to play a central role in raising awareness and insist on change.
â€œThe older generation has a lot of experience, but we have ideas, we have energy, and we have solutions,” said Natasha Wang Mwansa, an 18-year-old activist from Zambia who campaigns for girlsâ€™ and womenâ€™s rights.
Salvador GÃ³mez-ColÃ³n, who raised funds and awareness after Hurricane MarÃa devastated his native Puerto Rico in 2017, said young activists are doing more than just talking.
â€œWeâ€™re not waiting five, 10, 20 years to take the action we want to see. Weâ€™re not the future of the world, weâ€™re the present, weâ€™re acting now. Weâ€™re not waiting any longer.â€
Thunberg said the time for action was now, that being at the top of the agenda meant nothing if the world doesn’t get to grips with the climate emergency.
â€œI am not the person who can complain about not being heard. Iâ€™m being heard all the time,” she quipped. â€œBut in general the science and the voice of young people is not in the center of the conversation.”
Autumn Peltier, the chief water commissioner for the Anishinabek Nation of indigenous people in Canada, said plaudits are not what they are looking for at the World Economic Forum.
â€œI donâ€™t want your awards. If you are going to award me, award me with helping to find solutions and helping to make change.â€
Thunberg cited a report released in 2018 by the U.N.’s science panel that calculated the amount of additional carbon dioxide the atmosphere can absorb before global average temperature increases exceed 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 Fahrenheit). Leaders agreed to try to stay below that threshold when they signed the 2015 Paris climate accord, but scientists warn the chances of doing so are dwindling.
Thunberg noted that the remaining carbon â€œbudgetâ€ to confidently meet that target stood at just 420 gigatons of CO2 two years ago, the equivalent of 10 years of global emissions. Even with a more optimistic calculation, keeping the global temperature rise below 1.5 C would require a massive reduction in emissions over the next two decades.
“These numbers aren’t anyone’s political opinions or political views,” said Thunberg. “This is the current best-available science.”
Kirsten Grieshaber and Frank Jordans in Berlin contributed to this report.