It was the meeting that saw citizens across the world tuning in, waiting with bated breath to hear the thoughts of climate activists and world leaders on the issue that impacts all: how best to manage a world of increasing temperatures, rising seas and catastrophic wildfires.
Australia has seen the impact of climate change in real time. The fires that continue to wage a warpath across large parts of NSW and Victoria have forced thousands to evacuate. And as families across Australia mourn the loss of their loved ones, their livestock, and homes that housed memories spanning generations, the world could only look on in horror. Add this to an ever growing list of climate disasters on home soil, including predictions the Great Barrier Reef will die entirely if warming exceeds 1.5 degrees Celsius, and the spring of 2019 being Australia’s driest on record with farmers struggling with drought, and it’s clear that this is an issue that demands immediate action.
Such was the premise of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. The meeting attracted a number of the world’s leaders and climate activists, including the likes of Donald Trump and Greta Thunberg. And while the 73-year-old president and 17-year-old activist may have shared the same roof, their views on the future could not be more different.
Trump admonished Thunberg and other climate activists for peddling warnings of doom at a time when his policies had brought economic prosperity for Americans. Addressing the crowd, the president said: “They are the heirs of yesterday’s foolish fortune tellers. They predicted an overpopulation crisis in the 1960s, a mass starvation in the 70s, and an end of oil in the 1990s.”
Thunberg however, didn’t shy away from expressing the calamity of climate change that faces us all unless immediate action is taken. Addressing the crowd, she said: “We don’t need a “low carbon economy.” We don’t need to “lower emissions.” Our emissions have to stop if we are to have a chance to stay below the 1.5-degree target. And, until we have the technologies that at scale can put our emissions to minus, then we must forget about the zero. We need real zero.”
She continued: “From a sustainability perspective, the right, the left as well as the centre have all failed. No political ideology or economic structure has been able to tackle the climate and environmental emergency and create a cohesive and sustainable world. Because that world, in case you haven’t noticed, is currently on fire.
“You say children shouldn’t worry. You say: “Just leave this to us. We will fix this, we promise we won’t let you down. Don’t be so pessimistic.” And then, nothing. Silence. Or something worse than silence. Empty words and promises which give the impression that sufficient action is being taken.”
Citing the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s latest report, Thunberg declared that if we are to have even a 67 per cent change of limiting global temperature change to under 1.5 degrees Celsius – the point where catastrophic changes begin – we have less than 420 gigatons of CO2 that we can emit before we pass the no-going-back line. All of this equates to less than eight years to turn back the tide.
“These numbers aren’t anyone’s opinions or political views. This is the current best-available science.” Addressing the media, Thunberg said: “I know you don’t want to report about this. I know you don’t want to talk about this, but I assure you I will continue to repeat these numbers until you do.”
Thunberg ended her speech with powerful emphasis: “Our house is still on fire. Your inaction is fuelling the flames by the hour. And we are telling you to act as if you loved your children above all else.”
The facts are clear. Climate change is no longer something to be put off. We might not have the perfect solution available right now, but we can’t continue to wait until we do. We need immediate action.