The Irish Times view on Greta Thunberg: A vital voice

Thunberg continues to act, undaunted and determined, in the midst of much political bluster

Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg  on board the Malizia II  yacht at the Mayflower Marina in Plymouth on Tuesday, ahead of her journey across the Atlantic to New York where she will attend the UN climate action summit next month. Photograph: Ben Stansall/AFP/Getty Images

Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg on board the Malizia II yacht at the Mayflower Marina in Plymouth on Tuesday, ahead of her journey across the Atlantic to New York where she will attend the UN climate action summit next month. Photograph: Ben Stansall/AFP/Getty Images

 

September will be a landmark month for global commitments to address the climate crisis. Countries that ratified the Paris Agreement have been summoned to New York by UN secretary general Antonio Guterres and asked to detail how they will ramp up ambition. It will coincide with renewed – and loud – protest across the planet.

The biggest climate protest staged in the US is likely to take place in New York leading up to the summit. The principal target, inevitably, will be its chief climate science denier Donald Trump. That will add to a politically charged atmosphere.

Thunberg simply demands more urgency from politicians and greater commitment to demanding targets

Greta Thunberg will be at the head of that march. True to her commitment not to fly because of air travel’s carbon footprint, she left Plymouth this week in a solar-powered yacht.

The Swedish teenager has, in effect, led European climate activism over the past year, though she insists she doesn’t want to be its leader. She simply demands more urgency from politicians and greater commitment to demanding targets. Unquestionably, the campaign she represents has prompted many EU countries to declare a climate emergency and to commit to net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.

Deftly, she has acknowledged being on the spectrum, noting her selective mutism means she speaks only when she needs to and that “now is one of those moments” – her black-or-white perspective injects clarity into her pronouncements.

Inevitably, “the Thunberg effect” has antagonised far-right politicians and conservative columnists. After addressing the French parliament in July, one member dismissed her as a “prophetess in short trousers” who would win a “Nobel Prize for fear”. Australian columnist Andrew Bolt called her the “deeply disturbed messiah of the global-warming movement”. She responded: “I am indeed ‘deeply disturbed’ about the fact that these hate and conspiracy campaigns are allowed to go on and on. Where are the adults?”

Thunberg continues to act, undaunted and determined, a vital voice in the midst of so much political bluster.

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