Greta Thunberg, the 16-year-old Swedish climate activist whose work has taken the globe by storm, has never been one to beat around the bush; her eight-sentence testimony before the House Committee on Foreign Affairs on Wednesday, September 18 proved to be no exception.
“My name is Greta Thunberg. I have not come to offer prepared remarks at this hearing. I am instead attaching my testimony,” Greta told the panel. “It is the IPCC Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5° Celsius which was released on October 8, 2018. I am submitting this report as my testimony because I don’t want you to listen to me. I want you to listen to the scientists. And I want you to unite behind the science. And then I want you to take action.”
When the committee chairman, Democratic Representative Bill Keating from Massachusetts, asked Greta “why it’s so important to listen to the science,” she said: “Well, I don’t see a reason not to listen to the science.”
“We listen to the current best available united science. It’s just something that everyone should do. This is not political views or my opinion,” said, before grabbing the report and adding, “This is science, so....” She then literally shrugged.
Or, in layman’s terms: ¯\_(ツ)_/¯.
Greta was joined by 17-year-old Jamie Margolin, the co-founder of Zero Hour who was missing “a lot of school to be here.”
“You’re here spending a few moments with me, but that is nothing compared to the hours that members of Congress have spent with lobbyists from corporations that make billions of dollars off of the destruction of my generation’s future,” Jamie told the committee in her opening remarks. Along with 12 other young people, Jamie is suing her state of Washington over climate change. “People who say we have a great future ahead are lying to my face.”
“The government cannot even begin to imagine the size of the political shift that needs to happen to act on the climate crisis,” she said, adding: “The youth are calling for a new era altogether.”
20-year-old Vic Barrett, a fellow at the Alliance for Climate Education, opened his statement by pointing out the prevalent environmental racism that has deeply affected his community as a first-generation Garifuna-American. “These frontline communities are made up of people who look like me: young, black and brown, LGBTQ, indigenous… identities which place them at a significantly higher risk to experience the impacts of climate change than the general populace due to their marginalized status in our society,” he said.
Like Jamie, Barrett is also suing over climate change. He is one of the 21 young people are taking on the U.S. government in Juliana v. the United States, in which they argue that the constitution gives them the right to an environment free of the climate crisis.
The final young activist giving testimony before Congress was Benjamin Backer, the 21-year-old president of the American Conservation Coalition, a conservative group that advocates for environmental policies.
“I’m a lifelong conservative activist. Like most in my generation, regardless of political affiliation, I believe climate change is real,” Backer told the committee in his opening statement. “I believe humans are making an impact. Most importantly, I believe the United States leadership plays a vital role in helping solve this problem.”
When Florida Republican Representative Kathy Castor asked Backer why the U.S. should try to solve the climate crisis when “China and other countries aren’t doing enough,” he said: “I think that’s a false approach because we’ve never in history looked at a problem that we contribute [to] and said, ‘Well if it’s happening somewhere else, then we shouldn’t fix it.’ So I don’t think that’s a reasonable excuse. But I also do think it’s important to note that other countries are emitting and we must hold them accountable as we hold ourselves accountable.”
Backer also told the committee he wanted to say “to President Trump — climate change is real. It’s not a hoax.” This is likely in response to the time Trump described the climate crisis as a “hoax” during the 2016 election, according to Reuters. Trump also called it “very expensive bullshit,” according to the Atlantic.
This hearing is all part of a week-long strike aimed at spreading awareness of the global climate crisis. Businesses are shuttering in protest, communities are protesting, and activists are taking their fight to Congress and beyond. On Tuesday, September 17, Greta spoke to the Senate climate crisis task force. “Please save your praise. We don’t want it,” she said, according to The Guardian. “Don’t invite us here to just tell us how inspiring we are without actually doing anything about it because it doesn’t lead to anything.”
According to the United Nations, we have just 11 years — until 2030 — to prevent irreversible damage from climate change. Our temperatures are rising, wildfire seasons are lasting longer, ice in the Antarctic is breaking, and hurricanes are getting more deadly. The time to act is now.