Insufficient policies to address global heating, the failure of those policies to protect future generations from the effects of the earth’s increasing temperatures, and the anger of her generation over the lack of follow-through by the world’s governments were the central points of teenage climate activist, Greta Thunberg’s dramatic speech before the United Nations on September 23, 2019. The development of each point was built on the world’s commitment to reduce the earth’s temperature while contrasting the goal with reality and showing how the two build and interact with each other to create the eventual outcome of its failure, and the lack of protection it provides for future generations all of which correlate to the anger she expressed when she claimed “How dare you? You have stolen my dreams and my childhood.”
In 2015, an international climate conference was held by the United Nations as part of their work to combat climate change. During that meeting, 196 countries agreed to a 10-year plan known as The Paris Agreement. The Agreement, which began in November of 2016, promised to reduce the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere by 50 percent, which is, and to keep the global temperature from rising. CO2 emissions in the atmosphere make the world warmer by trapping the heat from the earth. The Agreement was to keep the earth from getting no more than 1.5 C (35.6 F) warmer than it was between the years 1850-1900, the pre-industrial era, by cutting emissions in half. However, when Thunberg made her speech three years later, the temperature and the atmosphere’s CO2 had already increased worldwide. The lack of results to Thunberg meant the policies set in place were inadequate and wouldn’t produce the results needed to protect her generation and the generations of the future from global heating.
First, in order to build the central point that the policies set by the Paris Agreement were insufficient, Thunberg stated the goal of the plan and then contrasted it with the facts by identifying both the policy and the result. She stated, “The popular idea of cutting out emissions in half in 10 years only gives us a 50% chance of staying below 1.5 C degrees” (Thunberg 1:56-2:02). The reason she gave for this failure was that the plan didn’t consider other factors besides emissions that added CO2 to the atmosphere. “Those numbers do not include tipping points, most feedback loops, additional warming hidden by toxic air pollution or the aspects of equity and climate justice” (Thunberg 2:12-2:24). Her statements were supported by the facts that in 2016 when the Agreement went into effect the CO2 level was 403.00 ppm (parts per million), but when Thunberg spoke in 2019 it was 409.92 ppm, and the temperature was 2 degrees F higher according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s global annual temperature report. While the facts used demonstrate the possible failure of the Paris Agreement, Thunberg builds on the failure of policies by showing how their insufficiencies will interact with generations yet to be born and fail to protect them from the effects of increased temperatures on earth due to the lack of funding and interest.
Next, she draws attention to the budget established by Paris Agreement to meet their goal and uses it to add evidence to her point that the failure of those policies won’t provide protection from the effects of the earth’s increasing temperatures to future generations. The Agreement promised 100 billion dollars each year from industrial countries, but those countries do not appear to be living up to the agreement financially and by 2019 had only collected approximately 80 billion dollars according to the article “A $100 Billion Promise Holds the Paris Agreement Together. Now, It’s Coming Apart”. Thunberg keys into that lack of funds to show how the insufficient policies of the Agreement and its funding build on each other and interact with future generations. “With today’s emission levels, that remaining CO2 budget will be entirely gone within less than eight and a half years” (Thunberg 2:52-2:57).
Then, Thunberg builds on her first two central points by drawing attention to today’s technologies and the lack of results to emphasize the interaction and impact on the generations yet to come. She contends, “They also rely on my generation sucking hundreds of billions of tons of your CO2 out of the air with technologies that barely exist” (Thunberg 2:24-2:36). In reality, the slowness of technology to reduce the CO2 is a complex issue. The article, “Carbon Capture Technology Has Been Around for Decades — Here’s Why It Hasn’t Taken Off” makes the point that “It is cheaper to put the CO2 into the air than to take it out”. That simple fact is why Thunberg makes the accusation that “There will not be any solutions or plans presented . . . today” (Thunberg 3:04-3:08). That statement demonstrates the emphasis of her speech builds upon the anger of her generation over the lack of follow-through by the world’s governments.
Consequently, the anger that Thunberg exhibits in her speech is a direct result of what she determines to be a failure of the Paris Agreement to effectively reduce global heating. It is apparent in her initial comments that, “Entire ecosystems are collapsing. We are in the beginning of a mass extinction. And all you can talk about is money and fairytales of eternal economic growth” (Thunberg 0:43-0:54). Then by building and contrasting her charge with the goal and the results, she shows how they have interacted with her personal views and those that she believes are the same of her generation. She clenches her fists, clenches her jaw, leans forward in her chair, and tightens her muscles as she alleges, “The eyes of all future generations are upon you. And if you choose to fail us, I say we will never forgive you. We will not let you get away with this. Right here, right now is where we draw the line” (Thunberg 3:26-3:47).
In conclusion, Thunberg’s central points and claims that the insufficient policies to address global heating, the failure of those policies to protect future generations from the effects of the earth’s increasing temperatures, and the anger of her generation over the lack of follow-through by the world’s governments formed her dramatic speech before the United Nations on September 23, 2019. The development of each point was built on the world’s commitment to reduce the earth’s temperature while contrasting the goal with the reality of the outcome, and showing how the two build and interact with each other to create the eventual outcome of its failure, and the lack of protection it provides for future generations all of which correlate to the anger she expressed when she claimed “How dare you? You have stolen my dreams and my childhood.”