Saturday, March 2, 2019


16-year old Greta Thunberg is the most recent and astonishing climate activist to emerge since last December's COP24 in Katowice left the planet with no specific agreements or targets. It started with her lone school strike during last September of 2018 that ultimately saw her scolding the adults for not taking action to meet the actual reductions necessary in carbon emissions to keep the planet habitable for her generation. At Davos in January, she told world leaders: 'I don't want you to be hopeful, I want you to panic. I want you to feel the fear I feel every day and then I want you to act.' In an impassioned warning to act now on climate change, Thunberg told her audience: 'Either we choose to go on as a civilisation or we don’t."  She's making common cause with Extinction Rebellion, a fast-growing public uprising that began in October 2018  with a petition in London to the UK government to drive radical change and create urgency around the obvious signs of climate breakdown.

Business as usual on climate change is no longer acceptable to a growing number of people, as well as the UNFCCC participants, which is reaching its own critical milestones. At the recent joint briefing by the President of the General Assembly and the Secretary-General's Special Envoy for the 2019 Climate Summit,  General Assembly President Maria Espinosa said 2019 is a critical year, the “last chance” for the international community to take effective action on climate change on Thursday, during a briefing to announce the UN’s roadmap to the Climate Summit in September. She walked the representatives of Member States through some of the key events of 2019, leading up to, and following, the Climate Summit. All of the events, she said, share two goals: a doubling of commitments and ambition at a national level, and ensuring the inclusion of diverse groups in the process of climate action.

The slowly building movement that has engaged in lawsuits against governments for failing to protect people from the harmful and destructive impacts of climate change is picking up speed as these lawsuits succeed in moving forward, despite government resistance fostered by the fossil fuel industry. In moving beyond politics, these lawsuits provide a mechanism within each country to force the government to act immediately and with significant steps to combat climate change impacts. An array of climate litigation against governments and corporations is now underway under the umbrella of the Plan B organization.

The strategy of suing governments to force action is drastic, but given the lack of progress by the COP process as well as ineffectual emissions reduction standards, it may be the future of climate change action. It involves the connection between climate change and establishing human rights around the ability to live in a world that is habitable and supports life for the billions of people on this planet.

Update 3/7/19:  Greta's story

Update 4/23/19: The speech Greta Thunberg gave to MPs at the Houses of Parliament: 'You did not act in time'

Update 9/20/19: An Hour with 16-Year-Old Climate Activist Greta Thunberg on Sept. 11 - Democracy Now

Update 9/21/19:  Our Planet Is Dying. The Time for Fairytales Is Over.

Update 12/15/19:  Vatican calls Greta Thunberg ‘great witness’ of Church’s environmental teaching