United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres called upon global leaders to combat climate change at the 2019 Climate Action Summit.
A steady flow of scientific reports coming from respectable institutions, such as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), have predicted chaos, instability, and hopeless economic prospects in the coming decades.
One would think that the attendees would have the slightest desire to draft plans for change. Unfortunately, this was not the case.
Greta Thunberg’s passionate speech at the summit summarized the feelings of the world’s youth.
“You have stolen my dreams and my childhood with your empty words […] We are in the beginning of a mass extinction, and all you can talk about is money and fairy tales of eternal economic growth. How dare you?”
She is absolutely right.
The world’s leaders unsurprisingly choose to ignore the consequences of their actions to make money, gain influence, and retain political control.
How is this acceptable in our modern day and age? How can we accept that our leaders are sacrificing the well-being of future generations—ours the first among them—out of sheer self-interest?
As the Fridays for Future climate strikes have demonstrated, it isn’t. Still, the Climate Summit has made it clear that politicians are not listening. And here is the proof: the summit accomplished virtually nothing.
It seems that all the feverish speeches, rising oceans, and raging hurricanes could not make attendees realize that they are destroying humanity’s future one factory at a time.
China refused to accelerate its own climate initiatives, using a somewhat weak, yet unfortunately justifiable, argument that it is not their responsibility to tackle climate change all on their own; if other countries (a clear jab at the U.S.) are not taking initiative, then why should they?
Meanwhile, India promised to increase its share of renewable energy but stayed silent about their rising dependence on coal, one of the world’s dirtiest energy sources. Russia did not discuss any plans to rein in its extensive oil industry, only that it would ratify the 2015 Paris Agreements.
How bold and valiant of them to go where the rest of the world’s nations have already gone.
But—and this pains me to write—the award for the most pathetic and weak-willed showing at the summit went, without doubt, to the U.S and its great president.
The “world’s most powerful nation,” one that for the past seven decades has guided global policy and has been at the forefront of the world’s greatest cooperative endeavors, did not request a speaking slot. Our nation chooses to stay silent as the world’s leaders debated how best to tackle this century’s most pressing problem.
Maybe it is not all gloom and doom. The attendees, wallowing in a comfortable world of economic growth projections, certainly have reassuring thoughts to justify their decision.
The rising sea level certainly is not all that bad, submerging only tens of thousands of acres of land in the New York metropolitan area—including the U.N General Headquarters where they sat. No worries there.
Thousands of people dying in increasingly violent and frequent hurricanes, such as when Hurricane María hit the island of Puerto Rico in 2017? The U.N Headquarters are not located in Puerto Rico now, are they? Glad that is checked off the list of worries.
Finally, the brutal heat waves that have been hitting the U.S mainland, destabilizing local ecosystems and economies, killing crops, and endangering the health of millions of Americans?
Well, the U.N Headquarters are climatized, so why worry?
It is time for the world’s leaders to open their eyes and face the consequences of their actions. Fueled with loud outrage, we, the world’s youth, have gone ahead to take that step for them. But ultimately, we are not the decision-makers. We are not the ones drafting climate policy; we are not the ones attending climate summits and deciding the fate of our planet.
They are the only ones who can decide the fate of our planet, no matter how much protesting we do. They need to show us that incompetence has not become the world’s new benchmark.