‘They don't believe climate change is real’
Chief Water Commissioner for the Anishinabek Nation Autumn Pelter joined the global stage with Greta Thunberg, Salvador Gómez-Colón, and Natasha Mwansa on Tuesday morning to speak about their concerns on global emissions, safe water, and climate change at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.
TIME’s CEO and Editor-in-Chief Edward Felsenthal hosted the forum, “Forging a Sustainable Path Towards a Common Future.”
Felsenthal quickly turned the conversation to Thunberg, who was selected as the youngest ever TIME magazine’s Person of the Year due to her globally-received message on climate change.
Thunberg cited that “pretty much nothing” is being done in the areas of climate change and reducing carbon emissions. She also dismissed President Donald J. Trump’s announcement that the United States would join the economic forum’s initiative to plant 1 trillion trees in an attempt to reduce carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.
“Planting trees is good of course,” Thunberg said. “But it’s nowhere good enough.”
The 17-year-old referred to a 2018 report by the United Nations panel “that calculated the amount of additional carbon dioxide the atmosphere can absorb before global average temperature increases exceed 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 Fahrenheit). Leaders agreed to try to stay below that threshold when they signed the 2015 Paris climate accord, but scientists warn the chances of doing so are dwindling,” reported the Associated Press.
Thunberg noted that the remaining carbon “budget” to confidently meet that target stood at just 420 gigatons of CO2 two years ago, the equivalent of 10 years of global emissions. Even with a more optimistic calculation, keeping the global temperature rise below 1.5 C would require a massive reduction in emissions over the next two decades, according to the Associated Press.
"These numbers aren't anyone's political opinions or political views," said Thunberg. "This is the current best-available science."
The other activists on the panel mirrored the sentiments of Thunberg, in which young people could and would be inspired to take action because they are now being heard on a world stage in Davos.
Peltier, Anishinaabe-kwe and a member of the Wikwemikong First Nation, said she felt that some progress was being made, but others were not listening.
“I personally don't feel that I'm heard from politicians, but I do feel heard from my local members of Parliament. When it comes to the federal government, it's hard to get their attention. Honestly, they are all just focused on money,” Peltier said. “It's like they don't believe climate change is real.”
She added: “We all say climate change is a real thing. They don't realize that and we are all just trying to convince them that they need to listen to us. I just feel, being a youth, that we are not as heard as we can be.”
Gómez-Colón, 16, spoke about the efforts needed in Puerto Rico in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, and 18-year-old Mwansa talked about the importance of collaboration between youth activists and global leaders.
Peltier also answered Felsenthal’s question on what the youth needed to see in order to see change.
“To see change, I think what we need to do is start getting more people and more youth — and not only from Canada but all over the world — and empower other kids to stand up like we are. I think what we are doing right now is empowering them. Being at the World Economic Forum, we are on the global stage, and everyone is going to be watching this. What we say right now is going to make an impact on everyone watching,” she said.
“Even for me, people are awarding me, saying, ‘you are doing such a great job.’ I don’t want your awards,” Peltier said. “If you are going to award me, award me with helping to find solutions and helping to make change.”
You can watch the video of the forum here: Forging a Sustainable Path Towards a Common Future