Greta Thunberg: Climate change 'as urgent' as coronavirus
According to Greta Thunberg, the world must learn the lessons from the corona virus and treat climate change with similar urgency.
That means the world is acting "with the necessary power," says the Swedish climate activist in an exclusive interview with BBC News.
It does not believe that a "green recovery plan" will solve the crisis alone.
And she says the world is now passing a "social turning point" in terms of climate and issues like Black Lives Matter.
Listen to Greta talking to Justin
"People are beginning to understand that we cannot look further away from these things," says Ms. Thunberg, "we cannot sweep these injustices further under the carpet."
She says Lockdown gave her time to relax and reflect away from the public eye.
Ms. Thunberg has given the BBC the text of a deeply personal broadcast that she made for Swedish radio.
In the radio program that goes online this morning, Greta looks back on the year in which she became one of the most famous personalities in the world.
The then 16-year-old took a Sabbath year from school to spend a turbulent year working for the climate.
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She sailed across the Atlantic on a racing yacht to speak at a special UN climate summit in New York in September.
It describes the world's leading politicians queuing up to take pictures with her. Angela Merkel asks if it is okay to post her photo on social media.
The climate activist is skeptical of the motives of some world leaders
The climate fighter is skeptical of their motives. "Maybe it will make her forget the shame of her generation to let all future generations down," she says. "I think maybe it helps them sleep at night."
At the UN, she gave her famous speech "How dare you?" "You stole my dreams and my childhood with your empty words," she said to the world leaders gathered in the UN Assembly.
She appeared on the verge of tears as she continued. "People are dying," she said, "and all you can talk about is money and fairy tales about eternal economic growth. How dare you?"
She knew it was a "lifelong moment" and decided not to hold anything back, she says now.
"I'm going to let my emotions take control and really make it big because I can't do it again."
She describes how she takes the subway from the UN to her hotel and sees people watching the speech on her cell phones, but says she didn't feel the urge to celebrate.
"All that's left are empty words," she says.
The sentence reflects their deep cynicism about the motives of most world leaders.
"The level of knowledge and understanding even among those in power is very, very low, much lower than you think," she told the BBC.
She says the only way to reduce emissions to the required extent is to make fundamental changes to our lifestyle, starting in the developed world. But she doesn't think any leaders have the courage to do so.
Instead, she says, "just refrain from reporting emissions or moving them elsewhere."
She claims that the UK, Sweden and other countries do this by disregarding ship and aircraft emissions and ignoring emissions from goods manufactured in factories abroad.
As a result, she says in her radio program, the entire language of the debate has deteriorated.
"Words like green, sustainable, 'net zero', 'environmentally friendly', 'organic', 'climate neutral' and 'fossil free' are so abused and watered down today that they have lost almost all of their meaning deforestation to the aerospace, meat and auto industries, "she said.
Ms. Thunberg says the only positive thing that could result from the coronavirus pandemic would be if it changes how global crises are dealt with: "It shows that you are acting in a crisis and acting with the necessary strength."
She was encouraged that politicians are now stressing the importance of listening to scientists and experts.
"Suddenly the rulers say that they will do everything that is necessary because you cannot put a price on human life."
She hopes that this will open up a discussion of the urgency of measures to help people who are dying of diseases related to climate change and environmental degradation, now and in the future.
However, it is deeply pessimistic about our ability to keep temperature increases within safe limits.
She says that even if countries actually deliver on the promised CO2 reductions, we will still be heading for a "catastrophic" global temperature rise of 3-4 degrees.
The teenager believes the only way to avoid a climate crisis is to tear contracts down and abandon existing businesses and agreements that companies and countries have signed.
"The climate and environmental crisis cannot be solved in today's political and economic systems," argues the Swedish climate activist. "That is not an opinion. It is a fact."
Thunberg tells a moving road trip that she and her father undertook in an electric car through North America that was loaned by Arnold Schwarzenegger, the Hollywood actor who became a politician and climate campaigner.
She visited the charred remains of paradise, the California city that was destroyed by a devastating fire in November 2018.
She is shocked by the carbon intensive lifestyle she has seen in the United States. "Except for a few wind turbines and solar panels," she says, "there is no sign of a sustainable transition, even though this is the richest country in the world."
But social inequalities hit them just as hard.
It describes the encounter with poor black, Hispanic and indigenous communities.
"It was very shocking to hear people talking about not being able to afford to put food on the table," she said.
However, Greta Thunberg says she was inspired by the way people responded to these injustices, particularly the protests against Black Lives Matter after George Floyd's death in May.
She believes that society "has passed a social turning point, we can no longer look away from what our society has ignored for so long, whether it is equality, justice or sustainability".
She describes signs of what she calls "awakening" in which "people are beginning to find their voice to understand that they can actually have an impact."
So Greta Thunberg says she still has hope.
"Humanity has not yet failed," she argues.
She completes her radio documentation in a powerful form.
"Nature does not act and you cannot compromise with the laws of physics," claims the teenager.
"Giving our best is no longer good enough. We have to do the seemingly impossible now. And that's up to you and me. Because nobody else will do it for us."
A longer version of Justin Rowlatt's interview with Greta Thunberg will be available next week. Here you can listen to the English version of Greta Thunberg's program for Swedish radio.
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