The contrast could not be greater. One a man of great power, a man of many years, but who shows no wisdom and only deliberate ignorance, denial and deception, and who is helping plunge this planet towards a climate catastrophe.
On the other side is a young activist, who speaks truth to that power and by doing so every day emboldens others to take action and point out the ignorance of many of her elders.
The first person needs no introduction, because supposedly he is the most powerful man on the planet, Donald Trump, long-term climate denier and President of the US.
The second, is rapidly becoming a household name, in Europe at least, for her activism and her stubborn determination to demand radical action to address climate change.
She is 16 year old Greta Thunberg, who last year started refusing to go to school on Fridays. Her actions have emboldened tens of thousands of young people to speak out on climate change.
Yesterday, young Greta was in Brussels, speaking to politicians, including the head of the European Commission.
Greta said that “We are school striking because we have done our homework … There is simply not enough time to wait for us to grow up and become the ones in charge. Because by the year 2020, we need to have bended the emissions curve steep downwards. That is next year.”
She added: “We know that most politicians don’t want to talk to us. Good. We don’t want to talk to them either. We want them to talk to the scientists instead. Listen to them. Because we are just repeating what they are saying and have been saying for decades. We want you to follow the Paris Agreement and the IPCC reports. We don’t have any other manifests or demands. Just unite behind the science, that is our demand.”
She continued: “And I’m sorry, but saying everything will be alright while continue doing nothing at all is just not hopeful to us. In fact, it is the opposite of hope. And yet, this is exactly what you keep doing. You can’t just sit around waiting for hope to come. Then you are acting like spoiled irresponsible children.”
Today, motivated by Greta, some 5000-8000 students marched for the climate in Paris. The march was led by Greta inspiring others to demand action now to make things better.
Paris! They say between 5000-8000 students marching here today. And tens of thousands around the world. #FridaysForFuture #SchoolStrike4Climate #climatestrike #YouthForClimate pic.twitter.com/HgA3t2fiLZ
— Greta Thunberg (@GretaThunberg) February 22, 2019
In constrast, Trump actively delights in making the situation worse. He acts like a spoiled child, who blinded by his ignorance and denial, deliberately sets fire to his own house.
The latest reports are that the White House is assembling a panel of so-called experts to examine whether climate change poses a threat to national security. And true to form, Trump is due to pick a long-standing climate denier to head the panel.
As the Washington Post notes, the new committee is due to be headed William Happer, an Emeritus Professor of Physics at Princeton University, who “has said that carbon emissions linked to climate change should be viewed as an asset rather than a pollutant.”
Trump is not trying to further the understanding of climate science, he is deliberately attacking it with a wrecking ball.
Happer is not a climate scientist and has sat on the boards of two well-known climate denial organisations, the CO2 Coalition and the George C. Marshall Institute.
In 2016, in a summit sponsored by the conservative Heritage Foundation, Happer explained said that the CO2 Coalition was the “the CO2 anti-defamation league because there is the CO2 molecule, and it has undergone decade after decade of abuse, for no reason.”
“We’re doing our best to try and counter this myth that CO2 is a dangerous pollutant,” he said. “It’s not a pollutant at all … We should be telling the scientific truth, that more CO2 is actually a benefit to the earth.”
Vanity Fair magazine has found other similarly scientifically nonsensical comments from Happer, including:
- “If plants could vote, they would vote for coal.” November 2015
- “It’s not as though if you double CO2 you make a big difference. You make a barely detectable difference.” November 2017
- “Let me point out that if you have a well-designed coal plant, what comes out of the stack of the plant is almost the same thing that comes out of a person’s breath.” December 2016
- “I am trying to explain to my fellow Americans the serious damage that will be done to us, and indeed to the whole world, by cockamamie policies to ‘save the planet’ from CO2.” March 2016
- “Warming and increased CO2 will be good for mankind.” May 2010
Happer’s contention that CO2 is good for “mankind” and the atmosphere is the same sentiment that I heard a prominent climate denier give to an OPEC conference in the mid-nineties. The argument hasn’t changed for twenty five years. CO2 is good in a greenhouse as it makes tomatoes grow bigger, was the line.
That may be true, but it is simplistic nonsense in the real world away from a lab. We know that CO2 is heating the atmosphere, with devastating consequences that have become more apparent by the day. It is not rocket science to understand. It is basic science and one that many thousands of schoolkids, including Greta, understand but Trump and Happer do not.
This week, Greta posted a video telling Trump that unless he took action now, he would be seen as one of the worse villain’s in human history.
16-year-old @GretaThunberg is inspiring climate action across Europe. The Swedish activist tells Brut why she's motivated to save the planet — and what she'd say to President Trump one-on-one. pic.twitter.com/9SLFdvbE5R
— Brut America (@brutamerica) February 18, 2019
I would say we should make Greta Thunberg the national security advisor on climate and send Trump and William Happer back to school to learn some basic science.