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Teenage climate activist tells global elite: ‘Our house is on fire’

Greta Thunberg told world leaders to their faces that they knowingly destroyed the planet

Despite nearing ever-closer to irreversible climate change, the conversation surrounding global warming has been dramatically oversimplified and understated. It is regularly reduced to the use of plastic straws, or left off of government agendas altogether.

But here to lay down some truths about where the state of the globe is headed is Greta Thunberg, a 16-year-old school strike participant and climate activist.

During a visit to the most apt place for capturing the attention of those in power – the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting in Davos – the Swedish teenager gave an impassioned speech urging politicians, bankers, investors and leading economists to act on climate change.

“I’m here to say our house is on fire,” said Thunberg in the powerful speech, citing estimates from the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change that “we are less than 12 years away from not being able to undo our mistakes.”

While the teenager’s entire speech is worthy of being printed and sent out to every decision-maker on earth, here are our top five quotes from Thunberg’s legendary address to the global elite.

“I don't want you to be hopeful, I want you to panic”

In stark contrast to the positive or nonchalant tone often taken by world leaders on climate change, Thunberg urged those at the high-profile event, including naturalist and broadcaster David Attenborough, Prince William and members of the United Nations, to “panic” in order to properly prevent further environmental damage.

She added: “I want you to feel the fear I feel every day and then I want you to act.”

“Financial success has come with an unthinkable price tag”

In a pure form of activist bravery, Thunberg, who took a 32-hour train from her home to Davos and camped outside the event instead of staying in a luxury hotel, told world leaders that they were to blame for much of climate change.

“All political movements in their present forms have [failed on climate change], and the media has failed to create board public awareness,” she said, highlighting how nobody has yet turned the clocks back on decades of damage to the planet and atmosphere.

“The main solution is so simple that even a small child can understand it”

Thunberg showed that, while climate change is often presented as a complex problem with complex solutions, it is not. All that needs to happen to stop catastrophic changes, said Thunberg, is that the planet is stopped from warming a further 1.5C – the upper “safe” limit of climate change. “We have to stop the emission of greenhouse gases, and ether we do that, or we don’t.”

“Either we choose to go on as a civilisation, or we don’t”

Thunberg went all in with a very real take on where we’re headed if action isn’t taken. From ocean warming to coral bleaching, the future doesn’t look so good if we continue with current trends of carbon and greenhouse gas output.

The young climate activist is right: if those who have the power to change the tide – figuratively and literally – don’t act, we are all screwed. But if this badass teen’s ability to capture the attention of the global elite is anything to go by, it is not too late. As Thunberg said of the not-yet-failed human race:

“Yes we are failing, but there is still time to turn everything around. We can still fix this”

Watch Greta Thunberg's speech in full below.