The Swedish environmentalist was one of several who spoke at a Senate climate crisis task force
At a meeting of the Senate climate crisis task force on Tuesday, lawmakers praised a group of young activists for their leadership, their gumption and their display of wisdom far beyond their years. They then asked the teens for advice on how Congress might combat one of the most urgent and politically contentious threats confronting world leaders: climate change.
Greta Thunberg, the 16-year-old Swedish activist who has galvanized young people across the world to strike for more action to combat the impact of global warming, politely reminded them that she was a student, not a scientist or a senator.
Please save your praise. We dont want it, she said. Dont invite us here to just tell us how inspiring we are without actually doing anything about it because it doesnt lead to anything.
If you want advice for what you should do, invite scientists, ask scientists for their expertise. We dont want to be heard. We want the science to be heard.
In remarks meant for Congress as a whole, she said: I know you are trying but just not hard enough. Sorry.
The audience laughed. Supporters broke into applause. Senator Ed Markey, the Massachusetts Democrat who co-sponsored the Green New Deal and leads the Senate task force, was perhaps surprised by her bluntness. But he smiled.
Seated at the table with the teens were some of the most sympathetic and vocal supporters of bold action on climate change in Congress. But facing a Republican-controlled Senate and a hostile White House, the prospect of enacting reforms at the scale and scope called for by activists and many scientists is bleak.
We need your leadership, he told Thunberg. Young people are the army politically, which has arrived in the United States. You put a spotlight on this issue in a way that it has never been before. And that is creating a new X factor.
Still, Markey vowed to try: We hear you. We hear what youre saying and we will redouble our efforts.
Thunberg was one of several youth activists invited to address the task force during two days of action and speeches aimed at urging lawmakers to support transformative climate action. She was joined by activists from across the US and South America, part of a multiracial, intergenerational effort to combat climate change.
The meetings and speeches in Washington are intended to raise awareness ahead of a global climate strike on Friday in which students and workers will walk out of schools and offices to pressure their governments to act as world leaders gather in New York for the annual United Nations summit.