‘I am’ Greta Thunberg

Christopher Caldwell has an Opinion piece in the New York Times called The Problem With Greta Thunberg’s Climate Activism. The problem with Christopher Caldwell’s opinion – “Kids her age have not seen much of life. Her worldview might be unrealistic, her priorities out of balance.” – is that the more knowledgeable parts of the human race have been saying ‘what she says’ for over thirty years. The difference now is that more people are starting to listen, and there are other pressing reasons for that.

For decades the fossil lobbyists have been urging us not to worry. In 2002, the Republican pollster and strategist Frank Luntz, “wrote a memo to Bush urging him and the rest of his party to use the term “climate change” instead of “global warming”. Climate change sounded “less frightening”, he pointed out! [1] And so nothing changed. There is a climate model that tracks the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere called business-as-usual or BAU (see the green line in the plot below). The business-as-usual model has proved remarkably accurate to date, meaning that we can predict the carbon dioxide concentration in 1 year, or 5 years or 10 years with better than 1 percent accuracy. In terms of predictive power, this is much better than anything in economics, climate science is a real science. If you want to debate with a climate scientist, you should start by downloading the data and making your own analysis (as I do, here). Only then are you qualified to comment wisely, on what might happen next. All the information is all in the public domain, unlike the funding streams of the lobbyists!

After you complete your analysis you will find that, so far, we see no improvement on the business-as-usual prediction. In fact, if anything, over the last few years things have been getting worse (see how the actual measurements – the red points in the plot below – are above the BAU prediction – the green line).

Shockingly, after all the IPCC reports and Paris agreements, we are seeing no improvement on business-as-usual. No improvement! Yet, if we continue along this trajectory things start to get much worse (extreme heat, crop failures, flooding, fire, etc) at a faster and faster rate. If you think you have seen a hot summer or extreme flooding, then business-as-usual says, “you ain’t seen nothing yet”.

For decades, I have wondered when people would start to wake up to this reality. In the UK, I expected to see our government completely replace our dependence on imported oil and gas with our abundant wind resource and hydrogen power. In democratic countries, I expected to see the vote share of Green parties gradually increase. But these things did not happen. And as the plot above shows, globally there has been no progress. That is why we need Extinction Rebellion and Greta Thunberg now.

I know some people prefer to blame China but in terms of historical emissions per capita, the UK and US are by far the largest contributors. Britain, led the world into the fossil fuel era, and to be global again we need to lead the world out – first in, first out. And not just our domestic emissions but also the emissions we are responsible for elsewhere. But at the moment, I am not seeing this vision in our political class.

By doing nothing to decrease carbon emissions for the last 4 decades politicians have evolved a problem into a crisis. What is new is that now most people have some direct experience of the effects of global heating. This means that for the fossil apologists, their game is up. They cannot lie to us anymore because we have seen it with our own eyes. And when Greta Thunberg speaks, we know that what she says makes sense. We also know that what anyone says only matters, if it makes a difference, and only together can we make that difference. So I stand together with anyone that speaks or acts in a way that helps us to solve the climate crisis. And I say, “What she said!” Now is time to act.


[1] Ironically Caldwell suggests that politicising language is something new. He writes, “There are also calls to politicize language: In May, The Guardian announced it would use the term “climate crisis” rather than “climate change” in its articles, and “global heating” rather than “global warming.”” Politicizing language is as old as the hills. For the last 5 decades lobbyists have been paid to force us to think there is no problem.


  1. Peter May -

    Agree entirely about first in, first out. Saw an animated graph about carbon contributions through time and it took ages for the tiny UK to be taken over by anyone!
    Agree too, about Extinction Rebellion. Although it seems, I have read, that they are going to take their protest to farms rather than to Heathrow again.
    Unless they protest about FACTORY farms then they will be, for me, loosing the plot.
    We have to realise that pasture fed animals are integral to our agriculture. The fact that ER first met in a veggie café
    in Stroud ( which is also home to the only vegan football team in the English Football League, Forest Green Rovers) is, I hope, incidental….

    1. Charles Adams -

      Indeed, here is the animation


      Agree XR should not attack UK farming as we need to focus more on sustainable local produce.

      Interesting place Stroud – I am a fan of the Stroud brewery.

  2. Pingback: Charles Adams - I am Greta Thunberg | Brave New Europe
  3. Andrew (Andy) Crow -

    To suggest that politicising language is something new is risible to the point of ignorance.

    The three ‘R’s were Reading. (w)Riting and Rhetoric and rhetoric was always the most important tool of the politician since time immemorial whether the politics was based on religion, monarchy or rabble rousing, and in ‘democracy’ it is no different.

    One of the most powerful items in the toolbox of the politician is the adjective. How easy it is to turn a victim seeking asylum into a ‘bogus’ threat to the well-being of a nation.

    Weasel words (frequently gratuitously added adjectives) turn language on its head.

  4. Johnson Matthey -

    Convince me that 410ppm CO2 is worse than 390ppm CO2.

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