The UN: Climate change and future generations

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16-year-old Swedish Climate activist Greta Thunberg speaks at the 2019 United Nations Climate Action Summit at U.N. headquarters in New York City, New York, U.S., September 23, 2019. Photo credit: Lucas Jackson/Reuters

United Nations Secretary General Antonio Gutierrez had high hopes for this week’s Special Session on Climate Change. He told the General Assembly, “This is not a climate talk summit. We have had enough talk… this is a climate action summit.”

The 16-year-old Swedish activist, Greta Thunberg, used even stronger terms to address the delegates: “People are suffering. People are dying,” while world leaders think only of “money and fairy tales of economic growth.”

Were they paying attention? Did weeks of school strikes around the world on Fridays for Future make any difference? Not really, according to Foreign Policy’s veteran UN correspondent Colum Lynch: “There were no major new comittents from China. The US was not at the table. That’s a huge problem that acts as a disincentive.”

Julia Pyper has been covering school strikes for Greentech Media and her podcast, Political Climate. She says youthful protesters were disappointed that major emitters did not, “Step up in a way that people were expecting.” But, “I think they see this movement as a win” because it’s caught the attention of millions worldwide.

Yolian Ogbu, who works with a youth group called Zero Hour, demonstrated in New York before going back to classes in Dallas. As a fourth generation Eritrean-American, she agrees the special session was “somewhat of a win,” because it helped focus attention on “indigenous communities and communities of color who face the brunt of climate change and global warming in general.”

But, she says she, Greta Thunberg and other young people suffer criticism which, “shows the generational differences in who cares and who doesn’t care for my own future and the future of my children and potential children one day.”

Julia Pyper reports that Thunberg is on her way to a climate change conference in Chile scheduled for this coming December… using zero emission transportation. As for the special session, Colum Lynch says there’s hope that it, “Acts sort of as an instrument for building momentum so that there will be commitments down the road over the next year.”



Warren Olney


Andrea Brody