Like Jeanne d’Arc, Greta Thunberg apparently finds it difficult to return to normal life after leading a children’s crusade. Even those who saw much wisdom in her previous contributions might wonder what she could possibly have to add after the latest IPCC report said what they all say. But though she supposedly went back to school to cram herself into a Grade 11 desk at age 18, Ms. Thunberg is still at it, hammering “adults” for making a mess of the planet even though she is technically one now. The New York Times can’t get enough of it, printing an essay by her and three other professional persons of youth while that newspaper’s “Opinion Today” feature touting it said “Sometimes we need children to point out the unfairness that is in plain sight. Thunberg and her fellow youth activists are performing that vital service now.” Her fellow youth persons being an analyst with the Panama Ministry of the Environment (Adriana Calderon), a student at the Military Institute of Science and Technology in Bangladesh (Farzana Faruk Jhumu) and “teen activist” (Eric Njuguna). And it is surely worth pointing out that not one of them is a “climate scientist”. Or a child.
Despite which UNICEF had them write a hysterical “Foreword” to a hysterical report claiming a billion children, nearly half of all youth on Earth, were at “extremely high risk” from climate change, which someone immediately threw in our faces online. In that Foreword, after the usual world-burns-only-kids-know-you-adults-stink shtick (Ms. Thunberg being not exactly shy about dishing it out though quick to play the bullied kid who just wants her future back if criticized in return), they also rant that “Governments and businesses urgently need to work to tackle the root causes of climate change by reducing greenhouse gas emissions in line with the Paris Agreement.” But by the IPCC’s own computer models meeting Paris targets won’t change a thing in terms of temperature by 2100 or, presumably, the hideous weather these four think it already caused.
Remember, while some scientific and even political bodies warn of severe impacts to come, Ms. Thunberg like the online trolls and most mainstream media insist that they already hit: “Instead of going to school or living in a safe home, children are enduring famine, conflict and deadly diseases due to climate and environmental shocks.” As a matter of fact it is well-documented that the number of people living in extreme poverty has dropped sharply in recent decades, as the number killed by natural disasters has over the last century even though the number of people on the planet has risen sharply. (As Michael Shellenberger puckishly observed in context of the German floods, the number of fatalities from flooding alone in Europe alone has fallen spectacularly since 1870.)
There’s kind of a have your nasty cake and eat it too aspect to the claim that extreme weather already hit and is also about to. In their Times Op-Ed, Thunberg and the grown children snarl that “Last week, some of the world’s leading climate change scientists confirmed that humans are making irreversible changes to our planet and extreme weather will only become more severe. This news is a “code red for humanity,” said the United Nations secretary general. It is — but young people like us have been sounding this alarm for years. You just haven’t listened.” But you better, the wagging finger says, because “today, millions of children and young people have united in a movement with one voice, demanding that decision makers do the work necessary to save our planet from the unprecedented heat waves, massive floods and vast wildfires we are increasingly witnessing.”
At some point rhetorical inflation reduces the value of words. For instance their claim that the new UNICEF report “finds that virtually every child on the planet is exposed to at least one climate or environmental hazard right now.” Well, sure. If you define them broadly enough who isn’t? But then again, who wasn’t a century ago? Heat waves? Floods? Water scarcity? All old news. As in pre man-made climate change. Wasn’t drought a huge issue in the 1970s, not to mention the 1930s?
Seriously. If you did a proper study, within the limits of the available data, of what proportion of children in the world were at some sort of risk from heatwaves, cyclones, riverine flooding, coastal flooding, water scarcity, vector-borne diseases, air pollution or lead pollution 50 years ago, or 100, or 500, would the proportion be significantly lower than today? Well, for lead yes. And 500 years ago air pollution wouldn’t be the choking smog of a modern Chinese city, it would be a dung or wet wood fire in your hut. But floods and droughts that used to kill millions annually now kill a few tens of thousands. So the whole concept that “climate change” has created these dangers is insolent nonsense. Like 18-year-olds posing as children and threatening us.
As for the adults, what’s the point of having big scientific studies if you take your cues, including on science, from a Grade 11 student with a pigtail and a bad attitude? (She even posed for the front cover of the inaugural Vogue Scandinavia – and promptly denounced the fashion industry as climate villains and hypocrites.) It’s almost as though it had become a self-sustaining publicity machine uninterested in the complexities of science, policy or morality.
Mind you, who needs children, when the once reputable Economist can run an image of two penguins in a floating armchair watching a fire on a floating television set?