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The disparity in climate speak at Davos 2019 has left me wondering if humanity is in outright climate paralysis.

This year more than ever, Davos resounded with warnings to take serious action on climate change before it’s too late. For the first time, climate change was the talk of Davos. There was even an attempt to shine the spotlight on climate with an opening award to Sir David Attenborough for his lifelong contribution to environmentalism. Even the profit-obsessed Davos elite cannot ignore global climate developments — extreme weather, climate litigation, the call for action.

But talk is cheap. Real change needs real action, leading TheGuardian to highlight “the yawning gap between rhetoric and reality….between what is said and what is actually happening.”

Climate Speak Disparity

The Climate Speak Disparity At Davos 2019, Below2C

Credit: collage by Below2C from screenshots of YouTube Davos videos

The Voice of Davos

For the most part, much of the climate rhetoric of Davos participants consisted of variations of previous years’ calls for action. Their climate speak was cautious and couched in general statements of good intentions. “The new mantra is that restricting the increase in temperature to 1.5C above pre-industrial levels would be a win-win – good for the planet and good for the economy,” reports TheGuardian.

Davos shows no serious attempt to reduce inequality; no serious attempt to address poverty; and no serious attempt to tackle climate change. With few exceptions, it’s business as usual. There is no ambition for a new social contract and no ambition for new thinking on economics and no genuine ambition to deal with the escalation of greenhouse gas emissions.

The rhetoric can be convincing but what is lacking is the conversion to action. In a one-hour panel discussion of the Climate Leadership Panel at World Economic Forum 2019, panelists shared their observations on the climate. Following is a medley of comments/ideas from the video discussion:

  • we now know the challenge and the timeframe we have to work with
  • we have to start telling people the truth
  • redoubling our efforts
  • bend the curve on rising greenhouse gas emissions
  • extremely complicated and difficult
  • can people afford it
  • corporate responsibility
  • countries have to stay competitive
  • must hit the reset button
  • there has been tremendous progress
  • deep decarbonisation is beginning to happen
  • must speed up the transition
  • we have to eat differently, our diets have to be different
  • opportunity to do this inclusively
  • it can be done affordably
  • there is a pathway forward
  • authentic leadership has to come from business and politicians

The Voice of Youth

In stark contrast to the Davos elite, Greta Thunberg’s climate speak is about urgency, an urgency that calls on decision-makers to “panic”. The directness, simplicity and clarity of her words are mobilising youth around the world. She tells it like she sees it. She is bold, forceful and unplugged. Her words are sounding alarm bells around the globe. And in Davos, her words shocked business leaders, politicians and world leaders. This is a sampling from her talks in Davos:

“I’m here to say that our house is on fire.”

“Adults keep saying that we owe it to the young people to give them hope. But I don’t want your hope. I don’t want you to be hopeful. I want you to panic.”

I want you to feel the fear I feel every day, and then I want you to act…I want you to act as if the house was on fire, because it is.”

“Some people say that the climate crisis is something that we all have created. But that is not true because if everyone is guilty, then no one is to blame. And someone is to blame.”

World Economic Forum
Published on Jan 25, 2019
Standard YouTube License

Greta rejects the notion that “we are not doing enough to fight climate change. Because to ‘not do enough’, you have to do something. And the truth is we are basically not doing anything.”

“I want to challenge those companies and those decision-makers into real and bold climate action. To set their economic goals aside and to safeguard the future living conditions for humankind.”

“I don’t believe for one second that you will rise to that challenge. But I want to ask you all the same. I ask you to prove me wrong. For the sake of your children, for the sake of your grandchildren. For the sake of life and this beautiful living planet.”

“Some people, some companies and some decision-makers in particular have known exactly what priceless values they have been sacrificing to continue making unimaginable amounts of money. And I think many of you here today belong to that group of people.”

In another show of youth rising, Autumn Peltier, a 13 year-old Anishinaabe girl from Wikwemikong First Nation on Manitoulin Island, told officials at the UN General Assembly gathered on water day 2018, “it’s time to warrior-up.”


Related articles…
A Terrifying Twelve Years: Sounding The Climate Alarm Bells
A World Where Leaders Are Childish and Children Are Leaders

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  1. Although I have published two academic papers, and see value in pursuing a third, I do not see any further science research in climate change becoming the solution. My theory now, is that children, the energy of youth, not when they grow up, but as children, will be a partial solution. Of course I could be wrong, but Greta is highly encouraging. And I do not plan to publish this theory in academia, but rather in a series of speculative novels, as people absorb their values from stories, not from facts.

    Pinatubo II, the first in a novel series, Krakatoa II coming this year


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