Category Archives: Greta Thunberg

There are three types of climate change denier—and most of us are at least one

The Conversation, by Iain Walker & Zoe Leviston, October 9, 2019
Greta Thunberg’s fiery oration has prompted outrage, but even if you agree with her you might still be ignoring her message. EPA/Justin Lane

Amid the cacophony of reactions to Greta Thunberg’s appearance before the United Nations Climate Action Summit, a group of self-proclaimed “prominent scientists” sent a registered letter to UN Secretary-General António Guterres. The letter, headed “There is no climate emergency,” urged Guterres to follow:

…a climate policy based on sound science, realistic economics, and genuine concern for those harmed by costly but unnecessary attempts at mitigation.

The group, supported by 75 Australian business and industry figures, along with others around the world, obviously rejects the scientific consensus on climate change. But this missive displays remarkably different tactics to those previously used to stymie climate action.

The language of climate change denial and inaction has transformed. Outright science denial has been replaced by efforts to reframe climate change as natural, and climate action as unwarranted.

However, this is just another way of rejecting the facts, and their implications for us. Denial can take many forms.

Shades of denial

The twin phenomena of denial and inaction are related to one another, at least in the context of climate change. They are also complex, both in the general sense of “complicated and intricate,” and in the technical psychological sense of “a group of repressed feelings and anxieties which together result in abnormal behaviour.”

In his book States of Denial, the late psychoanalytic sociologist Stanley Cohen described three forms of denial. Although his framework was developed from analyzing genocide and other atrocities, it applies just as well to our individual and collective inaction in the face of the overwhelming scientific evidence of human-induced climate change.

The first form of denial is literal denial. It is the simple, conscious, outright rejection that something happened or is happening—that is, lying. Australian senators Pauline Hanson and Malcolm Roberts, among others, have at one time or another maintained this position—outright denial that climate change is happening (though Senator Hanson now might accept climate change but denies any human contribution to it).

Interestingly, former Australian prime minister Malcolm Turnbull recently blamed “climate change deniers” in his own government for blocking any attempt to deal with climate change, resulting paradoxically in higher energy prices today.

It is tempting to attribute outright denial to individual malice or stupidity, and that may occasionally be the case. More worrying and more insidious, though, is the social organization of literal denial of climate change. There is plenty of evidence of clandestine, orchestrated lying by vested interests in industry. If anyone is looking for a conspiracy in climate change, this is it—not a collusion of thousands of scientists and major science organizations.

The second form of denial is interpretive denial. Here, people do not contest the facts, but interpret them in ways that distort their meaning or importance. For example, one might say climate change is just a natural fluctuation or greenhouse gas accumulation is a consequence, not a cause, of rising temperatures. This is what we saw in the letter to the UN.

The most insidious form of denial

The third and most insidious form is implicatory denial. The facts of climate change are not denied, nor are they interpreted to be something else. What is denied or minimized are the psychological, political, and moral implications of the facts for us. We fail to accept responsibility for responding; we fail to act when the information says we should.

Of course, some are unable to respond, financially or otherwise, but for many, implicatory denial is a kind of dissociation. Ignoring the moral imperative to act is as damning a form of denial as any other, and arguably is much worse.

The treatment of Thunberg, and the vigour with which people push away reminders of that which they would rather not deal with, illustrate implicatory denial. We are almost all guilty, to some extent, of engaging in implicatory denial. In the case of climate change, implicatory denial allows us to use a reusable coffee cup, recycle our plastic, or sometimes catch a bus, and thus to pretend to ourselves that we are doing our bit.

Almost none of us individually have acted as we ought on the science of climate change. But that does not mean we can’t change how we act in the future. Indeed, there are some recent indications that, as with literal denial, implicatory denial is becoming an increasingly untenable psychological position.

While it is tempting, and even cathartic, to mock the shrill responses to Thunberg from literal and interpretive deniers, we would do well to ponder our own inherent biases and irrational responses to climate change.

For instance, we tend to think we are doing more for the planet than those around us (and we can’t all be right). We also tend to think literal deniers are much more common in our society than they in fact are.

These are just two examples of common strategies we use to deny our own responsibility and culpability. They make us feel better about what little we actually do, or congratulate us for accepting the science. But they are ultimately self-defeating delusions. Instead of congratulating ourselves on agreeing with the basic scientific facts of climate change, we need to push ourselves to action.

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

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    WATCH: Greta Thunberg’s full speech to world leaders at UN

    “You have stolen my childhood and my dreams with your empty words.”

    Climate Action Summit
    PBS NewsHour
    Published on Sep 23, 2019 – 5 minute video
    Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg chastised world leaders Monday, Sep. 23, for failing younger generations by not taking sufficient steps to stop climate change. “You have stolen my childhood and my dreams with your empty words,” Thunberg said at the United Nations Climate Action Summit in New York. “You’re failing us, but young people are starting to understand your betrayal. The eyes of all future generations are upon you. And if you choose to fail us, I say we will never forgive you,” she added. Thunberg traveled to the U.S. by sailboat last month so she could appear at the summit. She and other youth activists led international climate strikes on Friday in an attempt to garner awareness ahead of the UN’s meeting of political and business leaders.


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      Benicia Independent hero of 2019: Greta Thunberg

      VOX.com by Umair Irfan, Sep 17, 2019
      [Editor: see also EnergyMix9/18/19, Breaking: Thunberg to deliver terse testimony to U.S. Congress.  – RS]

      Greta Thunberg is leading kids and adults from 150 countries in a massive Friday climate strike

      The international protest will come ahead of the UN Climate Action Summit.

      Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg, 16, uses a bullhorn to speak to a crowd.
      Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg delivers remarks to campaigners in Washington, DC, on September 13, 2019. She will lead the Global Climate Strike on Friday. Sarah Silbiger/Getty Images

      Young people from around the world are leading a massive coordinated strike from school on Friday, September 20, to protest government and business inaction on climate change. It is likely to be one of the largest environmental protests in history.

      The Global Climate Strike comes just before countries will gather at the United Nations for the Climate Action Summit on September 23. It’s a meeting ahead of the UN General Assembly where countries are supposed to ramp up their ambitions to curb greenhouse gases under the 2015 Paris climate agreement.

      “If you can’t be in the strike, then, of course, you don’t have to,” 16-year-old Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg, the original school striker who began last year demanding more action from her government on climate change with weekly protests, told Teen Vogue. “But I think if there is one day you should join, this is the day.”

      Thunberg has become an increasingly influential figurehead and voice for youth climate angst and activism. Since she no longer flies because… [continued]


      This story is part of Covering Climate Now, a global collaboration of more than 250 news outlets to strengthen coverage of the climate story.

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        NPR: Teenage activist Greta Thunberg takes climate protest to D.C.

        Thunberg sails from Sweden to the U.S. – promotes Climate Strike 2020 on Sept 20 – NYC schools will excuse absences

        Greta Thunberg To U.S.: ‘You Have A Moral Responsibility’ On Climate Change

        NPR All Things Considered, by Bill Chappell and Ailsa Chang. 9/13/19
        Swedish activist Greta Thunberg, 16, attends a protest outside the White House on Friday. She launched the Friday school strikes last year, and since then, her notoriety has steadily grown. She is known for speaking in clear and powerful terms about why people — particularly young people — must pay attention to Earth’s climate. | Mhari Shaw/NPR

        Greta Thunberg led a protest at the White House on Friday. But she wasn’t looking to go inside, saying, “I don’t want to meet with people who don’t accept the science.”

        The young Swedish activist joined a large crowd of protesters who had gather outside, calling for immediate action to help the environment and reverse an alarming warming trend in average global temperatures.

        She says her message for President Trump is the same thing she tells other politicians: Listen to science, and take responsibility.

        Thunberg, 16, arrived in the U.S. last week after sailing across the Atlantic to avoid the carbon emissions from jet travel. She will spend nearly a week in Washington, D.C. — but she says she doesn’t plan to meet with anyone from the Trump administration during that time.

        “I haven’t been invited to do that yet. And honestly I don’t want to do that,” Thunberg tells NPR’s Ailsa Chang. If people in the White House who reject climate change want to change their minds, she says, they should rely on scientists and professionals to do that.

        But Thunberg also believes the U.S. has an “incredibly important” role to play in fighting climate change.

        “You are such a big country,” she says. “In Sweden, when we demand politicians to do something, they say, ‘It doesn’t matter what we do — because just look at the U.S.’

        “I think you have an enormous responsibility” to lead climate efforts, she adds. “You have a moral responsibility to do that.”

        Thunberg is known for promoting school strikes among students concerned by climate change. On Aug. 20, 2018, she skipped school to protest by herself outside Sweden’s parliament.

        “I handed out fliers with a long list of facts about the climate crisis and explanations on why I was striking,” she said in a Facebook post. She’s since inspired student protests in dozens of countries.

        Her notoriety has grown steadily, thanks to the clear terms in which she speaks about why people — particularly young people — must pay attention to Earth’s climate. She gave a TED Talk about the issue last November; one month later, she made a powerful speech at a U.N. climate change conference in Poland.

        Greta Thunberg has now inspired student protests in dozens of countries — and in the U.S., she plans to lead protests ahead of the U.N. Climate Action Summit next week in New York City.  |  Mhari Shaw/NPR

        “You are not mature enough to tell it like it is. Even that burden, you leave to us children,” Thunberg, who was then 15, told the grownups at the conference, in a video that’s been watched millions of times online.

        Asked when she became so passionate about climate change, Thunberg says it started before she was 10 years old, during a school lesson that, as she recalls, made the entire class very sad.

        “We saw these horrifying pictures of plastic in the oceans and floodings and so on, and everyone was very moved by that. But then it just seemed like everyone went back to normal,” Thunberg says. “And I couldn’t go back to normal because those pictures were stuck in my head. And I couldn’t just go on knowing that this was happening around the world.”

        She began researching the issue, reading about climate science and asking questions. Her sense of activism grew gradually — and at a time when she says she was dealing with depression. At the time, Thunberg was 11.

        “How I got back from that depression was by telling myself I can do so much good with my life instead of just being depressed,” she says.

        She became an activist, attending marches and talking to people inside the environmental movement. When the pace seemed too slow, she hit on the idea of a school strike, and a new movement was born. But Thunberg is quick to note that much work remains to be done.

        Greta Thunberg says she wants people to use the power of their votes to elect leaders who will work to reduce carbon emissions and slow global warming.  |  Mhari Shaw/NPR

        “Even though this movement has become huge and there have been millions of children and young people who have been school striking for the climate,” Thunberg says, “the emission curve is still not reducing … and of course that is all that matters.”

        In the past, Thunberg also has spoken about being diagnosed with Asperger syndrome — and how that has helped her.

        “My diagnosis helps me helps me see things a bit more clearly sometimes,” she says. “When everyone else seems to just compromise and have this double moral that’s, ‘Yeah. That’s very important, but also I can’t do that right now and I’m too lazy and so on.’

        “But I can’t really do that.”

        Thunberg continues, “I want to walk the talk, and to practice as I preach. So that is what I’m trying to do. Because if I am focused on something and if I know something and if I decide to do something, then I go all in. And it seems like others are not doing that right now. So yeah, it has definitely helped me.”

        Thunberg has now been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. In the U.S., she plans to lead protests ahead of next week’s U.N. Climate Action Summit in New York City. Her arrival in Washington helped kick off that plan.

        “Protect our future!” young demonstrators chanted as they marched across the grass north of the White House. One girl held a sign reading, “Make Earth Cool Again.”

        The only things that seemed to slow Thunberg were the many admirers and journalists that thronged around her on the sidewalks around the White House. The crowd was repeatedly asked to move back, and the diminutive Thunberg was able to inch along, pausing occasionally to acknowledge a question or comment from passers-by.

        “Thank you, Greta!” several onlookers shouted. Another yelled out, “We’re all here for you — and the climate!”

        After the protesters marched around the White House to the lower portion of the Ellipse, Thunberg delivered a short speech, speaking through a megaphone to tell the crowd she’s grateful for their support and proud of them for coming to the march.

        “This is very overwhelming,” Thunberg said, noting the large turnout.

        “Never give up,” she told the protesters, adding, “See you next week, on Sept. 20.”

        The international protest that’s planned for next Friday will likely be large. New York City’s public school system recently announced that it will excuse the absences of any students who participate in the climate strike.

        “Students will need parental consent,” the school system said, adding, “Younger students can only leave school with a parent.”

        And if students elsewhere need an excused-absence note, Amnesty International Secretary General Kumi Naidoo has written a letter to more than 30,000 schools, urging them to allow their students to join the climate strikes.

        Thunberg says that along with boosting people’s awareness of the dangers of climate change, she wants them to use their voting power to elect leaders who will work to reduce carbon emissions and slow global warming.

        When asked what her parents think of her activism and the demands on her time, Thunberg says, “Of course they are concerned that I am doing all this and and that I am not going to school.”

        The young activist adds, “I think they also see that I am happier now than I was before, because I’m doing something meaningful.”

        She’s taking a gap year away from school to focus on her burgeoning youth movement.

        Noting her parents’ concerns about living a very public life and being out of school, Thunberg says, “I think they support me in at least some way. They know that what I am doing is morally right.”

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