You gave a speech in New York recently that, if we are kind, could be described as ‘very emotional’ or, if we are less friendly, as ‘hysterical and presumptuous.’ I don't know if you drafted the text yourself, but in the end it doesn't matter, because by reciting it, it is inextricably linked to your name and person. You said at the beginning: "This is all wrong, I shouldn't be up here, I should be back in school on the other side of the ocean".
This is true, but for completely different reasons from the ones you bring up, because it would indeed be better for you to go back to school, not only because of the knowledge that is imparted there, but also so as not to sink even deeper into the abyss of false certainties, obsessions, self-exaltation and sense of mission, which you will otherwise never be free of again.
You go on to say, "How dare you! You have stolen my dreams and my childhood with your empty words." I don't like most politicians either, Greta, but they certainly didn't steal your dreams, nor your childhood either.
You grew up in a sheltered home in a comparatively rich country, Sweden. You never had to starve like millions of children in this world, you never had to fear diseases because your family had no money for medicine. You grew up free from war and persecution and never had to fear that suddenly armed men would kick the door in, bludgeon your father to death, rape your mother and abduct you to a camp as a sex slave. This is not an imaginary horror scenario, but a brutal reality in countries like Syria or Iraq. But even if we remain in a comparatively civilised Europe: How dare you speak of a “stolen childhood” in the face of millions of truly poor children, seriously ill children, children who suffer physical and sexual violence in its most brutal form? In Germany, very near my hometown, a nine-year-old girl was recently raped by a rejected asylum seeker. Childhood was stolen from this girl and many others – including in Sweden – not from you!
You continue by saying, “We are in the beginning of a mass extinction, and all you can talk about is money and fairy tales of eternal economic growth. How dare you?” Now, a policy that is exclusively oriented toward economic growth can be criticized with good reason, if the environment and natural resources suffer. But your assertion of the impending “mass extinction” however, has no rational basis, because it contradicts all scientific findings.
Since of course you won't believe me, I quote the answer of the renowned scientist Prof. Jochem Marotzke, who works for the IPCC, to the question of ‘Der Spiegel’ about thresholds above which irreversible (irrevocable) processes begin: “We can't rule this out, but the evidence for such tipping points is so far rather weak. Most likely is that a warming of two degrees could lead to the melting of Greenland's ice sheet, causing the sea level to rise by seven meters in the long term – that would be a highly dramatic change. But even if this were to happen, the melting would take over 3,000 years. All other alleged tipping points, such as the disruption of the Gulf Stream or the melting of West Antarctica, are unlikely in the foreseeable future.”
This scientifically well-founded statement makes a mockery of all horror scenarios as spread by you and your supporters, because an actual danger originates only from irreversible changes. I could also phrase it more harshly: The climate catastrophe threatening humanity, which has dominated your thinking for years and robs you of sleep, exists only in your head!
This in no way means that we can just let things carry on as before, because the increase in carbon dioxide in the atmosphere caused by humans is an undeniable scientific fact. The consequences for temperature and climate, however, are controversial because the models used to determine them are, first, grossly simplistic and, second, extremely prone to errors.
You continue in your speech: “How dare you pretend that this can be solved with just 'business as usual' and some technical solutions? You are still not mature enough to tell it like it is.” Allow me to object that it is rather you who are not yet “mature enough” to understand the scientific and economic nexus. That's no reproach, because at the age of 16 you can't yet grasp the complexity of the relevant facts, especially not if you are living with a mental disability (Asperger's syndrome). But your accusation against us, the older generation, is simply unfair because many measures were taken to reduce carbon dioxide emissions many years ago, without the influence of Extinction Rebellion or similar movements. Carbon dioxide emissions in Germany, an industrial country, have fallen by 30.6 percent since 1990. And it is more than presumptuous and self-righteous to discredit these costly efforts.
In other countries (China, India) development is going in the opposite direction, but this is apparently no reason for you and your advisors to go and make ultimate demands there. The reason is very simple, even if it might hurt you to hear it: They would laugh you out of court.
And that's exactly why you prefer to afflict Germany, because there your fan base is biggest and the media the most uncritical. This is understandable from the human point of view, but unfortunately I have to tell you that even in Germany many people are tired of your obtrusive and self-assured admonitions; especially those who, in contrast to you and your followers, have to work hard for a living.
Of course my letter, if you get to see it at all, will not change anything about your commitment, as you have already moved too far from the normality of a 16-year-old schoolgirl. And of course it is flattering to be courted by the great and powerful of this world, up to the Pope, and to be showered with prizes. Celebrity is a temptation that even adults can and will hardly resist.
You should, however, forget the idea that those politicians, advisors and patrons who pat you on the back today and encourage you in your zeal are actually interested in your well-being. Rather, they are using you as a poster child and figurehead for their own interests, which are anything but climate-friendly or humane. I can only hope that at some point you will recognize this yourself, even if it is painful.
With thoughtful greetings
Frank W. Haubold
Translated from eigentümlich frei, where the original article was published on September 26th 2019.