In 2019 Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio Cortez said, “The world is going to end in 12 years if we don’t address climate change.” But AOC grossly mischaracterized the press release issued by International Panel on Climate Change, which actually read; to have a good chance of limiting warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius from preindustrial times, carbon emission needed to decline 45% by 2030. There was nothing about the world ending or that civilization faced collapse if temperatures rose above 1.5 degrees Celsius. Nevertheless, the media heard “12 years” and people around the world, including millions children accepted this highly inaccurate and harmful statement as fact.
I do not believe AOC intentionally lied; I suspect she just got carried away in the moment. Nonetheless, environmental activists, journalist and politicians have an obligation to report on environmental matters honestly, which is why we should be very concerned with the distortion of climate data and how many psychologists believe the persistent exaggeration negatively affects the wellbeing of children.
Young people today are faced with a daily barrage of news stories, in print, online and increasingly in the classroom that we are destroying the planet. Research reveals that a rising number of young people are being professionally treated including with psychiatric drugs to reduce the emotional stress and exhaustion caused by “eco-anxiety,” i.e., the fervent fear that humans will go extinct as a result of climate change.
~ Emulating Greta ~
It shouldn’t be surprising so many young people are convinced climate change will cause great harm. Thousands follow the lead of the Swedish teenage climate activist Greta Thunberg to demand more-aggressive measures to protect the planet.
Feted by newspapers around the world Thunberg received numerous honors and awards including an honorary Fellowship in the Royal Scottish Geographical Society, named one of Forbes’ world’s 100 most powerful women, the youngest recipient of Time Magazine’s Person of the Year Award, one of Time Magazine’s 100 most influential people and consecutive nominations for the Nobel Peace Prize in 2019 and 2020.
Time Magazine wrote, “Greta Thunberg has succeeded in creating a global attitudinal shift, transforming millions of vague, middle-of-the-night anxieties into a worldwide movement calling for urgent change.” Thunberg is known for her straight talk, organizing student strikes, demanding action on climate change and criticizing world leaders for their failure to address climate concerns. But has any of her celebrity brought the world closer to reaching the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement?
The reality is for all Greta Thunberg’s passion, she has no scientific credentials, she offered no practical solutions, and since her speech, greenhouse gas emissions have reached record highs. Contrast her with 16-year-old, Dutch high school student Boyan Slat who was alarmed at the amount of plastic in our oceans and expressed concern there weren’t any serious attempts to redress the matter.
Slat discovered that existing ocean cleanup methods were prohibitively expensive, so the teenager designed a “passive collection system” using ocean gyres to concentrate the plastic; figuring, instead of going to all the expense of finding the plastic, why not let the plastic come to the collector through the oceans’ natural currents. Slat then left school and with $500 in start up capital founded the non-profit charity, Ocean Cleanup. And after his TEDx video went viral in 2013 he recruited a team and using crowdfunding, raised $90,000 and the project took flight.
A full-scale Slat-style cleanup system could remove 50% of the existing “garbage patch” between California and Hawaii in just five years. And when these systems are deployed into every ocean gyre and combined with source reduction, Ocean Cleanup believes 90% of the plastics currently in the ocean can be removed by 2040. Meanwhile, Ocean Cleanup’s latest invention, the ‘Interceptor,’ is removing 110,000 pounds of plastic from Europe’s rivers every day.
Greta Thunberg echoed AOC’s words of impending doom and frightened millions of children. Boyan Slat offered hope. Yet due to a fawning media Greta Thunberg’s ominous and angry speech received 100 million Google searches while Boyan Slat remains in relative obscurity. We need passionate young people like Greta Thunberg; but we also need a media that investigates & reports on the news not a media that advances dishonest and harmful narratives.
There is no justification for exaggerating climate data. And as Michael Shellenberg, President and a senior fellow at the Breakthrough Institute, and founder of Environmental Progress states, no credible scientific body, not at the UN nor the IPCC has ever said climate change threatens the collapse of civilization much less the extinction of the human species. Yet the lies and exaggerations persist—how shameful!
Quote of the day: “A lie gets halfway around the world before the truth has time to get its pants on.”—Winston Churchill