Climate activist Greta Thunberg – who initiated a global climate movement and sparked simultaneous climate strikes in major cities around the world last weekend – delivered an impassioned speech to world leaders at the UN Climate Action Summit in Paris on Monday (23 September).
The 16-year-old pulled no punches as she tore into world leaders for their inaction and reluctance to commit to making definitive, systemic changes to address the climate disaster.
She said: “People are suffering, people are dying. Entire ecosystems are collapsing. We are in the beginnings of a mass extinction. And all you can talk about is money and fairytales of eternal economic growth. How dare you?”
“You are 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. We will not let you get away with this. Right here, right now, is where we draw the line. The world is waking up. And change is coming, whether you like it or not.”
As you can imagine, reception of Ms Thunberg’s speech was varied as was the media spin on it.
Singaporeans don’t like what they’re hearing
Mr Qizhong Chang noted on Facebook that in Singapore, local media such as Channel NewsAsia and Straits Times were ‘not exactly supportive’ of either the speech or the call for further action on climate change.
CNA posted a clip of the speech with the caption: “Climate activist Greta Thunberg accuses world leaders at the United Nations of betraying her generation.” It’s the sort of headline that is echoed in other articles as well.
Mr Chang then noted the responses from the public to local media coverage of Ms Thunberg.
The responses he highlighted ranged from people who didn’t think climate change was real to people who think it is too late to do anything about it now and to those who resorted to attacking Ms Thunberg directly for being naïve of the harsh realities of the world, for being dramatic and attention-seeking, and for not presenting solutions to the problems she has highlighted.
Some even accused Ms Thunberg of being used by the left to further their agenda or that she’s being paid, though they don’t specify by who.
Mr Chang proceeded to present his arguments against each of those criticisms, pointing out that climate change is, in fact, real and that there are plenty of solutions already on the table that can make a difference.
He also talked about how attacks on Ms Thunberg’s personal character are made by people who are themselves unaware of the harsh realities of the world and who do have not made any significant contributions to the discussion of climate change solutions.
To those who suggested that Ms Thunberg is merely a tool for the left, Mr Chang rightly pointed out that the young lady has clearly shown personal motivation and convictions in her actions.
Mr Chang then wondered, “Is this the true sentiment in SG about climate change? If it is, this is really tragic.”
Climate change deniers “pour cold water” on young activists
Just last weekend, Singapore held its first climate change rally at Hong Lim Park which was attended by over 2,000 mostly young people who wanted to make their voices heard. The SG Climate Change Rally presented a manifesto urging the government to implement specific and drastic measures to effectively bring the country’s carbon emissions down to net-zero by 2050.
It was a powerful moment for Singapore and if you are already someone who agrees with Ms Thunberg’s views and supports the millions of other people around the world who know the existence of humanity is in jeopardy, then the rally would have been a source of hope.
Unfortunately, the event caught some backlash as blogs and social media commenters with some online users claiming that the young participants were deceived by the climate change hoax and some alleged that it was organised by the government to justify the S$100 billion climate change budget announced by PM Lee Hsien Loong in his National Day Rally speech.
The States Times Review alleged in a Facebook post that people were just “faking a protest” and that “PAP supporters gathered to impressionable young people to support Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s S$100 billion taxes which he claimed is for climate change”.
The site which is now blocked in Singapore, further claimed that invitation to the event was only given to PAP grassroots organisations and government universities and alleged that the supporters at the rally “want to pay for a S$100 billion umbrella”.
Curiously, the quote presented in the post was: “Singapore talks a lot about emissions intensity and about our mitigation efforts and about S$100 billion going into our climate adaptation plans. But the S$100 billion is not going to address the crisis. We are not stopping the rain, we are buying a S$100 billion umbrella”.
Not sure about you, but I don’t see how that’s someone saying they “want” to pay for this so-called umbrella. That’s a criticism of the government’s climate adaptation plan, clear and simple.
Additionally, TOC didn’t hear any of the attendees at the rally saying that they support the S$100 billion budget. In fact, what we heard was that the government needs to do more than just budget for adaptation measures, which is what that particular budget is meant for.
So these criticisms of the climate rally last weekend are baffling.
What is clear from the SG Climate Rally manifesto is that people want the government do more in terms of educating the public on the key contributors of carbon emissions which happen to be industries, not individuals, which is the common narrative propagated by the government and media.
The manifesto also called for the government to declare a national climate emergency, create and make publicly accessible a national climate mitigation plan to slash emissions, and to fully divest from polluting industries.
If you remember PM Lee’s speech, he acknowledged that climate change is “one of the gravest challenges facing humankind” but then proceeded to talk about the adaptation measures that will be implemented to protect Singapore from the impact of climate change. The measures he mentioned were things like building one more pump house at Marina Barrage, regaining offshore islands on the eastern coast of Singapore and producing polders to protect the island from rising sea levels.
What the rally on Saturday highlighted was the need for more active and drastic measures to reduce carbon emissions and directly tackle the issue of climate change, instead of simply reacting to its impact.