First word

AS a realist/skeptic in the climate debate, I regularly monitor and report on developments on both sides of the fence. I do not focus only on reports and opinions that agree with my view of the issues. I think it also vital to know how the issues look from the other side.

I want to say a few words today on the latest news on Greta Thunberg, the Swedish teenager who has captured global interest as a relentless climate change crusader and advocate of radical climate action.

Thunberg, who turns 20 on January 3 next year, is the creator/curator of a new book called The Climate Book, which came off the press this year in London.

Allen Lane, the book's publisher, bills it as "created by Greta Thunberg."

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The Guardian calls the book "an angry call for action." In it, the environmental activist curates a supergroup of climate experts in a valuable set of essays, which at times risk overwhelming the reader.

Writing on Thunberg on November 5 in The Guardian, Dorian Lynskey reported:

"Being Greta Thunberg is no picnic. Still not yet 20, she has fame but not wealth and an army of obsessive detractors who cannot seem to decide whether she is a puritanical fanatic, a gullible puppet or an attention-seeking hypocrite and therefore call her all three. What they hate most, I think, is her effectiveness. A teenager from Sweden has succeeded in dramatically escalating the discourse around the climate emergency. Global heating is not a dire possibility but a present reality; reducing it is no longer just a question of looking after the planet but of preserving human civilization in a recognizable form....

Angry moral tone

"Thunberg is unusual (but should not be) in speaking and behaving in a manner appropriate to what the science tells us, ripping away the standard sticking plasters of reassurance and consolation to leave only raw urgency. She is often dismissed as a Cassandra but, of course, the whole point of the Cassandra story is that she was right. The Climate Book coincides with COP27, just as the UN environment agency has acknowledged that there is 'no credible path' to keeping global heating below 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. The current figure is 3.1; at the present rate of carbon emissions, it could go as high as 3.2 by the end of the century. As Thunberg writes: 'Hope is something you have to earn.'

"Thunberg's first book was a slim jeremiad called No One Is Too Small to Make a Difference, but there is nothing small about her latest. This time she takes on a curatorial role, convening a kind of supergroup of scientists, activists and authors, each of whom contributes a short essay about the mess we're in. Big names such as Margaret Atwood and Naomi Klein mingle with veterans who have been raising the alarm for decades. Amid all the maps, graphs and hair-raising statistics, Thunberg's connective essays give the book an angry moral pulse. The crisis cannot be addressed, she writes, without talking about 'morality, justice, shame, responsibility and guilt.' She is not in the feelgood business.

"Given the facts the writers are working with, the book is relentless and somewhat repetitive. The cumulative effect of all this writing about heatwaves, wildfires, hurricanes, droughts, floods, epidemics, species extinctions and melting ice sheets walks a fine line between galvanizing and paralyzing....

"What some readers, even those who recycle diligently and drive electric cars, may find hard to take is the book's political prescriptions: systemic change, including an end to the obsession with economic growth. The phrase 'green industrial revolution,' embraced by both Labor and Conservatives, inspires only contempt from Thunberg. When some parts of the world are suffering from the emissions produced by wealthier parts, Thunberg argues, avoiding the question of injustice would be dishonest."

Climate anxiety disorder

The view of Thunberg from the other side is, not surprisingly, critical and scathing. Sebastian Gesler, writing in Bild on November 4, said:

"For years, the media told us that Greta Thunberg was driven by a love of nature. It's now clear she is more driven by a hatred of capitalism. Overconfident and smug, Thunberg inadvertently let her green mask slip at a book event in Britain. Now, some in the news media are turning against her.

"The marketing of Greta Thunberg by her parents and cynical media elites over the last three years was appalling. Thunberg became the primary vehicle for an anti-human, pro-scarcity and anti-capitalist agenda that contributed significantly to the energy crisis ravaging Europe.

"Thunberg's defenders say she was a model of youth engagement. What she did required courage, they say. We should applaud her.

"But Thunberg incited panic, made outrageously false claims, and triggered a wave of climate anxiety.

"'Around the year 2030,' she said in 2019, 'we will be in a position where we set off an irreversible chain reaction beyond human control that will most likely lead to the end of our civilization as we know it.'

"Thunberg repeatedly attacked the two main sources of emissions reductions — nuclear energy and natural gas.

"Nuclear is 'extremely dangerous, expensive and time-consuming,' she said, at the very moment Germany, Belgium and Sweden were shutting down nuclear plants.

"Thunberg repeatedly encouraged dangerous behavior. 'I want you to panic... If standing up against the climate and ecological breakdown and for humanity is against the rules then the rules must be broken.'

"Two days later, two male Extinction Rebellion protesters stood on top of a train, to block it from moving forward, in the London Tube. Angry commuters kicked and beat one of the young protesters and another young man filming the event.

"Time and again, Thunberg used fear and anger to bully people. 'This is all wrong,' she screamed at the UN. 'I shouldn't be standing here. I should be back in school on the other side of the ocean. Yet you all come to us young people for hope? How dare you!'

"Thunberg's behavior over the last three years was obnoxious. Her parents should never have allowed it. Her handlers and hosts should never have allowed it. Instead, they encouraged it and smeared anyone who dared to raise concerns about it.

"It was clear from the beginning of Thunberg's stardom that she suffered from an anxiety disorder, and yet she, her handlers, and her parents all suggested that it stemmed from her profound concern over climate change. That turned out to be a lie.

"Thunberg's mother admitted as much in 2020 when she decided she needed to publish her own book. The media lapped it all up without ever asking: is this healthy psychologically for the Thunbergs and the rest of the society?

"Of course, it wasn't. Thunberg, more than anyone else, contributed to a wave of climate anxiety disorders.

"And yet the media egged her on and insisted that anybody who dared question whether it was ethical or healthy for the world's most influential teenager to urge panic was a 'climate denier' who was somehow psychologically threatened by a child. The gaslighting was grotesque.

"Let's be clear about what occurred. The news media weaponized a teenage girl suffering from severe anxiety disorders to advance a radical, anti-capitalist agenda...

"And they're not done. Thunberg Inc. and the media are now delivering her up as a savior from the mass psychopathology they created. You couldn't make it up. This isn't just cynical, it's also inhumane.

"At this point, it's pointless to blame Thunberg and her handlers. They clearly have an agenda, and Thunberg's made it clear that it's a radical anti-capitalist one.

"Beyond changing news media coverage from uncritically fawning to balanced and critical, journalists should reflect upon their irresponsible coverage of Thunberg and climate change. It was actively harmful not just to Thunberg but to billions around the world.

"Around one-third of people in the world think climate change will make humans extinct. That's pseudoscience on the same level as believing that Earth is flat. People didn't come to that belief on their own. It was drilled into their brains over 30 years.

"Climate change is real, but it's not the end of the world. Emissions have dramatically declined in rich nations and globally over the last decade, thanks mainly to natural gas and nuclear. We need more of both."

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