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Wearing her signature single braid, celebrity teen climate activist Greta Thunberg had a message for U.S. lawmakers on Wednesday: Do better.
During her testimony in front of the House foreign affairs and climate change committees, the 16-year-old Swede politely disputed the arguments from Republicans in the room, like Louisiana Rep. Garret Graves, who argued that the U.S. isn’t culpable for climate change because countries like China continue to pollute with impunity.
“Just another perspective — I’m from Sweden. It’s a small country. And there, it is the same argument: ‘Why should we do anything? Just look at the U.S.,’ they say,” Thunberg said quietly, to laughs and applause. “So, just so you know, that is being used against you as well.”
The argument that the U.S. leads the world in carbon footprint reductions is a popular one with Republicans –– including members of President Trump’s administration, like former Environmental Protection Agency chief Scott Pruitt. It’s also not quite true.
“I know you are trying, but just not hard enough. Sorry.”
“I agree that we need to take aggressive action, and move forward in a sustainable, rational manner. Contrary to popular belief, the United States is the country that has led the world in greenhouse gas reductions,” Graves said. “Stop this ridiculousness of operating myopically, or that the U.S. is operating in a vacuum.”
His argument didn’t end there. Comparing the U.S. and China to sailboats, Graves asked Thunberg whether she would be upset if, while cleaning up trash in the ocean, another person at sea continued to pollute.
"If you were sailing across the ocean and you’re picking up trash along the way, and for every piece of trash you pick up, there is a boat right next to you dumping out five pieces. How would that make you feel?” Graves asked.
“Well, first of all, by that logic then I am also dumping a lot of trash in the ocean," Thunberg replied. "And then I would stop dumping my trash in the ocean and ask the other boat to stop dumping their trash in the ocean as well.”
Wednesday’s testimony was the second time this week that Thunberg met with lawmakers.
On Tuesday, after a group of senators praised her activism, she responded with force: “Don’t invite us here to just tell us how inspiring we are without actually doing anything about it, because it doesn’t lead to anything.”
She added: “I know you are trying, but just not hard enough. Sorry.”
Her congressional shaming tour continued this morning, when she testified before two House committees about the need to pay attention to science. But this time, the typically loquacious teen offered only a handful of sentences for House members.
“I have not come to offer prepared remarks at this hearing,” Thunberg said. Instead, she submitted as her testimony the 2018 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report, which details the effects of rising temperatures on the world’s ecosystems.
“I am submitting this report as my testimony because I don’t want you to listen to me. I want you to listen to the scientists,” Thunberg wrote in her eight-sentence testimony. “And I want you to unite behind the science. And then I want you to take action.”
And she had backup. Jamie Margolin, a 17-year-old climate activist from Seattle, who sued Washington state over poor air quality, called Graves’ thinking “shameful.”
“When your children ask you, ‘Did you do absolutely everything in your power to stop the climate crisis?’" Margolin said, “Can you really look them in the eye and say, ‘No, sorry, I couldn’t do anything because that country over there didn’t do anything. So if they’re not going to do anything, then I’m not.’ That is shameful. And that is cowardly.”
Cover image: Youth climate change activist Greta Thunberg, left, speaks at a House Foreign Affairs Committee subcommittee hearing on climate change Wednesday, Sept. 18, 2019, on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)