'Empty words' – Teens agree with Greta's attack on politicians

Written by: Pete Henshaw | Published:
Image: Adobe Stock

More than half of 16 to 18-year-olds agree with climate change campaigner Greta Thunberg that politicians “have stolen their dreams and their childhood with their empty words”.

The 16-year-old Swedish campaigner accused the world’s politicians of putting profit and economic growth before climate protection in her now famous speech to the United Nations Climate Action Summit in September.

And research for the British Science Association (BSA) has found that 54 per cent of 16 to 18-year-olds believe Greta’s attack to be justified.

Speaking to leaders from across the world, Greta said: “This is all wrong. I shouldn't be up 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.

“You have stolen my dreams and my childhood with your empty words and yet I'm one of the lucky ones. People are suffering. People are dying. Entire ecosystems are collapsing. 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.”

The global series of climate strikes – begun in Sweden by Greta – have seen young people walking out of schools to strike in protest at government inaction on climate change. These climate strikes have become known as “Fridays for Future” days, the most recent having taken place on November 29.

The BSA survey involved more than 2,200 people of all ages from across the UK. It found that 68 per cent are concerned about climate change, rising to 83 per cent among the 16 to 18-year-old respondents.

Furthermore, 60 per cent of the younger respondents said they are worried about their futures in the context of the climate crisis and 35 per cent are concerned about starting a family as a result.

However, there is hope as well. Forty per cent of all the respondents said that Greta’s speech has inspired them to take action, rising to 61 per cent among 16 to 18-year-olds. A similar proportion believe that those aged under-18 have the power to act on climate change.

The survey results have been published to promote the BSA’s Youth Industrial Strategy Competition, a challenge that encourages secondary-aged students to design and propose STEM solutions to societal and environmental issues, including climate change.

The survey also reveals how these 16 to 18-year-olds are making a difference in their own lives. Actions to reduce their carbon footprint or tackle climate change include:

  • Recycling (88 per cent).
  • Making a conscious effort to save energy (79 per cent).
  • Walking, cycling or taking public transport (74 per cent).
  • Eating less meat (35 per cent).
  • Taking fewer flights (32 per cent).
  • Attending strikes and protests (16 per cent).
  • Boycott polluting products (15 per cent).

Katherine Mathieson, BSA chief executive, said the survey results sent a “powerful message”. She continued: “These results not only show a great deal of concern among young people about their future, but also frustration towards politicians for their slow response to the climate crisis. Given the changing political landscape and upcoming general election, this is something politicians should take heed of when making decisions that will affect the futures of younger generations.

“While young people are angry with those in power, it is encouraging to see their belief in their own generation to make positive change in the future.”

Climate change resources for schools


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