Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg told lawmakers during congressional testimony Wednesday that they should “listen to the best available science” and act quickly to curb the catastrophic impact of climate change.
“I have met people whose communities were simply destroyed by natural disasters ... amplified by the climate crisis,” Thunberg, 16, said at a hearing co-hosted by the House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis and the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Europe, Eurasia, Energy and the Environment.
“I have met people whose food and water supplies being threatened by climate-related catastrophes,” the activist added. “We are already seeing the unacceptable consequences of this today, and it will only get worse the longer we delay action unless we start to act now."
Thunberg arrived in New York City on Sept. 11 after traveling to the United States by emissions-free boat to reduce her carbon footprint. She is scheduled to participate in the United Nations Action Summit on Sept. 23.
Thunberg gained international notoriety last year when she inspired young people around the world to organize strikes to protest what she called inadequate government action on climate change.
On Wednesday, she was joined on Capitol Hill by other young climate activists who offered testimony.
Jamie Margolin, a 17-year-old climate justice activist from Seattle and cofounder of This Is Zero Hour, asked lawmakers to think about the anxiety her generation is feeling as a result of climate change and what she called government inaction.
“Our world is full of ifs,” Margolin said, adding there is “this constant looming uncertainty” about their future.
Benji Backer, a 21-year-old senior at the University of Washington and founder of the American Conservation Coalition said, “This conversation needs to be about the most efficient and comprehensive ways to cut global emissions."
"My generation doesn’t care about the politics around climate change. We just want productive discussions, realistic answers and sound policy solutions," Backer added.
Democratic lawmakers echoed some of those sentiments.
“We have a very serious responsibility to lead," said Rep. Kathy CastorKatherine (Kathy) Anne CastorHouse climate panel chair: 'We just don't have any more time to waste' Senators gear up for bipartisan grilling of Facebook execs Overnight Energy & Environment — Presented by the American Petroleum Institute — Manchin expresses his misgivings MORE (D-Fla.), head of the Select Committee on Climate Crisis. "A strong national climate plan has been missing. We must do more, and we do not have time to wait.”
Rep. William Keating (D-Mass.), the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Europe, Eurasia, Energy and the Environment, said, “Our generation has failed to adequately address the climate crisis.”
Some Republicans, however, argued that Democratic-backed policies to combat climate change sometimes have unintended consequences.
“I agree that we need to take aggressive action,” said Rep. Garret GravesGarret Neal GravesLawmakers lay out arguments for boosting clean energy through infrastructure GOP seeks to keep spotlight on Afghanistan as Dems advance Biden's .5T spending plan Biden to travel to New Jersey and New York, survey Ida damage MORE (R-La.), the top Republican on the Climate Crisis Select Committee.
But “last week we had bills designed to stop energy production in the United States. All that does is increase our reliance on energy sources from other countries that have lower safety standards and lower environmental standards,” he said.
Democrats themselves are divided over how to tackle climate change. Progressives in the party have backed the Green New Deal proposal sponsored by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-CortezAlexandria Ocasio-CortezRepublican spin on Biden is off the mark House progressives call on Biden to end all new fossil fuel permitting Schumer endorses democratic socialist India Walton in Buffalo mayor's race MORE (D-N.Y.), while centrist Democrats have backed less aggressive approaches to transitioning the country to 100 percent renewable energy.
Thunberg gave a speech to lawmakers and others later on Wednesday, when she chided elected and business leaders for telling “bedtime stories” to help us feel better amid an “existential crisis.”
“Wherever I go I seem to be surrounded by fairytales,” Thunberg said Wednesday evening. “Elected officials all across the political spectrum are spending their time making up and telling bedtime stories to soothe us and let us go back to sleep.”
Updated at 7:52 p.m.