So, you’ve probably all heard of Greta Thunberg by now. She’s a teenage climate activist from Sweden who is dedicated to forcing world leaders take action to stop global warming.

She recently gave a speech at the UN’s Climate Action Summit where she did not mince her words (meaning she did not hide her anger or try to be polite during her speech). In this post I’ll be explaining the vocabulary of her speech to help you better understand her message.

The Speech

“How Dare you?”


“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!

“For more than 30 years, the science has been crystal clear. How dare you continue to look away and come here saying that you’re doing enough, when the politics and solutions needed are still nowhere in sight.

“You say you hear us and that you understand the urgency. But no matter how sad and angry I am, I do not want to believe that. Because if you really understood the situation and still kept on failing to act, then you would be evil. And that I refuse to believe.

“The popular idea of cutting our emissions in half in 10 years only gives us a 50% chance of staying below 1.5 degrees [Celsius], and the risk of setting off irreversible chain reactions beyond human control.

“Fifty percent may be acceptable to you. But those numbers do not include tipping points, most feedback loops, additional warming hidden by toxic air pollution or the aspects of equity and climate justice. They also rely on my generation sucking hundreds of billions of tons of your CO2 out of the air with technologies that barely exist.

So a 50% risk is simply not acceptable to us — we who have to live with the consequences.

“To have a 67% chance of staying below a 1.5 degrees global temperature rise – the best odds given by the [Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change] – the world had 420 gigatons of CO2 left to emit back on Jan. 1st, 2018. Today that figure is already down to less than 350 gigatons.

“How dare you pretend that this can be solved with just ‘business as usual’ and some technical solutions? With today’s emissions levels, that remaining CO2 budget will be entirely gone within less than 8 1/2 years.

There will not be any solutions or plans presented in line with these figures here today, because these numbers are too uncomfortable. And you are still not mature enough to tell it like it is.

“You are failing us. But the 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.


All wrong: we can use all for emphasis

Yet: used to contrast something (like but)

Fairy Tales: fairy tales are stories for young children. Here she means that their desires of eternal economic growth are unrealistic.

Crystal Clear: obvious, something that leaves no room for doubt.

Nowhere in sight: this means we are missing something or that it’s hidden and can’t be found

No matter how…: used for saying that something is not important or will not have an effect

Keep on + gerund: phrasal verb meaning continue

Emissions: a substance, especially gas, that goes into the air

Set off: cause something to happen accidentally (in other contexts it can mean go on a journey, make something explode, make someone laugh uncontrollably)

CO2: Carbon dioxide, a major greenhouse gas

Barely: used for saying that something almost does not happen/ exist or is almost impossible

Odds: chances

Business as usual: a common expression indicating that the normal operations of a business will not be disturbed by something

In Line with: similar to something

Get away with something: escape negative consequences after doing something bad

Related Post: Learn more vocabulary related to the environment and how Ireland is dealing with climate change

What are you doing for the environment? Do you support Greta’s work? Leave me a comment and I’ll provide feedback on your written English

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