The Bright Star In A Year of Dire Climate Warnings

The Bright Star In A Year of Dire Climate Warnings. Below2C

The strongest message on Climate in 2019 did not come from the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change). Nor did it come from climate scientists, or world leaders, or the Pope, or the United Nations. It came from 17-year old Greta Thunberg, Time Magazine’s person of the year for getting the world’s attention on the climate threat.
In the 17 months since Greta Thunberg began her climate strikes (August 2018), she has easily become the most influential climate leader on the planet. She has met with heads of state, addressed world leaders at the United Nations, the World Economic Forum, governments of several countries — the United Kingdom, Ireland, The EU Parliament, the U.S Congress — and inspired millions to join the largest climate demonstration ever on September 20, 2019. Thunberg is synonymous with “climate strike” which was declared word of the year by Collins Dictionary. Her impact on the climate movement is immeasurable.David Roberts (writing in Vox) zeroes in on the primary reason for Greta’s success and appeal. “Thunberg has sidestepped attacks on her motives by almost entirely refraining from endorsing specific political reforms or policies,” writes Roberts. Greta simply says “I can’t really speak up about things like [politics]…no one would take me seriously.”

I want you to listen to the science

Greta wants world leaders to follow the science. Her insistence on this point was illustrated when she submitted the IPCC’s report on limiting warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius in lieu of testifying to the US Congress. Attached was a short letter that said: “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. And I want you to unite behind the science. And then I want you to take action.” Greta does not allow her actions to take center stage. She insists that science, not politics, must lead climate policy.

In Intelligencer, David Wallace-Wells writes about Greta’s “extraordinary rise…and her Hail Mary climate movement.” He points out that she’s “the Joan of Arc of climate change, commanding a global army of teenage activists numbering in the millions and waging a rhetorical war against her elders through the unapologetic use of generational shame.”

Greta’s language is impassioned, hot, direct and raw

The following Greta quotes have come to dominate the post-hope climate era we are now living in.

You only speak of green eternal economic growth because you are too scared of being unpopular. You only talk about moving forward with the same bad ideas that got us into this mess, even when the only sensible thing to do is pull the emergency brake. You are not mature enough to tell it like it is. Even that burden you leave to us children…Our civilization is being sacrificed for the opportunity of a very small number of people to continue making enormous amounts of money. — COP 24 climate conference in Poland

The year 2078, I will celebrate my 75th birthday. If I have children, maybe they will spend that day with me. Maybe they will ask me about you. Maybe they will ask why you didn’t do anything while there still was time to act. You say you love your children above all else, and yet you are stealing their future in front of their very eyes. — COP 24 climate conference in Poland

Adults keep saying we owe it to the young people to give them hope. But I don’t want your hope. I don’t want you to be hopeful; I want you to panic. I want you to feel the fear I feel every day. And then I want you to act, I want you to act as you would in a crisis. I want you to act as if the house was on fire, because it is. — World Economic Forum in Davos

I don’t want you to listen to me. I want you to listen to the scientists. And I want you to unite behind the science. And then I want you to take action. — U.S. Congress

Living is a post-hope era

Greta Thunberg has emerged as the new climate guru in a post-hope world. The Paris Agreement promised to keep the warming of the planet well below 2 degrees Celsius and aim for 1.5 degrees. But recent reports show that landmasses have now passed 1.5 degrees and large sections of oceans have as well. As Wallace-Wells writes, “that ship had already sailed” by the time Greta reached New York after her carbon-free crossing of the Atlantic ocean.

Teen girls took over the climate movement. What happens next?

Greta Thunberg takes part in a climate strike in Montreal. September 27, 2019. Photography by The Canadian Press / Paul Chiasson

If you try to picture a climate activist over the past very long year, you will likely summon the image of a young girl. It’s not necessarily the stern Swedish one with pigtails. It could be the bespectacled daughter of one embattled Somali-American representative, the tall Latina from Seattle drenched and yelling at the first Youth Climate March, or a less nationally-known girl you happened to catch at the head of your local climate strike.

Whether you like it or not, the teenage girl has become the symbol of the climate movement. They have demanded to be seen, heard, and heeded, and they’ve at least gotten their way with the first two. There is a reason that Greta Thunberg, founder of the school climate strikes and not yet 17 years old, is Time’s Person of The Year and that Alexandria Villaseñor, the 14-year-old founder of Earth Uprising, spoke at COP25 in Madrid. Quannah Chasing Horse and Nanieezh Peter, 17 and 15, also traveled to Madrid to advocate for climate justice in their homeland of Alaska.

But it’s that third item on their wish list, that pesky “heeded” part, that remains elusive. Thunberg has insisted over and over again that she doesn’t want attention, she wants action. Villaseñor was horrified by the rather spectacular collapse of the international climate summit she crossed an ocean to attend. None of these girls is content with the mere spotlight, and rightfully so — they want leaders to make swift, meaningful overhauls to national economies and infrastructure, and that hasn’t happened.

A high school girl has a uniquely precarious place in American society. She doesn’t have a voice in the political system, but she’s depended upon heavily as a consumer. She gets the message that she should be empowered and confident and generally sans fucks, but the grown women she sees on Instagram are digitally and surgically altering everything from their rib cages to their cheekbones to look like composite Kardashians. She knows how to use social media to be heard, but she can also be tortured by it. And maybe most overwhelmingly of all, she knows that the world she’s going to grow up in is going to be much more chaotic than the one her parents expected, and she had no role in making it that way.

Hava Gordon, a sociologist at Denver University who studies gender and social movements, described a dynamic where teenage girls today are looking at the world they’ve been left and realizing they’re completely ostracized from the power structures that could change it. So they’re using what they can to get noticed, and it’s working pretty well.

“Most teenage activists don’t have the right to vote or run for office just yet,” she said. “So they’re harnessing media and social media in really interesting ways; they’re also finding their institutional leverage with schools and school strikes as well.”

Teenage girls have long been defined by their obsession of the hour — and long been the object of a good deal of American cultural obsession themselves. The current iteration is the VSCO girl, the Instagram-centric trend characterized by ‘90s-revival style and a surprising environmental ethic. Kate Aronoff reported on the VSCO girl’s climate enthusiasm for The Intercept in September and noted:

It’s not as if all VSCO Girls are sleeper climate champions. But as climate organizing has come to involve more and more people, it’s sucking the trends of the day up with it, as those trends in turn reflect the concerns and anxieties of the generation from which they’ve sprouted.

You see all kinds of variation in the way young women use the tools they have to be heard. Alexis Ren, the 23-year-old American Instagram model, has made a recent attempt to awaken the millions of followers devoted to her bikini shots to the destruction of coral reefs in the North Pacific. Meanwhile, Thunberg, who seems much more comfortable in a zip-up hoodie than a high-rise French cut, has certainly become the best-known girl climate activist in the country due in part to her savvy use of Twitter.

Thunberg’s prominence has only been boosted by one Twitter-obsessed president’s snide comments about her, where he characterizes her as a weird, petulant, tantrum-throwing child. (Even the least astute psychologist might be able to identify this as “projection,” but that’s neither here nor there.) And the young girl’s ascent has been accompanied by her very own religious iconography; in October, her face was painted across a building in San Francisco like a cathedral mural. She’s even released a short book of her speeches, a kind of pocket scripture for the modern-day climate disciple.

Thunberg has said she doesn’t want to be the center of attention; she just feels obligated to use her platform to advocate for change. It calls to mind an earlier pioneering environmental activist: Rachel Carson, who was 55 when she published Silent Spring in 1962. In What a Book Can Do: The Publication and Reception of Silent Spring, Priscilla Coit Murphy describes the writer and scientist’s desire to remove herself as a character from the conversation about her landmark journalistic work revealing the impacts of DDT. But despite the enigma Carson fought to maintain, she remained a focus of the press: “Carson herself was a classically appealing protagonist, despite her best efforts to remain private,” writes Murphy. “Much of the news coverage began with a description of her appearance and various qualities: ‘shy,’ ‘petite,’ ‘soft-spoken,’ or less felicitously, ‘spinster,’ or ‘bachelor biologist.’”

Movements of outspoken women have been fascinating to the public at the very least since suffragettes, and that fascination runs the gamut from religious adoration to cruel denigration. And yet many social justice efforts throughout history have been predominantly women-led; the most recent examples are the Black Lives Matter and Fight for $15 movements. Why women? Gordon describes a theory that we’re socialized to mind the home — keep things orderly, functional, and pretty — and that that cultivated instinct carries over to, well, the entire world.

But the suffragettes were doing their thing over a hundred years ago; this is not new! I asked Gordon why the surge of teen girl climate activists seems so novel. She mentioned two things: They’re younger than most women leaders before them, and we continue to be surprised by women who lead social movements because we don’t see that dynamic represented in the halls of power. Just under a quarter of Congressional representatives are women, and just under 30 percent of state-level elected officials are women.

“You can look at a teenage boy activist and think, ‘He’s gonna be president or a senator, this is good practice for him!’” said Gordon. “But the public doesn’t look at young women and girls that way.”

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is a notable exception to the accepted model of legislator: young, female, Latina, internet–fluent, and, of course, unapologetically outspoken. She’s also been a vocal advocate for both young teen climate activists and comprehensive and transformative climate legislation.

But despite the fact that Ocasio-Cortez is now a household name whose likeness can be found riding a unicorn on a coffee mug, she’s still up against a largely old, white, male Congress that’s resistant to the kind of systemic transformation she and millions of young climate activists would love to see.

Girl activists rose to prominence in 2019 and captured the world’s attention. As they grow into women activists — and maybe politicians — over this year and the coming ones, I would love nothing more than to see them capture some of its power.  SOURCE

 

OPINION: The most courageous climate action isn’t national, it’s in the cities and streets

Image result for OPINION: The most courageous climate action isn't national, it's in the cities and streets

High school students hold placards and shout slogans during a protest to demand action on climate change as part of the Global Climate Srike of the movement Fridays for the Future in Athens in Athens, Greece, Nov 29, 2019. REUTERS/Alixis Konstandindis

It’s time to support young people as they wake up their elders. It may be the only thing that saves us. See you in the streets. I’ll be there, marching beside my daughter.

What happened in Madrid at the U.N. climate talks seemed like a giant game of chicken with no one willing to move. Actually, it was more like collective breakdown. Leadership by the top four largest emitters was completely absent.

China and the U.S. brought no new proposals to ratchet up their reduction of emissions. India argued for a deadline extension. Europe showed signs of leadership on net zero emissions, but its member countries, notably Poland and the Czech Republic, are holding the EU hostage, waiting for a big payout for their consent.

Sure, there were important little things that happened, but not the big things we need if we’re to preserve a hospitable planet.

A courageous group of countries, including Denmark, other Nordics, and Canada, announced intentions to adopt science-based targets. That’s a start. We are told that this group, along with 15 others, are ready to announce a net zero commitment early next year and that they plan to rally others to join them. Europe’s net zero agreement could come by March.

That’s better than nothing. And, in some ways, it’s similar to the momentum-building we witnessed at the Paris climate talks in 2015. There, a coalition of countries rallied others to keep warming targets to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial temperatures, which is what scientists say is necessary to avoid the worst of climate chaos.

But we’re nowhere near that target. Current national commitments would allow for warming of 3.2-degrees Celsius. The difference between 1.5 and 3.2 degrees is the difference between livability and ongoing catastrophes for the planet, millions of its species, and human communities.

This is where Greta Thunberg’s rage – and many others’ – is spot on. This is a horrendous failure on the part of national leaders.

That’s why we hoped we could rally national governments in Madrid to commit to more ambitious measures to keep warming to no more than 1.5 degrees.

Our window is closing. This moment – between the Paris climate talks in 2015 and the end of 2020 – is when national governments are supposed to proclaim goals that collectively keep the planet to 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial temps, instead of 3.2 degrees.

And the only way we’ll be able to do that is if we agree to a goal of net zero emissions by 2050. That would require all four big emitters to set stronger long-term goals.

What’s holding them back, of course – in China, the U.S., India and Europe – are their fossil fuel industry interests and fossil-invested financial partners.

Meanwhile, everyone else gets it. Cities, states, regions, businesses, and youth get it. Leaders from each rallied as hard as they could in Madrid.

The city, state, and corporate determination to act is so inspiring. (Check out the Carbon Neutral Cities Alliance’s game changers as just one example of the leadership here.) This community has grown by leaps and bounds since Paris. They’ve shown creativity and purpose in proposing their own levels of ambition required to solve the climate crisis.

Most inspiring of all, though, were the hundreds of youth that demonstrated inside Madrid’s conference center, on behalf of millions of youth demonstrating globally this year, demanding their elders do better. They are a powerful rebuke to fossil fuel interests and their bankers. In Madrid, their courage – when they were forcibly removed from UN climate talks, shoved out of the building, and banned from re-entering – is deeply inspiring. Imagine if presidents and prime ministers were this courageous.

Going forward, this is where the most interesting climate action will be. Youth leaders, discouraged by the lack of government response to the climate emergency, are training their sights on bad corporate actors. Woe to fossil fuel and banking executives who face demonstrations by Greta and her peers in the coming year.

She won’t be alone. We all need to stand with Greta outside financial and fossil fuel industry corporate offices, holding their feet to the fire. And governments must listen, too, and show up at the next climate talks with plans to avoid more than a 1.5-degree level of warming. Otherwise, these kids, and the rest of us, are toast.

It’s time to support these young people as they wake up their elders. It may be the only thing that saves us. See you in the streets. I’ll be there, marching beside my daughter. SOURCE

The most courageous climate action isn’t national, it’s in the cities and streets

“It’s time to support young people as they wake up their elders. It may be the only thing that saves us. See you in the streets. I’ll be there, marching beside my daughter.”

Image result for The most courageous climate action isn't national, it's in the cities and streets

High school students hold placards and shout slogans during a protest to demand action on climate change as part of the Global Climate Strike of the movement Fridays for Future in Athens, Greece, November 29, 2019. REUTERS/Alkis Konstantinidis

What happened in Madrid at the U.N. climate talks seemed like a giant game of chicken with no one willing to move. Actually, it was more like collective breakdown. Leadership by the top four largest emitters was completely absent.

China and the U.S. brought no new proposals to ratchet up their reduction of emissions. India argued for a deadline extension. Europe showed signs of leadership on net zero emissions, but its member countries, notably Poland and the Czech Republic, are holding the EU hostage, waiting for a big payout for their consent.

Sure, there were important little things that happened, but not the big things we need if we’re to preserve a hospitable planet.

A courageous group of countries, including Denmark, other Nordics, and Canada, announced intentions to adopt science-based targets. That’s a start. We are told that this group, along with 15 others, are ready to announce a net zero commitment early next year and that they plan to rally others to join them. Europe’s net zero agreement could come by March.

That’s better than nothing. And, in some ways, it’s similar to the momentum-building we witnessed at the Paris climate talks in 2015. There, a coalition of countries rallied others to keep warming targets to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial temperatures, which is what scientists say is necessary to avoid the worst of climate chaos.

But we’re nowhere near that target. Current national commitments would allow for warming of 3.2-degrees Celsius. The difference between 1.5 and 3.2 degrees is the difference between livability and ongoing catastrophes for the planet, millions of its species, and human communities.

This is where Greta Thunberg’s rage – and many others’ – is spot on. This is a horrendous failure on the part of national leaders.

That’s why we hoped we could rally national governments in Madrid to commit to more ambitious measures to keep warming to no more than 1.5 degrees.

Our window is closing. This moment – between the Paris climate talks in 2015 and the end of 2020 – is when national governments are supposed to proclaim goals that collectively keep the planet to 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial temps, instead of 3.2 degrees.

And the only way we’ll be able to do that is if we agree to a goal of net zero emissions by 2050. That would require all four big emitters to set stronger long-term goals.

What’s holding them back, of course – in China, the U.S., India and Europe – are their fossil fuel industry interests and fossil-invested financial partners.

Meanwhile, everyone else gets it. Cities, states, regions, businesses, and youth get it. Leaders from each rallied as hard as they could in Madrid.

The city, state, and corporate determination to act is so inspiring. (Check out the Carbon Neutral Cities Alliance’s game changers as just one example of the leadership here.) This community has grown by leaps and bounds since Paris. They’ve shown creativity and purpose in proposing their own levels of ambition required to solve the climate crisis.

Most inspiring of all, though, were the hundreds of youth that demonstrated inside Madrid’s conference center, on behalf of millions of youth demonstrating globally this year, demanding their elders do better. They are a powerful rebuke to fossil fuel interests and their bankers. In Madrid, their courage – when they were forcibly removed from UN climate talks, shoved out of the building, and banned from re-entering – is deeply inspiring. Imagine if presidents and prime ministers were this courageous.

Going forward, this is where the most interesting climate action will be. Youth leaders, discouraged by the lack of government response to the climate emergency, are training their sights on bad corporate actors. Woe to fossil fuel and banking executives who face demonstrations by Greta and her peers in the coming year.

She won’t be alone. We all need to stand with Greta outside financial and fossil fuel industry corporate offices, holding their feet to the fire. And governments must listen, too, and show up at the next climate talks with plans to avoid more than a 1.5-degree level of warming. Otherwise, these kids, and the rest of us, are toast.

It’s time to support these young people as they wake up their elders. It may be the only thing that saves us. See you in the streets. I’ll be there, marching beside my daughter. SOURCE

 

Jane Fonda speaks to CBC’s Susan Ormiston

Actor Jane Fonda tells CBC’s Susan Ormiston who inspired her to protest again and what she learned from her earlier agitating years.

Image result for cbc: Jane Fonda speaks to CBC's Susan Ormiston

WATCH THE VIDEO

Jane Fonda talks protest, arrest — and why she wants another night in jail

‘It’s quite an experience to know that you are powerless’

Jane Fonda is arrested by U.S. Capitol Police officers during a Fire Drill Friday climate change protest Nov. 1. (Siphiwe Sibeko/Reuters)

Jane Fonda’s hoping for an unusual birthday present — another night in a Washington, D.C., jail.

The award-winning actress and businesswoman has decamped to Washington from Los Angeles to protest against climate change.

“I decided I needed to leave my comfort zone and put my body on the line, engage in civil disobedience and risk getting arrested because we need to step up with bolder actions. It’s a real crisis,” she told CBC’s Susan Ormiston.

Fire Drill Fridays were inspired by climate activist Greta Thunberg. Since Sept. 27, Fonda has joined a group of protesters engaging in civil disobedience; she’s been arrested four times and jailed once, overnight.

“It’s quite an experience to know that you are powerless, that you have been handcuffed and that you were completely in the control of the police,” she said.

“Because I’m white and famous, I’m not going to be treated badly.”

She said her jailers couldn’t believe she was there voluntarily. She admits the power of protest will not change policy overnight but she brings “celebrity,” which is important, she says, to motivate others to act on their convictions and get out to protest the climate crisis.

Watch an excerpt of Susan Ormiston’s interview with Jane Fonda:

Jane Fonda has been arrested four times in recent weeks for protesting climate change. “I’m following in the steps of young people,” she tells The National’s Susan Ormiston. 2:09

Jane Fonda has been arrested four times in recent weeks for protesting climate change. “I’m following in the steps of young people,” she tells The National’s Susan Ormiston. 2:09

Fonda is no stranger to activism. Over 50 years she’s demonstrated for women’s and Indigenous rights, and against the Iraq war and Alberta’s oilsands.

She was first arrested in the early 1970s for her opposition to the war in Vietnam. She was dubbed Hanoi Jane after posing with the North Vietnamese and later apologized. But back then, she was seen as a disruptor and was apprehended crossing into the U.S. from Canada.

“You know, the more they attacked me, the more I dug in my heels. If they thought I was some soft Hollywood starlet daughter of Henry Fonda and they could bully me, no, I wasn’t gonna let them get me. I just kept going,” she told CBC.

Does she still feel that way?

“Oh yeah,” says Fonda, “Only see, now I’m old and so I feel even more capable of standing up.”

She just might celebrate her 82nd birthday this Saturday locked up again.

Why is the president of the United States cyberbullying a 16-year-old girl?

What it says to girls is: no matter what you do, no matter how much you achieve, powerful men will try to cut you down

 ‘Greta must work on her Anger Management problem, then go to a good old fashioned movie with a friend!’ Trump tweeted on Thursday. ‘Chill Greta, Chill!’ Photograph: Cristina Quicler/AFP via Getty Images

The morning after election day 2016, I got a call from a girls’ school in New York where I was scheduled to speak. “We have to reschedule,” said a representative from the school. “The girls are too upset.”

Girls across the country were upset when Trump was elected, but not simply on partisan grounds. They were upset because Donald Trump was a bully, a cyberbully, and he bullied girls and young women like them – women like the former Miss Universe Alicia Machado, who revealed that, when she was 19, he called her “Miss Piggy,” a dig at her weight.

In a New York Times poll in the run-up to the election, nearly half of girls aged 14 to 17 said that Trump’s comments about women affected the way they think about their bodies. Only 15% of girls said they would vote for him if they could.

And now Trump has a new target for his bullying: Greta Thunberg, the 16-year-old environmental activist. Thunberg seems to be really making Trump upset, without meaning to. She doesn’t fit into any of his ideas of how girls are supposed to act. She isn’t trying to be a contestant in one of his beauty pageants. She’s too busy trying to get world leaders like him to do something about the climate crisis. She’s too occupied by giving speeches at places like the UN – where Trump was laughed at, when he gave a speech in 2018, and Thunberg was met with respect, despite slamming the entire body for “misleading” the public with inadequate emission-reduction pledges.

In the last couple of weeks, while Trump was seemingly mocked by his peers at the Nato summit in London, and impeachment hearings against him began, Thunberg was named Time’s person of the year, an honor Trump reportedly wanted. And so he did what he always seems to do, on Twitter, when he’s upset: he lashed out by accusing the person upsetting him of the very things he’s feeling, or is guilty of.

“Greta must work on her Anger Management problem, then go to a good old fashioned movie with a friend!” Trump tweeted on Thursday. “Chill Greta, Chill!”

Poor Trump. This tweet didn’t sound very chill. And Thunberg knew it. Like the majority of girls growing up in the digital age, she has been cyberbullied before – by Trump himself, who, after her celebrated speech before the UN General Assembly, sarcastically tweeted, “She seems like a very happy young girl looking forward to a bright and wonderful future. So nice to see!”

Both times Trump has tweeted about her, Thunberg’s responses have been jocular, and sarcastic in kind. This week, she changed her Twitter bio to: “A teenager working on her anger management problem. Currently chilling and watching a good old fashioned movie with a friend.”

In her handling of being cyberbullied by the president of the United States, at age 16, Thunberg has become an inspiration for girls two times over – first as a climate activist, then as a social media ninja.

But that doesn’t mean that Trump’s cyberbullying of Thunberg is any less despicable, or dangerous. What it says to girls all over the world is: no matter what you do, no matter how much you achieve, powerful men can and will try to cut you down.

This message is depressing, scary and not without potentially dire consequences. It’s a message that has contributed to a precipitous rise in the suicide rate among girls. It’s a message that has contributed to rising anxiety and depression among girls and young women. It’s a message that Trump’s wife, Melania, is supposed to be combatting, with her campaign against cyberbullying.

But girls don’t need Melania Trump to be their role model in fighting against online harassment. They have each other, and they have Thunberg. SOURCE

RELATED:

Michelle Obama posts in solidarity with Greta Thunberg after Trump tweet
Thunberg trolls Trump after he mocks her in tweet

 

HOW THE FOSSIL FUEL INDUSTRY IS ATTEMPTING TO BUY THE GLOBAL YOUTH CLIMATE MOVEMENT

Image result for the interept: HOW THE FOSSIL FUEL INDUSTRY IS ATTEMPTING TO BUY THE GLOBAL YOUTH CLIMATE MOVEMENT

BP CEO Bob Dudley, left, and chief economist Spencer Dale speak during a session at the One Young World Summit in London on Oct. 23, 2019. Photo: Facundo Arrizabalaga/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

THE SAME DAY that 16-year-old climate activist Greta Thunberg gave a stirring speech at the United Nations Climate Action Summit in September, in which she criticized delegates for “stealing my dreams and my childhood with your empty words,” the architects of the climate crisis welcomed select youth participants from the summit to dine.

CEOs from fossil fuel corporations including BP, Royal Dutch Shell, and Norway’s Equinor were attending the annual gathering of the Oil and Gas Climate Initiative in New York, which includes industry leaders who claim to be committed to taking “practical” action on climate change. On the agenda for lunch was to “explore options for long-term engagement” with young people the industry could trust. Student Energy, a nonprofit based in Alberta, near Canada’s tar sands region, helped organize the event, which included time for students to grill the CEOs about their inaction on climate change.

Tension in the room was high, Student Energy’s executive director, 30-year-old Meredith Adler, told The Intercept. “The whole discussion started off with one of our participants talking about why youth don’t trust oil and gas companies,” she said. But by the end of the meeting, Adler tweeted that she was “very impressed” with OGCI. “I don’t feel they had all the answers or strong enough answers but they are really listening,” she wrote.

The students’ questions may have been tough, but the event was great PR for the fossil fuel industry. Gone are the days when CEOs openly questioned the existence of climate change. Today, industry leaders are feigning a sense of climate urgency while pushing forward proposals for climate action that will allow companies to keep harvesting carbon-emitting products well into the future. Subjecting themselves to a cohort of skeptical students was an opportunity for oil and gas executives to boost their credibility in an era when many young activists will only engage with them with picket signs.

Young activists say they’re seeing more of this “youth-washing” as the global youth climate movement gains momentum, including at the U.N. annual climate conference, known as COP 25, which is wrapping up in Madrid this week. With “youth” becoming synonymous with climate action, corporations and politicians are increasingly using young people to portray themselves as climate serious.

“There’s a real dangerous tokenism of youth for the benefit of public image.”

“The use of youth in campaigning is becoming more and more overt,” said 24-year-old Eilidh Robb, a member of the U.K. Youth Climate Coalition, who has been involved in pushing the U.N. to adopt a conflict of interest policy that would prevent fossil fuel industry representatives from exercising influence at COP. “There’s a real dangerous tokenism of youth for the benefit of public image.”

The OGCI gathering was a particularly egregious example of youth-washing. OGCI has provided funding to Student Energy, and OGCI ventures director Rhea Hamilton is on the group’s board of directors. Among the “partners” listed in Student Energy’s 2018 annual report are Royal Dutch Shell and Suncor, one of Canada’s biggest tar sands producers. Fossil fuel companies consistently fund the organization’s annual conference.

Although Student Energy’s leaders often echo the talking points of activists like Thunberg, the group’s membership — a network it claims includes 40,000 young people — is largely made up of people who want to work in the energy industry.

Student Energy is among the youth groups granted observer status at COP 25, meaning that its members can gain access to negotiation spaces, speak with the negotiating parties, and participate in events. Its presence at the U.N.’s international climate talks is only expected to grow. Student Energy’s 2018 report noted that the group had seen a 73 percent increase in active chapters. Next year, the oil and gas major BP has pledged to send 50 Student Energy delegates to COP26. The funding would double the size of the group’s usual delegation, according to a BP press release. In a conference space that serves as a battleground of ideas about how to address the climate crisis, BP apparently sees Student Energy’s presence as beneficial to the corporation. MORE