Our Lives Are in Your Hands

Climate March. Stockholm, September 8, 2018


The Paris Agreement on global climate change aims at keeping global warming below 2 degrees Celsius. Any greater temperature rise is a “nightmare scenario,” Thunberg says. According to leading scientists, at this point there is only a 5 percent of meeting the Paris goal, and time to make the required changes is running out. Thunberg’s country, Sweden, has one of the worst individual carbon footprints in the world. It steals several years’ worth of natural resources from future generations every year. That is why she is skipping school and staging a strike outside parliament. To everyone who is more afraid of the changes that would prevent climate catastrophe than of climate change itself, she says, “Those of us who are still children can’t change what you do now once we’re old enough to do something about it. ... So please, treat the climate crisis like the actual crisis it is and give us a future.”


Greta Thunberg addresses the theme of humanity’s survival in a distinctively direct and forceful style that blends strong, clearly stated factual evidence with emotional appeals. This speech exemplifies some of her preferred rhetorical strategies. After opening with a factual statement about the urgency of climate change, she turns to provocative language, referring to Sweden’s use of natural resources as “stealing” from future generations. She incites alarm by identifying climate change as a crisis and her speech as a cry for help. In the second half of the speech, she explicitly calls out powerful public figures for not taking the crisis seriously. In contrast, she frames herself and other young protesters as just a few girls, making them seem helpless and in need of adult protection. Her closing functions as an explicit call to action and a final emotional appeal. Every sentence is designed to evoke a strong audience reaction and motivate people to treat climate change as an urgent threat to human life.