Greta Thunberg: Are We Running Out Of Time To Save Our Planet?

Jun 7, 2019
Originally published on June 10, 2019 9:01 am

Part 1 of the TED Radio Hour episode Climate Crisis.

About Greta Thunberg's TED Talk

In 2018, teenager Greta Thunberg began protesting to demand action on climate change. She has inspired protests worldwide. Greta says it's time to panic: we're running out of time to save our planet.

About Greta Thunberg

At age 15, Greta Thunberg began protesting to demand action on climate change. She walked out of school and sat outside the Swedish parliament every day for three weeks. Since then, she has inspired students around the world to protest and she has become a globally recognized climate activist.

In 2018, Thunberg attended the United Nations COP24 in Katowice, Poland, where she made a plenary speech that went viral. In January 2019 she was invited to the World Economic Forum in Davos where her speeches again made a worldwide impact. Thunberg has been nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize and was named one of the world's 100 most influential people by TIME magazine.

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It's the TED Radio Hour from NPR. I'm Guy Raz, and this is Greta Thunberg.


GRETA THUNBERG: My name is Greta Thunberg. I am 16 years old. I come from Sweden, and I want you to panic.

RAZ: And Greta wants us to panic because our time on this planet is running out. Back in August 2018, Greta sat outside the steps of the Swedish Parliament during school hours, holding a sign that read, school strike for the climate.


THUNBERG: Every Friday, we will sit outside the Swedish Parliament until Sweden is in line with the Paris Agreement. We urge everyone to do the same wherever you are. Sit outside...

RAZ: And Greta's call for action prompted other students to walk out of their classrooms and demand change in the name of global warming.


UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTER #1: Some people don't realize what's happening, and some people are just - they don't care, and they're kind of just shoving it away and ignoring it.

UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTER #2: People in the world are dying. So many people are dying because of inaction by our government, you know?

UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTER #3: We want the government to publicly recognize climate change for the emergency that it is.



UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTER #4: When do we want it?


RAZ: And then only a few months after Greta had started her protest, young people all over the world decided to join her.


UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER #1: A group of students around the world is planning to skip class tomorrow to protest against climate change.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER #2: Thousands of school students have staged protests around the country...

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER #3: ...And around the globe.



UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER #4: Students today went on strike for the climate.

UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTER #6: School strike for climate has arrived in America.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER #5: You are never too small to make a difference. That is what a brave...

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER #6: The fact is she has become a bonafide climate change rock star with constant media requests. She's reprimanded world leaders, started a movement of hundreds of thousands of students and has even been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.

THUNBERG: It's an honor for me to be here with you today. Together, we are making a difference.




UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTER #7: When do we want it?




UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTER #7: When do we want it?


THUNBERG: We are in the midst of the sixth mass extinction, and the extinction rate is up to 10,000 times faster than what is considered normal, with up to 200 species becoming extinct every single day. Erosion of fertile topsoil, deforestation of our great forests, toxic air pollution, loss of insects and wildlife, the acidification of our oceans - these are all disastrous trends being accelerated by a way of life that we, here in our financially fortunate part of the world, see as our right to simply carry on.


RAZ: There is no greater threat to our species than the climate crisis. In 2018, we emitted more carbon into the air than in any single year in all of human history. The consequences are real, and they're happening right now. So today on the show, we're going to explore ideas around the climate crisis and what we can do to stop the worst of it because the thing is, we are running out of time. So can we save our planet from total disaster, or is it already too late? Well, for Greta Thunberg, unless we do something drastic and do it right now, that answer is yes. Here's more from Greta on the TED stage.


THUNBERG: If I live to be 100, I will be alive in the year 2103. When you think about the future today, you don't think beyond the year 2050. By then, I will, in the best case, not even have lived half of my life. What happens next? In the year 2078, I will celebrate my 75th birthday. If I have children or grandchildren, maybe they will spend that day with me. Maybe they will ask me about you, the people who were around back in 2018. Maybe they will ask why you didn't do anything while there still was time to act. What we do or don't do right now will affect my entire life and the lives of my children and grandchildren. What we do or don't do right now, me and my generation can't undo in the future.

So when school started in August this year, I decided that this was enough. I sat myself down on the ground outside of Swedish Parliament. I school striked for the climate. Some people say that I should be in school instead. Some people say that I should study to become a climate scientist so that I can solve the climate crisis, but the climate crisis has already been solved. We already have all the facts and solutions. All we have to do is to wake up and change. And why should I be studying for a future that soon will be no more when no one is doing anything whatsoever to save that future? And what is the point of learning facts in the school system when the most important facts given by the finest science of that same school system clearly means nothing to our politicians and our society? Some people say that Sweden is just a small country, and that it doesn't matter what we do. But I think that if a few children can get headlines all over the world just by not going to school for a few weeks, imagine what we could all do together if you wanted to.


THUNBERG: Now, we're almost at the end of my talk.


THUNBERG: And this is where people usually start talking about hope, solar panels, wind power, circular economy and so on. But I'm not going to do that. We've had 30 years of pep talking and selling positive ideas. And I'm sorry, but it doesn't work because if it would have, the emissions would have gone down by now. They haven't. And, yes, we do need hope. Of course we do. But the one thing we need more than hope is action.

Once we start to act, hope is everywhere. So instead of looking for hope, look for action. Then and only then, hope will come. Today we use 100 million barrels of oil every single day. There are no politics to change that. There aren't rules to keep that oil in the ground, so we can't save the world by playing by the rules because the rules have to be changed. Everything needs to change. And it has to start today. Thank you.


RAZ: That's Greta Thunberg. She's a 16-year-old climate activist in Sweden. You can see Greta's full talk at

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