PRESS EDITORIAL: The gift we must give our children

To use one of President Donald Trump’s favorite words, the symbolism of his Twitter ridicule of Greta Thunberg was “perfect.”

The spectacle of a 73-year-old billionaire leader of the most powerful country in the world publicly mocking a 16-year-old Swedish girl because she, rather than he, was named Time magazine’s Person of the Year was remarkable as an insight into character that is best explained by psychologists.

More than that, however, it provided a perfect picture of climate change as a generational conflict.

Greta is an inspirational icon as the leader of a youth crusade that has grown into a worldwide movement protesting the failure of nations to act to protect the planet and the life it supports from the devastation of global warming.

President Trump, who withdrew the U.S.—the producer of more atmosphere-warming carbon than any nation—from the Paris accord on climate change, opposed steps to combat warming proposed by other governments at the recent Madrid climate summit and has eliminated numerous regulations limiting greenhouse-gas pollution in this country, may be the most influential actor on the world stage opposing efforts to mitigate the dread perils of an overheated planet.

The president and his generation will be gone before the manifold miseries of climate change take effect. Greta and the generations that follow hers will not be so fortunate.

The understanding of climate change has evolved to the point where deniers and doubters are irrelevant. The settled science and already obvious evidence are so clear and compelling that it is taken as accepted fact that if the atmospheric temperature continues to rise, hundreds of millions of people will be exposed to weather extremes that will negate human survival in parts of the world.

The failure to act to mitigate those future disasters by making the sacrifices needed to reduce carbon emissions now has the look of the current generation of decision makers and their followers opting to enjoy the still comfortable life their world allows them while letting future generations fend for themselves in the climate chaos everyone knows is coming.

Greta Thunberg said this to world leaders in a speech at the U.N. Climate Change Conference in Poland a year ago: “You say you love your children above all else. And yet you are stealing their future in front of their very eyes.”

The moral imperative to accept the disciplines needed to avert the worst consequences of manmade global warming can be expressed in many ways, but perhaps Greta’s way will resonate while others go unheard: We owe it to our children to act.

The traditional themes of this time of the year—kindness, generosity and empathy—make it easier to hear her message. Acting to stop the rise of Earth’s temperature before it reaches the catastrophic tipping point after which the planet cannot recover must be our gift to our children.

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Ozaukee Press

Wisconsin’s largest paid circulation community weekly newspaper. Serving Port Washington, Saukville, Grafton, Fredonia, Belgium, as well as Ozaukee County government. Locally owned and printed in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

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