Young people are pleading for action: 10 key messages

Greta Thunberg and millions of other young people from over 150 countries have protested at thousands of events, coordinated by the Fridays for Future group of youth climate activists.

This article sets out ten key messages, illustrated by quotes from their articles etc.

The 10 key messages

  1. Young people are sacrificing their studies to protest for a safe future.
  2. The science is clear: keep global warming to 1.5°C.
  3. Governments, business and media have failed to act - in fact they haven't even tried.
  4. Action is now urgent.
  5. Set out annual carbon budgets incorporating global equity to limit global warming to 1.5°C.
  6. Stop the pretence.
  7. Stop the false accounting.
  8. Enormous changes are needed but are possible.
  9. Young people need help from adults.
  10. Challenge the fallacies and inaction.

Quotes from articles, letters etc

1. Young people are sacrificing their studies to protest for a safe future

"We spent weeks and months preparing for this day. We spent uncountable hours organising and mobilising when we could have just hung out with our friends or studied for school." [1]

"And even though you might have the option of ignoring the climate crisis, that is not an option for us - for your children. Right now, there is no place on earth where children face a future in a safe environment. This is and will be very much a reality for the rest of our lives." [2]

" I sure am not willing to give up - not in a million years. We will keep on demanding and fighting for a safe future. Every fraction of a degree matters - and will always matter." [3]

2. The science is clear: keep global warming to 1.5°C

"[The 2018] UN intergovernmental panel on climate change's special report on global warming was clear about the unprecedented dangers of going beyond 1.5C of global heating. " [1]

"We are facing an existential crisis, and this is a crisis that we can not buy, build, or invest our way out of." [2]

3. Governments, business and media have failed to act - in fact they haven't even tried

"Politicians have known about climate change for decades." [1]
"years of talking, countless negotiations" [1]
"empty deals on climate change" [1]
"It is now clearer than ever that the climate crisis has never once been treated as a crisis, neither from the politicians, media, business, nor finance." [2]

"we have done our homework and we will not accept your extremely irresponsible gamble. The insufficient 50% budget means giving up. And that is simply not an option to us." [2]

"Of course we welcome sustainable investments and policies, but you must not for one second believe that what you have discussed so far will be even close to enough." [2]

"If all countries were to actually go through with the emission reductions they have set as goals, we would still be heading for a catastrophic global temperature rise of at least 3-4°C. The people in power today have so far practically already given up on the possibility of handing over a decent future for coming generations. They have given up without even trying." [2]

"The world's planned fossil fuel production by the year 2030 accounts for 120% more than what would be consistent with the 1.5° target. It just doesn't add up." [2]

"When leaders now present these very insufficient targets, they admit that they are surrendering on the 1.5°C target, surrendering on their promises and on our futures. Still, as it is now, world leaders get away with it since the gap of awareness is so immense. And this is the heart of the problem." [3]

"fossil fuel companies being given free rides to drill beneath our soils and burn away our futures for their profit" [1]

4. Action is now urgent

"Treat the climate- and ecological emergency like an emergency." [2]

"The race to safeguard future living conditions for life on Earth as we know it needs to start today. Not in a few years, but now." [2]

"In order to limit global heating to 1,5 degrees, the upcoming months and years are crucial. The clock is ticking." [2]

5. Immediately set out annual carbon budgets to comply with limiting global warming to 1.5°C

"We ask you to face the climate emergency." [2]
"We need to end the ongoing wrecking, exploitation and destruction of our life supporting systems and move towards a fully decarbonised economy that centres around the wellbeing of all people as well as the natural world." [2]

"governments immediately provide a safe pathway to stay within 1.5C of global heating" [1]

"this needs to include a science based pathway which gives us the best possible odds to limit the global average temperature rise to below 1.5°C." [2]

"distant emission targets will mean nothing if we just continue to ignore the carbon budget - which applies for today, not a faraway future." [2]

"establish annual, binding carbon budgets based on the current best available science and the IPCC's budget which gives us a 66% chance of limiting the global temperature rise to below 1.5°C." [2]

"[Carbon budgets] need to include the global aspect of equity, tipping points and feedback loops" [2]

"[Carbon budgets] shouldn't depend on assumptions of possible future negative emissions technologies." [2]

Specific actions
"halt all investments in fossil fuel exploration and extraction, immediately end all fossil fuel subsidies and immediately and completely divest from fossil fuels." [2]

6. Stop the pretence

"You must stop pretending that we can solve the climate- and ecological crisis without treating it as a crisis" [2]

"the longer we keep pretending that we are on a reliable path to lower emissions and that the actions required to avoid a climate disaster are available within today's system - or for that matter that we can solve a crisis without treating it like one - the more precious time we will lose." [2]

"climate commitments, like 'net zero emissions by 2050' [are] ... completely reliant on future, fantasy-scaled, currently barely-existing negative emission technologies. [3]

7. Stop the false accounting

"Include total emissions in all figures and targets, including consumption index, international aviation and shipping." [2]

"climate commitments, like 'net zero emissions by 2050' ... could be a great start if it wasn't for the fact that they are full of gaps and loopholes, like leaving out emissions from consumption of imported goods, as well as international aviation, shipping and the burning of biomass; using baseline manipulation; excluding most tipping points and feedback loops; and ignoring the global aspect of equity and historic emissions;" [3]

"we can keep cheating in order to pretend that these targets are in line with what is needed. But, while we can fool others - and even ourselves - we cannot fool nature and physics. The emissions are still there - whether we choose to count them or not." [3]

8. Enormous changes are needed but are possible

"Emissions must drop rapidly - so that by the time we are in our mid- and late-20s we are living in a completely transformed world." [1]

"Our current system is not 'broken' - the system is doing exactly what it's supposed and designed to be doing. It can no longer be 'fixed'. We need a new system." [2]

"When you read the IPCC SR1.5 Report and the UNEP Production Gap Report, as well as what you have actually signed up for in the Paris Agreement, even a child can see that the climate and ecological crisis cannot be solved within today's system." [2]

"We understand and know very well that the world is complicated and that what we are asking for may not be easy. The changes necessary to safeguard humanity may seem very unrealistic. But it is much more unrealistic to believe that our society would be able to survive the global heating we're heading for, as well as other disastrous ecological consequences of today's business as usual. [2]

"Because if we are to avoid a climate catastrophe we have to make it possible to tear up contracts and abandon existing deals and agreements, on a scale we can't even begin to imagine today. And those types of actions are not politically, economically or legally possible within today's system." [2]

"make ecocide an international crime at the International Criminal Court" [2]
"Safeguard and protect democracy." [2]
"Design climate policies that protect workers and the most vulnerable and reduce all forms of inequality: economic, racial and gender." [2]
"We must believe that we can do this - because we can." [3]

Give leadership to the world
"When you signed the Paris Agreement you committed to leading the way. The high income countries have the economic and political possibility to do so, therefore it is our moral responsibility. And now you need to actually deliver on your promises." [2]

9. Young people need help from adults

"We can't stave off global heating by ourselves." [1]
"it is not just up to us." [1]
"We're asking adults to step up alongside us." [street protests] [1]
"everyone can and must help." [1]
Resistance and rebelling
"If we care, we must do more than say we do. We must act." [1]
"People have risen up before to demand action and make change" [1]
"adults to ... step up and out of your comfort zone for our climate." [street protests] [1]
"We're counting on you." [1]
"It is time for all of us to unleash mass resistance" [1]
"This is about crossing lines - it's about rebelling wherever one can rebel." [1]

"Today we children are fighting for ourselves, but so many of our parents are busy discussing whether our grades are good, or a new diet or what happened in the Game of Thrones finale - while the planet burns." [1]
"Sorry if this is inconvenient for you" [1]

10. Challenge the fallacies and inaction

  • "Let's call out their bullsh!t" [3]

  • "blah blah blah" [4]


What the youth climate activists are saying is in line with the scientific consensus.

Well-meaning people should consider how they can comply with, support and publicise their requests and demands.

Further information

References and links

[1]Young people have led the climate strikes. Now we need adults to join us too (May 2019) Greta Thunberg and 46 youth activists for Fridays for Future
[2]Face the Climate Emergency open letter (Jul 2020) Luisa Neubauer, Greta Thunberg, Anuna de Wever van der Heyden, Adelaide Charlier
[3]This is an emergency alert for the general public (Earth Day video) (Apr 2021) Greta Thunberg
[4]Greta Thunberg at the Milan Youth4Climate preCOP Conference (Sep 2021)

Other resources

First published: Mar 2019
Last updated: 3 Aug 2023