09/27/2019 18:39 EDT | Updated 09/27/2019 21:38 EDT

Why Greta Thunberg Says We Have 8 Years To Stop Catastrophe

“Not once, not one single time, have I heard any politician, journalist or business leader even mention these numbers,” she said at the Montreal climate strike.

Time is running out. 

That was one of the messages Greta Thunberg delivered to a crowd of thousands gathered to demand action on climate change in Montreal. 

“For those who, in many ways, have caused this crisis, the science is too uncomfortable to address. But we, who will have to live with the consequences … we don’t have a choice,” Thunberg said Friday.

“We must speak clearly and tell it like it is, tell the truth.”

The 16-year-old Swedish activist drew attention to specific numbers in a report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), a group of scientists backed by the United Nations. 

“We must speak clearly and tell it like it is.Greta Thunberg speaking in Montreal

Released in 2018, the IPCC’s watershed report laid out exactly what world leaders must do to keep the global temperature from rising more than 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. 

Leaders agreed to keep the world from warming more than two degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels at the Paris climate conference in 2016. But there is urgency to limiting warming below 1.5 degrees Celsius because at that point, climate change will become catastrophic for small islands and coastal cities.

In her address to the Montreal crowd, Thunberg listed the dire facts. 

Martin Ouellet-Diotte/AFP/Getty Images
Protesters crowd the streets in Montreal to demand action on climate change on Sept. 27, 2019.

“In the IPCC’s SR1.5 report that came out last year, it says ... that to have a 67-per-cent chance of staying below a 1.5 degrees of global temperature rise, the best odds given by the IPCC, the world had 420 gigatonnes of [carbon dioxide] left to emit back on Jan. 1, 2018,” Thunberg said. 

“And today, that figure is already down to less than 350 gigatonnes.”

One gigatonne is a billion metric tonnes, and carbon dioxide is the greenhouse gas most commonly linked to climate change. 

“With today’s emissions levels, that remaining [carbon dioxide] budget will be entirely gone within less than eight and a half years,” Thunberg said. 

The world emits more than 1,300 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent every second, according to the Mercator Research Institute on Global Commons and Climate Change, a scientific think tank out of Berlin.

The institute even has a clock that shows how much time is left until Earth’s remaining carbon budget is depleted. 


Thunberg said Friday that people need to understand these numbers.  

“Not once, not one single time, have I heard any politician, journalist or business leader even mention these numbers,” she said.

“They say, ‘Let children be children.’ We agree: let us be children. Do your part. Communicate these kinds of numbers, instead of leaving that responsibility to us.”