There is genuinely no precedent in the modern history of geopolitics for the climate activist Greta Thunberg.

Four and a half years ago, she began ''striking'' outside of Swedish parliament - a single STUDENT/ teenager with a single sign. She was 15. In just a few months, she had made her mark at the United Nations climate conference in Poland :

'' You are not mature enough to tell it like it is,'' she told the assembled diplomats and negotiators, ''even that burden you leave to us children.''

By the time she spoke at Davos that January, excoriating the world  - '' I want you to act as if the house is on fire, because it is '' - she had become the face of the global climate movement, giving it an entirely new generational life and scale.

She led weekly marches across the globe that drew millions of people through 2019 and helped force the world's most powerful people to at least pay lip service to what they called a climate crisis.

I first met Ms. Thunberg in the middle of that maelstrom, when she came to New York in 2019 by boat to help stage two large climate strikes as bookends to the U.N.'s climate week. A lot has changed since then, and then again, a whole lot hasn't. Ms. Thunberg is 20 now.

Countries accounting for almost 90 percent of the world's emissions and G.D.P. have made net-zero pledges. Renewable energy is skyrocketing, though fossil fuel use has only plateaued - perhaps even peaked - but it is a long way down from 40 gigatons [ 50 if you include methane ] to zero.

Current policies still point to a global average temperature rise above three degrees Celsius this century, more than double the more ambitious goals enshrined by the Paris agreement in 2015.

And now Ms. Thunberg has published her third book, called ''The Climate Book,'' a curated tour of the state of the emergency and how to think about it from more than 100 contributors. [I wrote an essay for it drawing lessons from the experience of the pandemic.]

In early February I spoke with Ms. Thunberg, who was in Sweden, over Zoom, about why she believes it is now a trickier time to be a climate activist than when she began, why it's no longer sufficient to listen to the scientists, the necessity of systems change and whether she still believes in the basic goodness of people.

''If there's one thing that I've learned from being an activist these last five years now, it's that many, many people want to do good.''

.- In the book, you wrote : ''We still need to answer some fundamental questions. What is it exactly we want to solve in the first place? What is our goal?'' How would you answer those questions now?

Right now it seems like the people in power just don't want to solve the climate crisis. They want to find ''solutions,'' whether they're good or not, that enable us to continue now, as we have been, that allows them to continue staying in power and to satisfy their greed.

That's not what I think that we should be striving for. I think that we need to make sure that no one's well-being is at the expense of someone else. But that's not what our current people in power seem to want.

.- Can we limit damages without changing that fundamental dynamic of exploitation, which predates the climate crisis?

I don't think we can.

The Master Essay continues. The World Students Society thanks author David-Wallace-Wells, a writer for Opinion and a Columnist for The New York Times Magazine. He is also the author of ''The Uninhabitable Earth.''


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