Ridiculed by cynics and mocked by President Donald Trump, who made only a brief appearance at the U.N.’s climate summit, the Swedish teen expressed in the strongest terms her generation’s frustration with the global effort to counter the effects of the human epoch on Earth’s atmosphere. In presenting members of Congress with a copy of a disturbing report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, she said, “I don’t want you to listen to me. I want you to listen to the scientists.”

While some adults dismiss the pleadings of this teenage girl as hysterical — just as they criticized the Parkland student activists who demanded stronger firearms regulations after the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida — many others are listening and nodding agreement. She inspired last week’s student protests of government and corporate inaction, and former President Barack Obama fist-bumped her and called her “one of our planet’s greatest advocates.”

They understand that climate change presents a grave and complex threat to the quality of life of future generations. Surveys of Americans have clearly shown growing acceptance that human activity — primarily, our use of fossil fuels — is the major cause of climate change, and a recent poll conducted by The Washington Post and the Kaiser Family Foundation found that 40% of us now believe climate change to be a “crisis,” up from under 25% five years ago.

Scientists say without accelerated efforts to reduce carbon emissions in major ways, without transforming whole economies, we could see some of the most severe effects of global warming as soon as 2040. A leading climate scientist, James Anderson of Harvard, predicts big problems in less time than that.

Meanwhile, data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration tells us that the Northern Hemisphere just had its hottest summer on record since 1880, and we have had five consecutive summers of record-breaking heat.

Action is essential for the future of the planet. As the girl from Sweden said: Don’t listen to us, listen to the scientists.

— The Baltimore Sun

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