As teen-age superstars, you both rock in separate worlds.
As Time’s “Person of the Year,” 17-year-old Greta Thunberg, and Billboard’s “Woman of the Year,” 18-year-old Billie Eilish, you have individually become the voices of your generation, respectively, for the climate crisis, and for creating a new techno-goth music genre with four Grammy nominations.
In our current culture with digital connectivity constantly being upgraded and our attention spans simultaneously being downgraded, each of you has magically created an earthy and quirky authenticity that has skyrocketed you into the zeitgeist of our media.
And while there are 5,531 airline flight miles between Stockholm, Sweden and Los Angeles, you are so much on the same page with your front-end alignment on your fierce rebellion against the insane inaction of developed nations to seriously reduce our CO2.
From a single hand-painted sign, Greta, you were able to galvanize 4 million people across 160 countries to go on a climate strike in September, 2019. That is truly remarkable considering how scientists such as Dr. James Hansen and others have been warning us for 30 years or more while privately a few scientists have been weeping as they know what’s coming with more CO2 spewing into the atmosphere.
Despite your whispering lyrics, Billie, you are not soft-spoken when you fully embrace the power of your megaphone by encouraging your vegan lifestyle to help reduce global warming and wearing your eco-warrior feelings on your T-shirt that reads, “No music on a dead planet.” And hats off for planning to bring Voter Registration, Greenpeace and Global Citizen booths to your shows in 2020.
Separately you both have quickly processed decades of denial, deception and disinformation by the fossil fuel industry that has often stonewalled the overwhelming scientific research and perilous predictions while confusing the public with their finely crafted product of doubt. According to a report from the Climate Investigations Center, more than 6,400 delegates from fossil fuel trade associations have attended climate talks since 1995.
Now more than ever, we need you and your millions of followers to create a global army to psychologically disarm this brigade of lobbyists that infiltrated the recent UN Climate talks in Madrid as they once again successfully tamped down any meaningful policy statement with only a vague general call for countries to keep reducing emissions in line with the 2015 Paris climate change accord.
In addition, the industry continues to send out media head fakes with ads on the “concerned” Energy Voter, Arco’s lame and offensive talking Hawaiian dashboard girl and Exxon-Mobil’s vague and misleading perception that algae oil will one day be widely available as an alternative to gas to reduce emissions.
While more than 60 nations have agreed to target zero carbon emissions by 2050, it’s not enough nor quick enough. CO2 emissions must decrease by 7.6 percent annually starting in 2020 and continue at that rate throughout the decade for the globe to have a fighting chance to avoid the ultimate collapse of Mother Earth.
Yet according to the Global Carbon Project, in 2019 there will be another increase in the world’s fossil fuel emissions with a preliminary estimate of 36.8 million tons. The lasting legacy of these accumulative CO2 emissions is that the increases that have piled up in the atmosphere will boomerang with greater force in the next decade as temperature increases lag behind emissions and sea level rise lags behind those higher temperatures, according to a report in Yale Environment 360.
As I stress about the futures of my grandchildren, you both are rightfully worried about bringing children into this pervasive global haze of solipsism, where nothing but the self exists. The time for more research, more climate talks, more conferences, more marches, more denials and more delays is over. The self-centered public has tuned out all this climate noise with household moments like, “Yikes, those bushfires in Australia are huge. Should we drop Netflix and add Disney?”
Just imagine, Greta and Billie, if you joined forces together to deliver the exigency of this true tipping point in the planet’s future. Your synergy would be media-electric as your millions of followers could not only implement solutions, but also demand that their parents and grandparents join them and rapidly make the climate crisis priority #1.
And, finally, congratulations to both of you for planning documentaries that have been greenlighted. But as the teen-age superstars you are, why not crush it by showing the world how to work together in one documentary to demand that 7.5 percent reduction in CO2 emissions that is absolutely needed every year for the next 10 years to avoid unimaginable consequences and make sure our Blue Planet doesn’t go to Code Blue?
As a devoted grandfather deeply concerned about your future and my grandchildren’s future, I reach out to you to light this torch and lead this climate crusade from 2020 to 2030 to help preserve this planet.
John T. Boal was the Managing Director in the West for the New York-based Ad Council for 19 years and is a Co-author of Chicken Soup for the Volunteer’s Soul. He resides in Burbank, CA.