Image: AP

World leaders have largely failed to heed the warnings of scientists, climate researchers, and environmental activists regarding the imminent need to address climate change, but maybe they will listen to 15-year-old Greta Thunberg.

Thurnberg, a descendant of Svante Arrhenius, the Nobel prize-winning scientist who first conceptualized the effect carbon dioxide emissions had on the atmosphere, was stung by the unfairness of inheriting a depleted planet from people who will long be dead by the time she reaches middle-age. She launched a protest in August by skipping classes and going on strike at school by herself. The Guardian reports that since then, 20,000 students have joined her, creating an international movement across at least “270 towns and cities in countries across the world,” including Australia, the United States and Japan.

This week, Thunberg and her dad are attending the United Nations Climate Summit in Poland to push for an effective rulebook that will carry out the pledges established in the 2015 Paris Agreement. She met with U.N. Secretary General António Guterres on Monday.

“For 25 years countless people have come to the U.N. climate conferences begging our world leaders to stop emissions and clearly that has not worked as emissions are continuing to rise. So I will not beg the world leaders to care for our future,” she told the Guardian. “I will instead let them know change is coming whether they like it or not.”

“Since our leaders are behaving like children, we will have to take the responsibility they should have taken long ago,” she continued. “We have to understand what the older generation has dealt to us, what mess they have created that we have to clean up and live with. We have to make our voices heard.”

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Thunberg will continue her strike until Sweden slashes its carbon emissions by 15 percent per year, a lofty goal. Her message to her peers is this: “You don’t have to school strike, it’s your own choice. But why should we be studying for a future that soon may be no more? This is more important than school, I think.”