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Time's Person of the Year: 2020 Vision


In our blog of September 27, 2019, we profiled the 16-year-old climate activist Greta Thunberg, who spoke at the United Nations General Assembly’s Climate Action Summit in New York City which took place September 23-27. Thunberg’s words were the rallying cry heard round the world. Her “how dare you” speech, as it has been referred to, took many by surprise with its harsh tone. But Thunberg did not back down or back away from the controversy, even when President Trump sarcastically commented that she seemed like her a “very happy young girl looking forward to a bright and wonderful future” on Twitter.

Thunberg crossed the Atlantic in her racing sailboat the Malizia II to attend the 25th United Nations Climate Change Conference, COP25, which was relocated from Santiago, Chile to Madrid, Spain (due to the protests in Chile). Thunberg uses her sailboat for transatlantic voyages—she came to the U.S. to attend the U.N. Summit in the fall via the same method—to avoid flying, which she and other climate activists insist adds tons of greenhouse gas emissions to the atmosphere. Time announced its selection of Thunberg as the 2019 Person of the Year while she was still in Madrid, a fitting venue for Thunberg to receive the honor that Time’s editor-in-chief explained was given to her because she is the “biggest voice on the biggest issue facing the planet.”


Thunberg is also the youngest person ever to receive the honor of being Time’s Person of the Year, and this raises an interesting question: is there a global warming age gap? Time’s editor-in-chief noted that Greta Thunberg “represents a broader generational shift in the culture that we’re seeing from the campuses of Hong Kong to the protests in Chile to Parkland, Fla., where the students marched against gun violence, where young people are demanding change urgently.” But is action on climate change strictly an issue for young people?

Not so much anymore. In a recent poll by the Kaiser Family Foundation and the Washington Post, 40% of all Americans say that climate change is a crisis, and 66% say that President Trump is not doing enough to tackle it. In addition, 8 out of 10 Americans believe that human activity is fueling climate change, and 5 out of 10 Americans believe that urgent action on the climate is needed within the next decade.

When asked about specific solutions or actions to address climate change, there is general support for a wealth tax, and a tax on companies that burn fossil fuels even if that leads to increased electricity and transportation costs. However, as soon as the cost of trying to reverse climate change or at the very least not adding to the earth’s increased temperature is put directly on households, the percentage of people in favor shifts drastically. Even a $2 per month tax on residential electric bills is opposed by 51% of people. Increasing the federal gas tax by 10 cents per gallon is opposed by 64% of people. When the tax on the residential electric bill is raised to $10/month in survey questions, the percentage of people in opposition rises to 71%.

Evidently, while more people consider climate change a crisis, they are not yet willing to pay out-of-pocket to address it.


But people are willing to vote for candidates that support policies to combat climate change. This is another huge shift, since voting for candidates who will take specific action to address climate change used to be something only younger, democratic voters did. Now, however, the issue crosses generational and party lines: 70% of voters would support candidates who favor stronger pollution limits on business and industry; who favor stronger fuel efficiency standards on cars and trucks; who favor requiring fossil fuel companies to pay a tax on their carbon pollution; who favor providing assistance to communities losing jobs in oil, gas and coal industries; and 60% of voters would support candidates who favor ensuring protection of low-income and minority communities that are more vulnerable to climate change impacts.


So what does all of this mean for climate change in the next decade? Thunberg is more determined than ever to promote awareness of the urgency of the crisis. Even as President Trump criticized Time’s choice of her as its Person of the Year on Twitter, she refused once again to back down: “So ridiculous. Greta must work on her Anger Management problem, then go to a good old fashioned movie with a friend! Chill Greta, Chill!” Thunberg clapped back, posting that she did, in fact, go to a good old fashioned movie and chilled with a friend. And then she went right back to work on inspiring us all.


If you or someone you know has been injured in an accident, contact Dave Thomas at The Thomas Law Firm for a free evaluation of your legal rights.

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