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Greta Thunberg attends a protest in front of the Swedish Parliament

Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg poses for a picture holding a sign reading "School strike for Climate" in front of the Swedish Parliament in Stockholm on November 19, 2021. (Photo: Jonathan Nackstrand/AFP via Getty Images)

It Is 'Strange,' Says Greta Thunberg, That Biden Is Seen as a Climate Leader

"The U.S. is actually expanding fossil fuel infrastructure," the 18-year-old Swedish climate activist said in a new interview.

Jake Johnson

In an interview published in The Washington Post Magazine on Monday, Swedish activist Greta Thunberg said it is "strange" that some consider U.S. President Joe Biden a climate leader even as his administration fails to take the ambitious steps necessary to tackle the intensifying planetary crisis.

When asked whether she is "inspired" by Biden or other world leaders, Thunberg pointed out that "the U.S. is actually expanding fossil fuel infrastructure" under the current administration.

"I've met so many people who give me very much hope and just the possibility that we can actually change things."

"Why is the U.S. doing that?" she asked. "It should not fall on us activists and teenagers who just want to go to school to raise this awareness and to inform people that we are actually facing an emergency."

"People ask us, 'What do you want?' 'What do you want politicians to do?'" added Thunberg, who helped spark a global, youth-led climate protest movement with a solo strike outside of the Swedish Parliament building in 2018. "And we say, first of all, we have to actually understand what is the emergency."

"We are trying to find a solution of a crisis that we don't understand," she continued. "For example, in Sweden, we ignore—we don't even count or include more than two-thirds of our actual emissions. How can we solve a crisis if we ignore more than two-thirds of it? So it's all about the narrative."

While Biden has touted his decision to bring the U.S. back into the Paris agreement, his pledge to cut the nation's greenhouse gas emissions in half by 2030, and other initiatives as a show of leadership in the face of an existential threat to humanity, his administration has also approved oil and gas drilling permits at a faster rate than former President Donald Trump's did.

During Biden's presidency, according to a report released earlier this month by the consumer advocacy group Public Citizen, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has approved an average of 333 oil and gas drilling permits per month this year alone—40% more than it did over the first three years of Trump's White House tenure.

"When it comes to climate change policy, President Biden is saying the right things. But we need more than just promises," Alan Zibel, the lead author of the report, said in a statement. "The reality is that in the battle between the oil industry and Biden, the industry is winning. Despite Biden's campaign commitments to stop drilling on public lands and waters, the industry still has the upper hand. Without aggressive government action, the fossil fuel industry will continue creating enormous amounts of climate-destroying pollution exploiting lands owned by the public."

Thunberg's interview with the Post came at the end of a year that saw planet-warming carbon dioxide emissions quickly rebound to pre-pandemic levels as the U.S. and other major nations continued to burn fossil fuels at an alarming and unsustainable rate.

As Glen Peters of the Center for International Climate Research noted Tuesday, "2021 saw the second-biggest absolute increase in fossil CO2 emissions ever recorded."

Despite the failure of world leaders to act with sufficient urgency as the climate crisis fuels devastating extreme weather events across the globe, Thunberg said she is "more hopeful now" than she was when she kicked off her lonely school strike in 2018.

"In one sense, we're in a much worse place than we were then because the levels of CO2 in the atmosphere are higher and the global emissions are still rising at almost record speed. And we have wasted several years of blah, blah, blah," said Thunberg. "But then, on another note, we have seen what people can do when we actually come together."

"I've met so many people who give me very much hope and just the possibility that we can actually change things," she added. "That we can treat a crisis like a crisis."


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