Teen climate activist Greta Thunberg tells Congress: 'Unite behind the science'

"I am submitting this report as my testimony because I don't want you to listen to me," the 16-year-old said. "I want you to listen to the scientists."

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By Erik Ortiz

Swedish teenager Greta Thunberg implored Washington lawmakers on Wednesday to take climate science seriously — bringing her simple and direct message as one of the world's youngest and most prominent climate change activists to the halls of a normally divided Congress.

Thunberg, a self-described introvert, spoke slowly and carefully, and said she was declining to provide prepared remarks, as is customary. Instead, she offered members of a Foreign Affairs subcommittee and the House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis a 2018 global warming report from a United Nations science panel.

The report suggests the world must limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius, rather than the long-held threshold of 2 degrees Celsius by 2100, to stave off some of the devastating and immutable effects of climate change.

"I am submitting this report as my testimony because I don't want you to listen to me. I want you to listen to the scientists, and I want you to unite behind the science." Thunberg, 16, said.

"And then I want you to take action."

When asked how to get other young people involved, Thunberg said overcoming a lack of initiative remains a major hurdle.

"As it is now, people in general don't seem to be very aware of the actual science and how severe this crisis actually is," she said. "I think we need to inform them and start treating this crisis as the existential emergency it is."

Thunberg also took issue with some House Republicans who blamed other countries, such as China, for failing to do their part in reducing carbon emissions that have contributed to global warming.

"I am from Sweden, a small country. There is the same argument: 'Why should I do anything? Just look at the U.S.,'" she said. "Just know that's the same argument being used against you as well."

Other young climate activists who testified Wednesday said it was time to move beyond denying that climate change isn't happening and for politicians to work across the aisle to offer up actual solutions.

"To President Trump, climate science is real. It's not a hoax," said Benji Backer, the 21-year-old founder of the American Conservation Coalition, a conservative group that advocates for environmental policies.

"As a proud American, as a life-long conservative and as a young person, I urge you to accept climate change for the reality it is and respond accordingly," he added. "We need your leadership."

Trump has repeatedly mocked climate change and has previously said global warming "was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive."

Jamie Margolin, a 17-year-old from Seattle who founded the activist group Zero Hour, testified that lawmakers who fail to act are being "shameful" to the younger generation whose futures are at stake.

"This is all about being able to look your children in the eye and say we did absolutely everything we could for you," she added.

Thunberg has made a splash since arriving in New York last month on a 60-foot racing yacht, which she used to avoid the emissions caused by airplanes. She has since made appearances on "The Daily Show" and met former President Barack Obama earlier this week.

Her year-long "school strike for climate" outside of Sweden's parliament has led to an international movement, and she plans to lead a rally in New York on Friday ahead of next week's U.N. Climate Action Summit.