As climate change is set to have an alarming impact on our environment and our lives as we know it, we need more than words to save Mother Earth.
We need bold climate action. This plan includes sweeping climate legislation that will reduce greenhouse emissions and stifle global warming, unprecedented shifts in how we think about our own consumption, and a far-reaching movement led by climate activists across the globe.
However, words still play an important role. These 15 quotes are about the most pressing issue facing humanity today: climate change. Collected from activists, politicians, philanthropists, climate scientists, and artists, these climate change quotes offer a variety of perspectives on the issue but all lead to the same conclusion: We need to act fast if we want to save our planet.
A powerful quote has the ability to change the way we think. Sometimes just a few simple words can inspire us, uplift us, or give us a new perspective on something we thought we fully understood.
15 Inspiring and Impactful Climate Change Quotes
1. “This is all wrong. I shouldn’t be up here. I should be back in school on the other side of the ocean. Yet you all come to us young people for hope. How dare you!
You have stolen my dreams and my childhood with your empty words. And yet I’m one of the lucky ones. People are suffering. People are dying. Entire ecosystems are collapsing. We are in the beginning of a mass extinction, and all you can talk about is money and fairy tales of eternal economic growth. How dare you!” – Greta Thunberg
In this excerpt from her speech to the UN Climate Summit, 17-year-old climate activist Greta Thunberg presents a young person’s perspective on climate change, telling the world leaders gathered that they have “stolen [her] dreams” with their desecration of the planet. Surely, hearing that someone so young doubts her future because of climate change must have sent shockwaves throughout the audience and raised alarm bells about the seriousness of the issue. So much so, that clips of this poignant quote have become a viral sensation, shared and championed by activists around the world.
2. “There are no passengers on Spaceship Earth. We are all crew.” – Marshall McLuhan
This short but powerful quote comes from the influential Canadian philosopher, Marshall McLuhan. The idea of “Spaceship Earth” is that our planet is like a spaceship, hurtling around the sun in space. Because we are all stuck on it together, we must do what we can to protect it.
McLuhan hammers home this point by saying Spaceship Earth is not like a luxury cruise ship, where passengers get to relax while the crew toils away. Rather, we are all crew because we all must work to ensure the ship survives.
3. “Talk of ‘saving the planet’ is overstated… Earth will be fine, no matter what; so will life. It is humans who are in trouble.” – Stewart Brand
“Save the planet” is such a common refrain that we often overlook an obvious point: our planet will continue to exist, even in the face of catastrophic climate change. And while it’s true that species are dying off as a result of our actions, life itself will also continue to exist. The writer and environmentalist, Stewart Brand, reminds us with this quote that the world is bigger than just us, that it will be fine without us, and that humanity itself is the main entity that needs to be rescued before the effects of global warming negatively impact our livelihood.
4. “When the last tree is cut, the last fish is caught, and the last river is polluted; when to breathe the air is sickening, you will realize, too late, that wealth is not in bank accounts and that you can’t eat money.” – Alanis Obomsawim
This quote is often misattributed as a traditional Native American saying, but it was actually said by Alanis Obomsawim, an acclaimed Canadian filmmaker who is a member of the Abenaki people. It is a stark reminder that our natural resources are finite and that money will not save us when climate disaster strikes.
5. “Climate change is sometimes misunderstood as being about changes in the weather. In reality, it is about changes in our very way of life.” – Paul Polman
In this quote, business leader Paul Polman reorients the whole conversation by asking us what is truly changing when we talk about the future we’ll have under climate change. It is not only the planet and environment that will change with global warming — but also the way we humans live on it, too.
6. “Climate change does not respect border; it does not respect who you are — rich and poor, small and big. Therefore, this is what we call ‘global challenges,’ which require global solidarity.” – Ban Ki-moon
When will people understand that the more we divide ourselves, the harder it will be to combat this crisis? As former UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon argues in this quote, there is no way to fight climate change without setting aside our differences and coming together as a species.
7. “As human beings, we are vulnerable to confusing the unprecedented with the improbable. In our everyday experience, if something has never happened before, we are generally safe in assuming it is not going to happen in the future, but the exceptions can kill you, and climate change is one of those exceptions.” – Al Gore
When science-denying propagandists claim climate change or global warming isn’t real, their audience eats it up. Part of the reason is because of what Al Gore is saying in this quote: when people haven’t seen something in the past, they assume it can’t exist in the future.
This is a big hurdle to overcome for those of us who want to raise awareness. How do we convince people that something is happening when there’s no precedent for it?
8. “Climate change isn’t an ‘issue’ to add to the list of things to worry about, next to health care and taxes. It is a civilizational wake-up call. A powerful message — spoken in the language of fires, floods, droughts, and extinctions — telling us that we need an entirely new economic model and a new way of sharing this planet. Telling us we need to evolve.” – Naomi Klein
Author and climate activist Naomi Klein has a way with words. In her quote here, she evocatively conveys how climate change is the issue to end all issues, and how we need to drastically restructure the way we live on this planet if we are going to confront it.
9. “There is no plan B because there is no planet B.” – Unknown
Sometimes you need a short, pithy slogan that packs a punch. Something that could fit on a bumper sticker.
This quote, which has been used by Ban Ki-moon and French President Emmanuel Macron, says it all: we don’t have a backup plan or a backup planet. This is it. So if we’re going to work to save it, we’re going to have to do it right.
10. “Climate change isn’t something in the future. That narrative is fundamentally flawed because there are millions impacted and so many displaced already. That is the new inconvenient truth that no one wants to hear.” – Aneesa Khan
We normally think of climate change as a future threat, but young climate activist Aneesa Khan reminds us in this quote that it’s very much in the here and now. High rates of natural disasters — hurricanes, floods, droughts — are not some far-off possibility but a present reality we have to confront right now.
11. “We don’t call water a resource; we call it a sacred element. The relationship we have with everything that Earth offers, it’s about reciprocity. That’s the only way we are going to learn how to shift our culture from an extraction culture to a balanced and harmonious culture with the land.” – Xiye Bastida
One aspect of climate change that often gets neglected is the spiritual one. Xiye Bastida is an indigenous activist from Mexico who tells us in this quote that we need to completely reorient our way of relating to Mother Nature. We need to see the planet not as a resource that we can endlessly extract and profit from but as something that we need to respect and live in harmony with.
12. “A lot of the countries and groups of people that are putting in a lot of climate work will disproportionately feel the effects of climate change. And they’re not even the people that created this mess in the first place.” – Elsa Mengistu
Ethiopian-American activist Elsa Mengitsu makes a vital point in this quote: we often say that “we” (meaning all of humanity) are responsible for climate change, but that isn’t true. Some people are more affected than others, and the depressing irony is that the people least responsible for it are going to bear the brunt of the perilous environment. As we take action to reduce emissions and prevent global warming from accelerating, our response to this global climate crisis must also address these inequalities head on.
13. “Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity, in all this vastness, there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves.” – Carl Sagan
In his famous “Pale Blue Dot” monologue, scientist and former “Cosmos” host Carl Sagan evocatively reminds us of our aloneness in the universe. Our planet is barely a speck of dust, surrounded by the coldness and emptiness of space. If we mess this up, who’s going to save us?
14. “We need to put a price on carbon in the markets, and a price on denial in politics.” – Al Gore
If we keep electing leaders who don’t accept the reality of climate change or global warming (or at least pretend not to so they can keep getting money from fossil fuel companies), we are going to exacerbate the already-devastating consequences to our global climate. Even if average citizens like us don’t have as much power as a CEO or a senator, we can go to the ballot box and make our voices heard. That’s the point that Al Gore tries to get across in the short but potent quote.
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