Speaking in the New Scientist’s Big Interview podcast from her home in Sweden, the 16-year-old said the COVID-19 outbreak showed that when we are in an emergency, “we can act and change our behaviour quickly”.
Last week, Thunberg revealed it was “extremely likely” that she and her father had contracted the virus, and they have been self-isolating after the pair returned from a trip around central Europe around three weeks ago.
The pair reported that a few days after they returned, they began feeling symptoms associated with the virus, like feeling tired, coughing and a sore throat.
In line with the current policy in Sweden, which is being criticised for its relaxed handling of the outbreak in the country, Thunberg and her father have not been tested for the virus.
Thunberg, who has declared since then that she has “basically recovered”, told the podcast that if one virus can wipe out the entire economy in a matter of weeks, it is “proof that our societies are not very resilient”.
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She went on to warn that the virus outbreak isn’t an excuse for countries to shelve action on carbon emissions.
Last week, UN secretary-general António Guterres told reporters that although countries shouldn’t lose sight of the climate crisis and the Paris climate accord, all resources would now be shifted towards tackling the pandemic.
Thunberg was asked if she worries that the pandemic will be a distraction for overwhelmed politicians and that climate action will be postponed.
She said people “don’t want to hear about the climate crisis right now, but we have to make sure that we treat these crises at the same time.
“We have to make sure that it’s not forgotten.
“People will try to use this emergency as an excuse not to act on the climate crisis, and that we have to be very careful for.
“We need to treat both of these crises at the same time, because the climate crisis will not go away.”
Earlier this month, Thunberg urged people across the globe to “unite behind experts and science”.
She tweeted: “We can’t solve a crisis without treating it as a crisis and we must unite behind experts and science. This of course goes for all crises.”
She went on to say: “We young people are the least affected by this virus but it’s essential that we act in solidarity with the most vulnerable and that we act in the best interest of our common society.”
UN observers see the organisation’s new focus on the virus as an unfortunate but necessary step, Scientific American reported.
Martin Edwards, professor of diplomacy and international relations at Seton Hall University, said: “There is a need for a larger more coordinated multilateral response, and the governments that would be working together right now to lead on this – the U.S., China, Japan, European countries – are focused more on closing borders than on collaborating.”.