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Greta Thunberg’s Speech: Rhetorical Analysis

This persuasive and rather emotional speech was delivered by sixteen-year-old Greta Thunberg, a Swedish environmental and climate activist. She is famous worldwide for calling on leaders and governments to begin taking sufficient steps to fight against climate change. This speech was given on 23 September 2019 at the United Nations Climate Action Summit in New York.

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As it seems from her words, Greta’s purpose was to accuse the older generations of failing the younger ones and stealing their childhood with their empty phrases (“Greta Thunberg’s Full Speech”). What is more, she was there to make young people understand the whole horror of the situation and let them know that now it is only their task to solve the problem.

Greta’s speech is a good example of adding power to words by utilizing literary strategies, including the rhetorical triangle. First, she uses logos by providing specific facts, numbers, and statistics to support her claim. For example, Thunberg notes that “the popular idea of cutting our emissions in half in ten years only gives us a 50% chance of staying below 1.5 degrees,” which is concrete and reliable information (“Greta Thunberg’s Full Speech” 00:02:18-00:02:27).

Second, Greta uses pathos by making the speech quite emotional and blaming the older generations’ representatives for their kids’ and grandchildren’s current and future sufferings (“Greta Thunberg’s Full Speech”). What is more, by saying, “we are in the beginning of a mass extinction, and all you can talk about is money and fairy tales of eternal economic growth,” Greta also uses pathos to awaken guilt in listeners (“Greta Thunberg’s Full Speech” 00:01:11-00:01:21). As for ethos, it appears once in the speech. After providing statistics, the speaker refers to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (“Greta Thunberg’s Full Speech”).

Another rhetorical tool efficiently used by Greta is repetition. Throughout her speech, there are four times when Thunberg repeats, “How dare you!” while appealing to the world leaders (“Greta Thunberg’s Full Speech”). Such an emotional phrase said by a girl to influential people may sound rude, but it actually draws listeners’ attention to the level of anger of the younger generations.

It is fair to admit that this speech is quite effective because of the emotions embedded in it, as well as the proper usage of several rhetorical tools. Greta’s words are filled with evidence, statistics, and proofs that cannot leave the speech inefficient and listeners indifferent, so the actions to solve the problem are likely to begin.

Work Cited

Greta Thunberg’s Full Speech to World Leaders at the UN Climate Action Summit.YouTube, uploaded by PBS NewsHour. 2019. Web.

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