A David and Goliath battle between US President Donald Trump and teenage climate change campaigner Greta Thunberg has broken out.
In heated exchanges at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, both took a swipe at the other without naming each other.
First, in a key note address, Trump announced the US would tackle global warming by planting a trillion trees around the world to soak up harmful carbon gases scientists say are damaging the environment.
The president claimed the US is among the countries with the cleanest air and drinking water.
But critics pointed out that his intention to back out of the Paris climate agreements could damage the accord and make matters worse.
Prophets of doom
In fact, air quality in the US is the 10th best in the world, according to research by US universities Yale and Columbia, while the quality of drinking water is the joint top with the UK, Canada and Finland.
In a comment taken as denouncing Thunberg, 17, he criticised ‘prophets of doom’ speaking out against climate change as having nothing to worry about.
“These alarmists always demand the same thing – absolute power to dominate, transform and control every aspect of our lives,” he said.
“They are the heirs of yesterday’s foolish fortune tellers.”
In her speech, Thunberg warned world leaders that they needed to take action to protect the planet and to stop making ‘empty promises’.
Fuelling the flames
“I wonder, what will you tell your children was the reason to fail and leave them facing climate chaos that you knowingly brought upon them? That it seemed so bad for the economy that we decided to resign the idea of securing future living conditions without even trying?” she said.
“Our house is still on fire. Your inaction is fuelling the flames by the hour, and we are telling you to act as if you loved your children above all else.
“You say ‘We won’t let you down. Don’t be so pessimistic.’ And then, silence.”
Behind the words are a real problem for the US and other countries, like fire ravaged Australia and Saudi Arabia that rely on fossil fuels to power their economies.
Switching to alternative fuels is expensive and the money will have to come from oil, coal and gas revenues.