Are the Kids Alright in the Era of Climate Change?

“You all came to us young people for hope,” Ms. Thunberg said, her voice emotional, in an instantly viral speech at the climate action summit. “How dare you? You have stolen my childhood and my dreams with your empty words — and yet I’m one of the lucky ones.”

It was a sentiment found also in some of the young protesters here in Australia. “It’s unfair that we pretend we own the planet but we won’t take actual responsibility for any of the actions we’re having that are affecting other things that live here,” said Jemima Grimmer, 13, at the climate strike in Sydney last Friday. “I’m angry that I have to be here.”

Mr. Morrison did not attend the climate action summit, or the protests he criticized. But in a speech to the United Nations on Wednesday, he said Australia was on track to surpass its Kyoto commitment by 2020 and was doing its part to address climate change. Children, he added, had a right to optimism.

But again, we have to ask: Is optimism really the right emotion based on the facts at hand?

The Climate Council said Australia’s targets were among the weakest of developed nations and that given greenhouse emissions have risen for the last four years, the government was trailing on the global stage, leaving local and state governments to take up the cause. (Something we’ll keep reporting on.)

Mr. Morrison’s call for optimism also comes at a time when scientists are expressing even more urgency in their warnings about climate change — and as flooding, drought and bushfires have pushed Australia to the brink of a “penny-dropping moment” about climate change, said Amanda McKenzie, the chief executive of the Climate Council.

“Perhaps children would feel more optimistic if he started to take the problem of climate change seriously,” Ms. McKenzie added.

Over the last year, she said, concern has deepened: thousands of people have written in to the Climate Council asking,“what can I do?” For many, protesting is one of the answers.