Judith Collins has hit out at youth fighting to have climate change taken seriously, saying their fears are unfounded.
Young people have become increasingly active in recent months, students taking to the streets on Friday for the second time this year to protest inaction from politicians around the globe.
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Many have been inspired by teenage Swedish activist Greta Thunberg, who fearlessly ripped into her elders earlier this week at a big UN conference.
"You have stolen my dreams and my childhood with your empty words," she told world leaders gathered in New York. "People are suffering. People are dying. Entire ecosystems are collapsing. We are in the beginning of a mass extinction."
Two young Kiwi activists echoed her message on The AM Show on Friday, Luke Wijohn saying they're "basically looking at the death of our generation".
"[Thunberg's speech] has inspired so many people to be really courageous in the way that they talk about climate change," added fellow protest organiser Sophie Handford.
Collins, who plans to vote against the Government's Zero Carbon Bill, said they'd eventually grow out of it.
"My generation, we were really worried about nuclear war," the 60-year-old told The AM Show.
"I do think we've just got to let them do what they want to do. They are very earnest and very truthful in what they believe. I don't know what they're going to do in 12 years' time when the world has not actually led to a mass extinction of humans, and I'm sure that they will have found something else.
"Another generation will come. Every generation has its thing."
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It's not clear where Collins got the 12-year human extinction time frame from. A 2018 report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change warned we had 12 years left to halve carbon dioxide emissions to avoid the worst effects over the coming decades, but it's never suggested extinction for humanity is likely in the next century, let alone dozen years.
Labour MP Willie Jackson said climate change is "a big thing for a number of young ones".
"But... sometimes young ones have got to just have a relax, have a good time too. As well as save the world."
He wished them "good luck".
"I like seeing young people getting involved, but I want them to have a life too... It's just lovely to see kids being kids sometimes."
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