6 things to know about the climate change activist

6 things to know about the climate change activist

Savannah Behrmann


Published 7:17 PM EDT Sep 18, 2019

WASHINGTON — Teen climate change activist Greta Thunberg will be one of the witnesses to testify before a joint hearing of two House committees Wednesday on the “global climate crisis.”

Tuesday, the 16-year-old Swede met with former President Barack Obama during her visit to Washington, D.C., as part of an effort to lobby lawmakers on environmental issues and protest outside the White House.

In a tweet, Obama called Thunberg one of the “planet’s greatest advocates.”

In a video of their short meeting released by the Obama Foundation, Thunberg says, “All of these young people [in the United States] seem so eager, very enthusiastic. Which is a very good thing. I mean, no one is too small to have an impact.”

Thunberg, who is known for her bluntness, also told Democratic lawmakers at a Senate forum Tuesday to “save your praise.” 

“We don’t want it,” she added, especially if officials intend to talk about climate change “without doing anything about it.” 

She recently said during an interview with NPR that the United States has an “enormous responsibility” to lead climate efforts. “You have a moral responsibility to do that,” she added. 

Leading into Wednesday’s hearing on Capitol Hill, here are some of the things to know about the teen climate change activist:

She founded ‘Fridays For Future’ 

Thunberg first came to global attention with #FridaysForFuture, an international movement that began in 2018 when Thunberg, then age 15, started taking weeks off school to demonstrate outside the Swedish parliament to protest against inaction on climate change. 

She posted her protests on social media, and her postings went viral, inspiring thousands all over the world to protest their respective governments.

She has encouraged other students to skip school to join protests demanding faster action on climate change.

“We are facing a disaster of unspoken suffering for enormous amounts of people,” Thunberg said at the World Economic Forum in Davos in January. “Solving the climate crisis is the greatest and most complex challenge that homo sapiens have ever faced.”

She addressed a United Nations summit at age 15

Thunberg garnered international attention at the United Nations COP24 Climate Summit in Poland last year, when she told assembled world leaders that they “have ignored us in the past, and you will ignore us again,” she said. “You say you love your children above all else, and yet you are stealing their future in front of their very eyes.”

“For 25 years, countless people have come to the U.N. climate conferences begging our world leaders to stop emissions, and clearly that has not worked as emissions are continuing to rise. So I will not beg the world leaders to care for our future,” Thunberg said at the December 2018 summit. “I will instead let them know change is coming whether they like it or not.”

The climate talks that culminated at the summit resulted in nearly 200 nations agreeing to rules that will govern the Paris Climate Agreement. 

“You are not mature enough to tell it like is,” she said. “Even that burden you leave to us children. But I don’t care about being popular. I care about climate justice and the living planet.”

She’s been recognized by Time Magazine 

In Time Magazine, Thunberg was featured as a “next generation” leader and was on the magazine’s 2019 “100 list” of the world’s most influential people.

In May of 2019, the teen activist was featured on the magazine’s cover.

“The world is listening. Organizers estimate that on March 15, a remarkable 1.6 million people in 133 countries participated in a climate strike inspired by Thunberg’s solo action,” the magazine’s passage about her reads.

She has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize

Thunberg has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize for helping to inspire the international movement to fight climate change.

If selected, the 16-year-old would be the youngest Nobel Peace Prize laureate since Malala Yousafzai.

She sailed across the Atlantic, rather than fly

In August, Thunberg again captured global attention when she set off from Plymouth, United Kingdom, on a two-week zero-emissions boat voyage across the Atlantic to New York City.

Thunberg popularized the movement of flygskam or flight shaming, which asks Swedes to travel according to their beliefs. 

Thunberg wouldn’t fly to the U.S. ahead of the United Nations meeting on climate later this month because of emissions from air travel.

“It is insane that a 16-year-old would have to cross the Atlantic Ocean to make a stand,” she said. “The climate and ecological crisis is a global crisis, the biggest crisis that humanity has ever faced, and if we don’t manage to work together and to cooperate and to work together despite our differences, then we will fail.”

She is on the autism spectrum — and she calls being ‘different’ a ‘superpower’

In a post about haters who use her Asperger’s diagnosis to try to diminish her activism, Thunberg called her autism a “superpower.”

“When haters go after your looks and differences, it means they have nowhere left to go. And then you know you’re winning!” Thunberg wrote. “I have Asperger’s syndrome and that means I’m sometimes a bit different from the norm. And — given the right circumstances — being different is a superpower.”

She told the New Yorker: “I see the world a bit different, from another perspective. I have a special interest. It’s very common that people on the autism spectrum have a special interest.”

What’s next for Thunberg?

Beyond the hearing on Wednesday, Thunberg is leading a massive coordinated strike on Friday, September 20, just days before the United Nations will gather for the Climate Action Summit. 

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