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Fact check: Altered image shows a flooded car with an anti-Greta Thunberg bumper sticker

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The claim: An image shows a flooded car with an anti-Greta Thunberg sticker

On July 18, the death count from the floods in Western Europe surpassed 180. Climate scientists say extreme weather, like heavy rains and corresponding floods, is linked to global warming.

Among the many dramatic photos of the devastation, some are sharing an image altered to make an ironic reference to climate activist Greta Thunberg.

The photo shows a BMW up to its windows in water with a bumper sticker that directs an epithet toward Thunberg on its back windshield.

The image has been shared on Facebook, Instagram and Reddit. Across most posts, social media users understood the image as an ironic instance of a climate change denier experiencing the negative effects of climate change.

The image doesn't reference Thunberg by her last name, but other users indicated in the comments they understood the image as a reference to the climate activist.

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Many social media users called the image “ironic,” while others commented that the profane phrase was inappropriate to call the young activist.

“Karma can be ironic,” a Facebook user wrote of a July 16 post.

“Imagine how pathetic your life must be to want a sticker that proclaims your hate for a child,” one Instagram user commented on a July 17 post that has since been deleted.

But the car in the original image, published by a German newspaper, did not have a bumper sticker.

USA TODAY reached out to several Facebook and Instagram users for comment.

A car, submerged up to the roof in water, is parked in front of a flooded garage in Duesseldorf, Germany, Wednesday morning, July 14, 2021. Storms caused widespread flooding across central Germany overnight, with authorities warning that more rain is on the way.
A car, submerged up to the roof in water, is parked in front of a flooded garage in Duesseldorf, Germany, Wednesday morning, July 14, 2021. Storms caused widespread flooding across central Germany overnight, with authorities warning that more rain is on the way.

The original image had no bumper sticker

German newspaper Bild published the photo of the flooded BMW in a July 16 article about how the flooding would affect car owners’ insurance claims.

According to the photo description, David Young photographed the car in the Wuppertal district of Beyenburg, Germany.

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While the bumper sticker in the image is not real, decals with the same phrase have been seen on cars in Europe.

In 2018, Thunberg, now 18-years-old, drew international attention for her climate strikes in Sweden. At age 16 she inspired the largest climate strike in history and was named Time Magazine’s 2019 Person of the Year.

Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg protests during a "Fridays for Future" demonstration in front of the Swedish Parliament Riksdagen in Stockholm on Oct. 9, 2020.
Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg protests during a "Fridays for Future" demonstration in front of the Swedish Parliament Riksdagen in Stockholm on Oct. 9, 2020.

Since she’s stepped onto the international stage she’s been a frequent target of criticism from conservative leaders and the subject of misinformation.

Several fact-check outlets from America and Europe have found that the image of the flooded car and bumper sticker was not authentic.

Our rating: Altered

An image that shows a flooded car with an anti-Greta Thunberg bumper sticker is ALTERED, based on our research. The original image of the flooded car, published in a German newspaper, had no visible bumper stickers.

Our fact-check sources:

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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Fact check: Altered image of bumper sticker insulting Greta Thunberg

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