- Greta Thunberg, a 16-year-old from Sweden, has become the face of climate-change activism.
- Thunberg launched the Fridays For Future movement — or School Strike for Climate — last year. It encourages students to skip school to demand action on climate change from their governments.
- The teenager was nominated for the 2019 Nobel Peace Prize, but the award went to Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, who brokered his nation's peace with the neighboring Eritrea.
- While Thunberg has remained silent about the snub so far, the Nobel Committee's selection has sparked an outcry on social media.
- One peace expert told The Washington Post that Thunberg was passed over because there "isn't scientific consensus that there's a relationship between climate change — or resource scarcity, more broadly — and armed conflict."
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On Friday, Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.
The Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg had been a favorite for the prestigious award. Had she won, Thunberg would have become the youngest person ever to win a Nobel Peace Prize. Instead, the Pakistani activist Malala Yousafzai remains the youngest-ever Nobel laureate, having won the award in 2014 when she was 17 years old.
Thunberg launched the Fridays For Future movement — or School Strike for Climate — last year. It encourages students to skip school to demand action on climate change from their governments. The movement earned her a nomination for this year's peace prize in March.
Instead of the teenager, however, the Nobel Committee said it selected Ahmed for his "efforts to achieve peace and international cooperation and for his decisive initiative to resolve the border conflict with neighbouring Eritrea."
The prime minister worked out the principles for a peace agreement to end the long stalemate between the two countries, the committee added.
Other frontrunners included New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern for her decisive response to the Christchurch mass shootings in March and the Brazilian indigenous chief Raoni Metuktire for his efforts to protect the Amazon.
Thunberg's fans are not happy
Thunberg, who is fairly communicative on Twitter and Instagram, has been unusually silent since the announcement. (Granted, that might have something to do with the fact that she's in Denver preparing for this week's Fridays For Future climate strike.)
Thunberg entered the global spotlight over the past year as the leader of a youth movement that's pushing governments and corporations to address the climate crisis. She launched Fridays For Future when she was in ninth grade by staging a strike for two weeks outside the Swedish parliament. Now Thunberg spends every Friday on strike.
In March, more than 1 million young people in 123 countries skipped school and took to the streets to support Thunberg's cause. Six months later, on September 20, she was joined by an estimated 4 million people in 161 countries during the largest climate-change demonstration in history.
Some of the teenager's most vocal critics, including the conservative host Piers Morgan of "Good Morning Britain," jumped in to fill Thunberg's silence with remarks of their own about the Nobel Committee's decision.
"How DARE they actually give it to someone who forged peace?!!!!" he tweeted.
Morgan was poking fun at Thunberg's iconic speech at the United Nations General Assembly last month, in which she chastised world leaders who she said were looking to her for hope regarding climate change. "How dare you," Thunburg thundered. "You have stolen my dreams and my childhood with your empty words."
But many of Thunberg's fans also took to social media to express their disappointment about the committee's decision.
How @GretaThunberg did not win the #NobelPeacePrize is beyond me.
She has inspired a generation & proven that you're never too young to make a difference. #ClimateChange is affecting the planet & the world's leaders need to realise that our actions speak louder than words. 💚
Since Thunberg was nominated for the Nobel prize in March, her followers and fan base have continued to grow. Some of those supporters, while disappointed by her snub, were quick to mention the teenager's impact on the climate debate.
Even though @GretaThunberg didn't win the peace prize this time round, the awareness and sense of responsibility she has inspired around the world is an award far greater! #Thankyougreta the fight has only just begun though! Let's take the powers to school about #ClimateChange
Why didn't Thunberg win?
Norwegian Socialist MP Freddy André Øvstegård, who was among those who nominated Thunberg for the award, told The Guardian that she "has launched a mass movement which I see as a major contribution to peace."
"We have proposed Greta Thunberg because if we do nothing to halt climate change, it will be the cause of wars, conflict, and refugees," he said.
One peace expert told The Washington Post, however, that it was not entirely a surprise the Nobel Committee passed over Thunberg in favor of Ahmed, despite the teenager's overwhelming popularity.
The head of the Peace Research Institute Oslo, Henrik Urdal, told The Post that he left Thunberg off the Nobel Peace Prize shortlist he suggested to the prize committee because there "isn't scientific consensus that there is a linear relationship between climate change — or resource scarcity, more broadly — and armed conflict."
But that doesn't mean climate change isn't linked to peace. The US Pentagon classifies climate change as a "threat multiplier," meaning it can worsen other sources of instability and conflict. Heat waves, hurricanes, and other climate-change-related consequences like sea-level rise can exacerbate competition for natural resources and ethnic tensions.
Thunberg's possible prize would not have been the first awarded for work that increases climate-change awareness — 12 years ago, former US Vice President Al Gore and the United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change took home the honors.
But Urdal added that such a pick was less likely today because the Nobel Committee had been sticking far more closely to the vision of Alfred Nobel, the Swedish businessman who founded the awards.
According to Nobel, the Nobel laureate needed to be a figure who had advanced the "abolition or reduction of standing armies."
Unfortunately for Thunberg and her supporters, her climate activism apparently didn't fit that bill.