What to Know About Teen Climate Activist Greta Thunberg and the Global Climate Strike Marches

Claudia Harmata
What to Know About Teen Climate Activist Greta Thunberg and the Global Climate Strike Marches

At 16-years-old, Greta Thunberg has become one of the most high-profile climate activists in history.

The Swedish teenager, among other youth climate activists, paid a visit to Washington D.C. on Wednesday to speak with members of Congress about the planet’s impending doom if governments don’t adequately respond to the mounting scientific evidence that shows a crumbling planet.

“I don’t want you to listen to me. I want you to listen to science, and then act,” Thunberg said during her opening statement to the U.S. House of Representatives, according to CNN reporter Bill Weir.

When she was asked, “Why should we listen to the science?” Thunberg pointedly responded, “This is not political opinion. It’s science. Of course we should listen to it.”

President Donald Trump, a climate change denier, has rejected efforts to address the problem, including removing the U.S. from the Paris Climate Agreement in 2017. He has been lauded by many other Republicans.

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“This is not the time and place for dreams — this is the time to wake up. This is the moment in history we need to be wide awake,” Thunberg said on Wednesday, addressing the growing climate risk. “This is the biggest crisis humanity has ever faced; you cannot solve a crisis without treating it as one. Stop telling people that everything will be fine. As it looks now, everything won’t be fine.”

Other teenagers around the world have also spoken up and created their own movements in light of Thunberg’s activism, including Canadian college student Emma Lim, who started the #NoFutureNoChildren pledge, where youth’s around the world are pledging to not have kids until governments take action.

“The name comes because we really feel often like we have no future, or that our government doesn’t care about the future,” Lim told CBS News. “And so we don’t feel able to have children if their future isn’t going to be safe.”

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Here are six things to know about Thunberg:

She is Planning a Global Coordinated Strike Before the UN Climate Action Summit

Before joining world leaders at the 2019 UN Climate Action Summit on Monday, Thunberg will lead the Global Climate Strike starting Friday and running through Sept. 27, encouraging people around the world to “walk out of our workplaces and homes to join young climate strikers on the streets and demand an end to the age of fossil fuels.”

“Our house is on fire — let’s act like it,” the strike’s website reads.

Young people are listening. Tens of thousands of high school students in more than 800 places will participate on Friday, according to USA Today.

To learn more or join the strike, sign up on the website.

She Founded “Fridays for Future”

In August 2018, Thunberg started a global movement after she organized walk-out protests with her classmates to protest against Sweden’s inaction on climate change. She walked out of her classes every day for three weeks.

Thunberg later continued her strike every Friday, posting about the walk-outs on social media and encouraging other students around the world to participate in order to motivate lawmakers. Her #FridaysForFuture went viral and encouraged similar protests around the world, including the United Kingdom, where nearly 10,000 students skipped school to protest in February, according to The Guardian.

She Addressed the United Nations at Just 15-Years-Old

In December 2018, Thunberg gained even more notoriety when she told leaders at the United Nations COP24 Climate Summit in Poland that they “are not mature enough to tell it like is.”

“Even that burden you leave to us children,” she said. “But I don’t care about being popular. I care about climate justice and the living planet.”

“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 added. “I will instead let them know change is coming whether they like it or not.”

She Is Nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize

In March, the activist was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize for her international work in fighting climate change. If she wins, she will become the youngest recipient since Malala Yousafzai, who was 17 when she received the prize.

Voting will take place in October, with the winners chosen through a majority vote. The names of the Nobel Peace Prize Laureates will be announced that month. They’ll receive their honor in December.

She Sailed Across the Atlantic

On her way to speak to U.S. Congressional members and the United Nations Climate Action Summit, Thunberg decided to sail across the Atlantic in a two-week zero-emissions voyage to further make a statement about the need to take action. She set off from the U.K. and ended her journey in New York City on Aug. 28, 2019.

“It is insane that a 16-year-old would have to cross the Atlantic Ocean to make a stand,” she told CBS News when she arrived. “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

Thunberg has been open about her Asperger’s syndrome diagnosis, something critics have used to discredit her activism. However, the teen isn’t fazed by her “haters” and calls her diagnosis 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!” she wrote on Twitter in August. “I have Aspergers and that means I’m sometimes a bit different from the norm. And – given the right circumstances- being different is a superpower”