A Swedish teenager ignited a global generational movement to force the world to address climate change.
In 2018, Greta Thunberg began her campaign to address the existential threat of climate change by skipping school.
Rather than attend class, Thunberg, then 15, spent her school days sitting outside the Swedish Parliament with a sign that said: “School Strike for Climate.” Her goal was to carry out her protest until the Swedish government met the carbon emissions target agreed to by world leaders in 2015 in the Paris Agreement, a landmark global pact setting benchmarks for increasing government action and investment to reducing the use of carbon.
From those days, sitting by herself, a movement was born. Media coverage of Thunberg’s protest spread the word — and soon students in other communities and countries launched similar actions. These environmental advocates connected and worked together to organize a worldwide school strike for climate change.
Two years after her lonely vigil began, Thunberg had met the Pope, sparred with President Trump on Twitter, and galvanized millions of young people to join and participate in the environmental movement.
Last year, Thunberg traveled to the United Nations in New York, by sailboat – to avoid using carbon by flying – to address the 2019 UN Climate Action Summit where she chided world leaders. In an emotional speech, she said: “You have stolen my dreams and my childhood with your empty words. We are at the beginning of mass extinction and all you can talk about is money and fairy tales of eternal economic growth — how dare you!”
Thunberg is not only raising awareness, but she also advocates for change. Working with mayors, governors and national decisionmakers, she urges leaders to enact specific policies to slow the pace of climate change.
Thunberg has Asperger’s syndrome, a developmental disorder, which causes her to speak with absolute candor. What some people consider a disability, Thunberg calls “a gift” and “her superpower” because it has made her courageous in speaking truth to power about the threats to life on Earth.