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Greta Thunberg

Thunberg September 2023, Stockholm, Sweden
Thunberg in 2023
Greta Tintin Eleonora Ernman Thunberg

(2003-01-03) 3 January 2003 (age 21)
Stockholm, Sweden
  • Environmental activist
Years active 2018–present
Movement School Strike for Climate
Relatives Olof Thunberg (grandfather)
Awards Full list
Greta Thunberg Signature.svg

Greta Tintin Eleonora Ernman Thunberg ( born 3 January 2003) is a Swedish environmental activist who is known for challenging world leaders to take immediate action for climate change mitigation.

Early years and family

Thunberg was born on 3 January 2003, in Stockholm, Sweden, the daughter of opera singer Malena Ernman and actor Svante Thunberg. She has a younger sister, Beata.

Thunberg says she first heard about climate change in 2011, when she was eight years old, and could not understand why so little was being done about it. The situation depressed her, and as a result, at the age of 11, she stopped talking and eating much and lost ten kilograms (22 lb) in two months.

For about two years, Thunberg challenged her parents to lower the family's carbon footprint and overall impact on the environment by becoming vegan, upcycling, and giving up flying. She has said she showed them graphs and data, but when that did not work, she warned her family that they were stealing her future. Giving up flying in part meant her mother had to abandon international ventures in her opera career. Interviewed in December 2019 by the BBC, her father said: "To be honest, [her mother] didn't do it to save the climate. She did it to save her child, because she saw how much it meant to her, and then, when she did that, she saw how much [Greta] grew from that, how much energy she got from it."

Thunberg credits her parents' eventual response and lifestyle changes with giving her hope and belief that she could make a difference.


Greta Thunberg 4
Thunberg in front of the Swedish parliament, holding a "Skolstrejk för klimatet" (transl. School Strike for the Climate) sign, Stockholm, August 2018
Old town Stockholm the bike of Greta
Bicycle in Stockholm with references to Thunberg: "The climate crisis must be treated as a crisis! The climate is the most important election issue!" (11 September 2018)
"FridaysForFuture" protest Berlin 14-12-2018 03
Sign in Berlin, 14 December 2018

In August 2018, at age 15, she started spending her Fridays outside the Swedish Parliament to call for stronger action on climate change by holding up a sign reading Skolstrejk för klimatet (School Strike for Climate). When she started protesting, her parents did not support her activism. Her father said he did not like her missing school.

Soon, other students engaged in similar protests in their communities. Together, they organized a school climate strike movement under the name Fridays for Future. After Thunberg addressed the 2018 United Nations Climate Change Conference, student strikes took place every week around the world. In 2019, multiple coordinated multi-city protests involved over a million students each.

To avoid carbon-intensive flying, Thunberg sailed on a yacht to North America, where she attended the 2019 UN Climate Action Summit. Her speech there, in which she exclaimed "How dare you?", was widely taken up by the press and incorporated into music.

Thunberg initially gained notice for her youth and her straightforward and blunt speaking manner, both in public and to political leaders and assemblies. She criticizes world leaders and corporations for what she considers their failure to take sufficient action to address the climate crisis.

Her sudden rise to world fame made Thunberg both a leader in the activist community and the subject of criticism, especially due to her youth. Her influence on the world stage has been described by The Guardian and other newspapers as the "Greta effect".

She received numerous honours and awards, including an honorary Fellowship of the Royal Scottish Geographical Society, inclusion in Time's 100 most influential people, being the youngest Time Person of the Year, inclusion in the Forbes list of The World's 100 Most Powerful Women (2019), and nominations for the Nobel Peace Prize in 2019, 2020, 2021 and 2022.

Position on climate change

FFF Berlin 2019-07-19 055
Thunberg delivering a speech at a July 2019 school strike for climate change in Berlin

Thunberg asserts that humanity is facing an existential crisis because of global warming and holds the baby boomers responsible for creating and perpetuating detrimental changes to the Earth's climate.

Thunberg has said that climate change will have a disproportionate effect on young people, whose futures will be profoundly affected. She argues that her generation may not have a future any more because "that future was sold so that a small number of people could make unimaginable amounts of money." She also has said that people in the Global South will suffer most from climate change, even though they have contributed least in terms of carbon dioxide emissions. Thunberg has voiced support for other young activists from developing countries who are already facing the damaging effects of climate change. Speaking in Madrid in December 2019, she said: "We talk about our future, they talk about their present."

Speaking at international forums, she berates world leaders because too little action is being taken to reduce global emissions. She says that lowering emissions is not enough, that emissions need to be reduced to zero if the world is to keep global warming to less than 1.5 °C.

In July 2020, Greta Thunberg, Luisa Neubauer, Anuna De Wever and Adélaïde Carlier wrote an open letter to all EU leaders and heads of state' stating they must "advocate to make ecocide an international crime at the International Criminal Court."


According to her father, her activism did not interfere with her schoolwork, but she had less spare time. She finished lower secondary school with good grades. In July 2019, Time magazine reported Thunberg was taking a "sabbatical year" from school, intending to travel in the Americas while meeting people from the climate movement.

In August 2019, Thunberg sailed across the Atlantic Ocean from Plymouth, England, to New York City, in the 60-foot (18 m) racing yacht Malizia II, equipped with solar panels and underwater turbines. The trip was announced as a carbon-neutral transatlantic crossing serving as a demonstration of Thunberg's declared beliefs of the importance of reducing emissions.

On 24 August 2020, Thunberg ended her "gap year" from school when she returned to the classroom.

On Friday, 9 June 2023, Thunberg graduated high school and marked the day by attending what would technically be her last school strike for climate protest before receiving her diploma. She wore the Swedish traditional graduation white dress and white studentmössa (cap) to the protest.

Interesting facts about Greta Thunberg

  • Thunberg's paternal grandfather was actor and director Olof Thunberg.
  • Thunberg shares her second name with the adventuring creation of Belgian cartoonist Georges Remi, better known as Hergé.
  • She was diagnosed with Asperger's syndrome, OCD and selective mutism.
  • Thunberg is described as not only the best-known climate change activist, but also the best-known autism activist.
  • She speaks fluent English, and most of her public interactions are in English.
  • The following species have been described and named after Greta Thunberg:
    • Nelloptodes gretae, by Michael Darby, Natural History Museum, UK, December 2019, a new species of beetle from Kenya in the family Ptiliidae. Its long antennae bear a passing resemblance to her braided pigtails.
    • Craspedotropis gretathunbergae, by Schilthuizen et al., 2020, a new species of land snail from Borneo in the family Cyclophoridae.
    • Thunberga greta, in a new genus Thunberga gen nov, both by Peter Jäger, June 2020, a new species of huntsman spider in the family Sparassidae. By 2021 the new Thunberga genus contained twenty-five newly described spiders, all from Madagascar and Mayotte, many in honour of other inspirational young people.
    • Opacuincola gretathunbergae, by Verhaege & Haase, 2021, a new freshwater snail from New Zealand in the family Tateidae.

Greta Thunberg quotes

  • "I see the world in black and white, and I don't like compromising."
  • "My message is that if we do not care about the climate crisis and if we do not act now then almost no other question is going to matter in the future."
  • "Once we start to act, hope is everywhere. So instead of looking for hope, look for action. Then, and only then, hope will come."
  • "Giving up cannot be an option."

Honours and awards

Thunberg has received honours and awards over the course of her activism. In May 2018, before the start of her school strike, she was one of the winners of a climate change essay competition by Svenska Dagbladet (The Swedish Daily News) for young people. Thunberg has refused to attend ceremonies or accept prizes if it requires her to fly, such as for the International Children's Peace Prize. She has received prizes from various NGOs but also from scientific institutions that lauded her success in raising awareness.

  • Time's 25 most influential teens of 2018, December 2018, an annual list compiled by Time magazine of the most influential teenagers in the world that year.
  • Fryshuset scholarship, 2018, for Young Role Model of the Year.
  • Nobel Peace Prize nomination, 2019, by three deputies of the Norwegian parliament. Again in 2020 by two Swedish lawmakers. Nominated in 2021, 2022 and 2023.
  • Swedish Woman of the Year (Årets Svenska Kvinna), March 2019, awarded by the Swedish Women's Educational Association to "a Swedish woman who, through her accomplishments, has represented and brought attention to the Sweden of today in the greater world."
  • Rachel Carson Prize, March 2019, awarded to a woman who has distinguished herself in outstanding work for the environment in Norway or internationally.
  • Goldene Kamera film and television awards, March 2019, special Climate Action Award. Thunberg dedicated the prize to the activists protesting against the destruction of the Hambach Forest, which is threatened by lignite mining.
  • Fritt Ord Award, April 2019, shared with Natur og Ungdom, which "celebrates freedom of speech". Thunberg donated her share of the prize money to a lawsuit seeking to halt Norwegian oil exploration in the Arctic.
  • Time 100, April 2019, by Time magazine, an annual list of the 100 most influential people in the world for that year.
  • Laudato si' Prize, April 2019, awarded by the Milarepa Foundation of Chile and selected by the International Laudato Si' Group members under the second encyclical of Pope Francis, "on care for our common home".
  • Honorary degree of Doctor honoris causa (dr.h.c.), May 2019, conferred by the Belgian University of Mons (Mons, Belgium) for "contribution ... to raising awareness on sustainable development".
  • Ambassador of Conscience Award, June 2019, Amnesty International's most prestigious award, for her leadership in the climate movement, shared with Fridays for Future.
  • The Geddes Environment Medal, July 2019, by the Royal Scottish Geographical Society, for "an outstanding practical, research or communications contribution to conservation and protection of the natural environment and the development of sustainability."
  • Right Livelihood Award, September 2019, from the Right Livelihood Foundation and known as Sweden's alternative Nobel Prize, one of four 2019 winners, "for inspiring and amplifying political demands for urgent climate action reflecting scientific facts."
  • Keys to the City of Montréal, September 2019, by Mayor of Montréal Valérie Plante.
  • International Children's Peace Prize, October 2019, shared with 14-year-old Divina Maloum from Cameroon, awarded by the KidsRights Foundation.
  • Maphiyata echiyatan hin win (Woman Who Came from the Heavens), Lakota tribal name conferred, October 2019, at Standing Rock Indian Reservation, following support for the Dakota Access pipeline opposition, after being invited by Tokata Iron Eyes, a 16-year-old Lakota climate activist.
  • Nordic Council Environment Prize, October 2019. Thunberg declined to accept the award or the prize money of DKK 350,000 (€47,000 as of October 2019) stating that Nordic countries were not doing enough to cut emissions.
  • Time Person of the Year, December 2019, by Time magazine, the first recipient born in the 21st century and the youngest ever. For succeeding in "creating a global attitudinal shift, transforming millions of vague, middle-of-the-night anxieties into a worldwide movement calling for urgent change." And: "For sounding the alarm about humanity's predatory relationship with the only home we have, for bringing to a fragmented world a voice that transcends backgrounds and borders, for showing us all what it might look like when a new generation leads."
  • Glamour Woman of the Year Award 2019, 12 November 2019, by Glamour magazine. Accepted by Jane Fonda, quoting Greta as saying "If a Swedish, teenage, science nerd who has shopstop, refuses to fly and has never worn makeup or been to a hairdresser can be chosen a Woman of the Year by one of the biggest fashion magazines in the world then I think almost nothing is impossible."
  • She was recognized as one of the BBC's 100 women of 2019.
  • Nature's 10, 2019, December 2019, an annual list of ten "people who mattered" in science, produced by the scientific journal Nature, specifically, for being a "climate catalyst: A Swedish teenager [who] brought climate science to the fore as she channeled her generation's rage."
  • Forbes list of The World's 100 Most Powerful Women, 2019
  • Forbes 30 under 30 Europe 2020 – Social Entrepreneurs
  • Human Act Award, on Earth Day, 22 April 2020, by the Human Act Foundation, for "her fearless and determined efforts to mobilize millions of people around the world to fight climate change." The USD100,000 prize money was donated to UNICEF and doubled by the Foundation.
  • Best in Activism (from Tech & Innovation category) at the 12th Shorty Awards, on 3 May 2020.
  • Gulbenkian Prize for Humanity, in July 2020, the first recipient of this prize. Through her foundation, Thunberg donated the €1 million prize money "to charitable projects combatting the climate and ecological crisis and to support people facing the worst impacts, particularly in the Global South."
  • Women in Youth Activism Award at the 2021 Women of Europe Awards on 2 December 2021, for "courageous leadership in support for climate justice, social change and youth community organising".
  • Honorary Doctor of Laws (LLD), 31 May 2021, conferred by the University of British Columbia, Okanagan Campus, for "her international recognitions for challenging world leaders to take immediate action against climate change."
  • Honorary Doctor of Theology conferred by Helsinki University. The doctorate was scheduled to be granted in June 2023.

Images for kids

See also

Kids robot.svg In Spanish: Greta Thunberg para niños

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