Teen climate activist nominated for Nobel Peace Prize ahead of global strike

14 Mar 2019

A young protester at the Youth 4 Climate march in Brussels, Belgium, in February 2019. Image: Luoxi/Depositphotos

16-year-old activist Greta Thunberg has been recognised for her pleas to world leaders to act on climate change.

Three Norwegian MPs have secured a Nobel Peace Prize nomination for teen activist Greta Thunberg.

Freddy André Øvstegård from Norway’s Socialist Left Party told the AFP news agency: “We have proposed Greta Thunberg because if we do nothing to halt climate change, it will be the cause of wars, conflict and refugees.”

As far as Øvstegård is concerned, “Greta Thunberg has launched a mass movement”, which he sees as “a major contribution to peace”.

The Swedish schoolgirl first came to prominence in August 2018 when she instigated a school strike for climate outside the Swedish parliament building. This was the beginning of her Fridays for Future (FFF) movement, which has inspired school walkouts around the world.

Thunberg captured the world’s attention when she was invited to deliver speeches at both the UN’s COP24 conference in December 2018, and the World Economic Forum in January.

Her TEDxStockholm talk, ‘The disarming case to act right now on climate change’, was published online earlier this year and has already accrued more than 1m views. In this speech, Thunberg talked about being diagnosed with Asperger syndrome, obsessive compulsive disorder and selective mutism. “That basically means I only speak when I think it’s necessary – now is one of those moments,” she said.

“Everyone keeps saying climate change is an existential threat and the most important issue of all, and yet they just carry on like before. I don’t understand that, because if the emissions have to stop, then we must stop the emissions. To me that is black or white. There are no grey areas when it comes to survival. Either we go on as a civilisation or we don’t. We have to change.”

Now 16 years old, a Peace Prize win for Thunberg would make her the youngest ever recipient, a record currently held by another who started early in activism, Malala Yousafzai. There are 301 candidates for the 2019 Nobel Peace Prize, including individuals and organisations, and the winner (or winners) will be revealed in October.

Climate strikes in Ireland

This significant recognition of the climate strike leader comes on the eve of a global strike for climate action set to take place on Friday, 15 March. In more than 100 countries, schoolchildren are expected to conduct the biggest protest by the FFF movement so far.

In Ireland, more than 21 protests are planned across the country. The two largest events – at Cork City Hall and Leinster House, Dublin – will be lunchtime protests (1pm to 2pm) to coincide with the actions worldwide.

Some schools and parents are assisting the young people in organising the events, which are largely being coordinated by FFF Ireland, School Strikes 4 Climate and the Schools’ Climate Action Network.

When asked about the planned 15 March strikes, An Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, TD, said he was “inspired and enthused” by the action being taken by schoolchildren and that they are “putting it up to all of us in all parties – all adults – to do more when it comes to climate action”.

Young girl protesting in Brussels, February 2019. Image: Luoxi/Depositphotos

Elaine Burke is the host of For Tech’s Sake, a co-production from Silicon Republic and The HeadStuff Podcast Network. She was previously the editor of Silicon Republic.