Who is Greta Thunberg?
Greta Thunberg is a 17-year old climate activist from Sweden. A school girl with autism, standing at less than 5ft, she started the ‘School Strike for Climate’ protests. Over the past 6 months, she has become a global superstar of the climate change movement. Promoting #fridaysforfuture alongside millions of school children (and now adults) across the globe to demand politicians, governments and corporations take action on climate change. We look at her background and some incredible Greta Thunberg quotes.
Where did the ‘School Strike for Climate’ come from?
As a young girl, Greta was diagnosed with Aspergers and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD). After learning about climate change, she became depressed and lost a lot of weight, causing it to stunt her growth. However, she then became determined to change the opinion of billions and stand up for climate action. She persuaded her family to all go vegetarian (now vegan), stop flying, buy an electric car and heavily reduce their carbon footprint. But it wasn’t enough for Greta.
On Friday 20th August 2018, Greta’s steely determination led her to sit outside parliament in Stockholm, Sweden, every day during school time for 2 weeks with a sign saying ‘Skolstrejk för klimatet’ (School Strike for Climate). This was in response to heatwaves and wildfires across Sweden. She demanded the country reduce their carbon emissions in line with the Paris Agreement.
What started out as one person standing up and saying no, quickly gained much media coverage. Every Friday, Greta Thunberg protests for climate action, alongside her battered sign. Now joined by millions of other young climate activists across the planet. The latest global strike, Friday May 24th, attracted over 1.8million in over 1,400 locations across 110 countries.
Since August 2018, Greta Thunberg quotes on climate change have inspired a generation of climate activists. She spoke at the Extinction Rebellion rally in London, performed a TED talk, addressed delegates at the UN climate talks in Poland, stole the show at Davos World Economic Forum, met the Pope, made speeches to MPs at the UK Houses of Parliament and gathered over 4.6million passionate followers across Instagram and Facebook.
Oh, and she has been on the front cover of TIME magazine, nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize, won the GQ ‘Game Changer of the Year’ award and sailed across the Atlantic on a zero-emissions solar powered yacht to attend the Climate Action Summit in New York. She left Plymouth, UK on the 14th August on a trip that took 15 days, arriving in New York on 28th August. The location of COP25 was changed from Santiago (Chile) to Madrid (Spain), so Greta sailed back to Europe to attend the Conference of the Parties.
In July 2020, Greta was awarded a new humanitarian prize, worth one million euros. The inaugural Gulbenkian Prize for Humanity, which aims to recognise people across the world whose contributions to mitigation of climate change stand out. She has since announced that she is donating the prize to charitable projects combating the “climate and ecological crisis”.
Greta Thunberg Quotes
Her abrupt and confrontational style has ruffled feathers, but also won her many admirers from school children to celebrities and activists. Greta Thunberg quotes are all her own as she writes all of her own speeches, and is often told by her father to ‘tone them down,’ which she politely ignores.
1. “At first when I heard about climate change, I was a climate denier. I didn’t think it was happening. Because if there really was an existential crisis like that, that would threaten our civilisation, we wouldn’t be focusing on anything else.”
2. “I don’t really like being in the centre of attention. I’m not used to that. All my life I have been like the invisible girl at the back that no one sees or listens to.”
3. “For way too long, the politicians and the people in power have gotten away with not doing anything to fight the climate crisis, but we will make sure that they will not get away with it any longer. We are striking because we have done our homework and they have not.”
TEDx Stockholm, December 2018
Greta Thunberg explained why she decided to walk out of school and strike for climate action. Over 2.8M people have seen her passionate TEDx speech.
4. “We can’t save the world by playing by the rules, because the rules have to be changed. Everything needs to change – and it has to start today.”
5. “I often talk to people who say, ‘No, we have to be hopeful and to inspire each other, and we can’t tell [people] too many negative things’ . . . But, no — we have to tell it like it is. Because if there are no positive things to tell, then what should we do, should we spread false hope? We can’t do that, we have to tell the truth.”
6. “The climate crisis has already been solved. We already have all the facts and solutions. All we have to do is to wake up and change.”
COP24, Poland, December 2018
COP24 was the 24th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), held in Poland. The Conference of the Parties (often referred to as COP) is the supreme body of the UNFCCC Convention and it holds sessions every year. Greta Thunberg’s powerful speech became the biggest talking point of the whole conference.
7. “Since our leaders are behaving like children, we will have to take the responsibility they should have taken long ago.”
8. “You say you love your children above all else and yet you are stealing their future in front of their very eyes.”
9. “Why should I be studying for a future that soon may be no more, when no one is doing anything to save that future? And what is the point of learning facts when the most important facts clearly mean nothing to our society?”
World Economic Forum, Davos, January 2019
After travelling 32 hours by train to the World Economic Forum in snowy Davos, Switzerland, aligned with her stance on reducing carbon emissions, she didn’t pull any punches when addressing world leaders.
10. “Some people, some companies, some decision-makers in particular, have known exactly what priceless values they have been sacrificing to continue making unimaginable amounts of money. And I think many of you here today belong to that group of people”
11.“I think it is insane that people are gathered here to talk about the climate and they arrive here in private jets”
12. “Adults keep saying we owe it to the young people, to give them hope, but I don’t want your hope. I don’t want you to be hopeful. I want you to panic. I want you to feel the fear I feel every day. I want you to act. I want you to act as you would in a crisis. I want you to act as if the house is on fire, because it is.”
European Parliament, Brussels, April 2019
Greta Thunberg, along with other young climate activists, spoke at the EU Parliament in Brussels, on a European tour.
13. “If you still say that we are wasting valuable lesson time, then let me remind you our political leaders have wasted decades through denial and inaction”
Extinction Rebellion London, UK, April 2019
Extinction Rebellion (also known as XR) is a non-violent protest against climate breakdown, biodiversity loss, and the risk of human extinction and ecological collapse. They have been responsible for many protests worldwide. These include occupying bridges in London for over 10 days in April, staging ‘die-ins’ in public places (such as the Natural History Museum) naked demonstrations in the House of Commons and pouring fake blood on the road outside No. 10 Downing Street.
14. “Humanity is now standing at a crossroads. We must now decide which path we want to take. How do we want the future living conditions for all living species to be like?”
15. “For way too long the politicians and people in power have got away with not doing anything at all to fight the climate crisis and ecological crisis. But we will make sure that they will not get away with it any longer. We will never stop fighting, we will never stop fighting for this planet, for ourselves, our futures and for the future’s of our children and grandchildren.”
16. “We are the ones making a difference – we the people in Extinction Rebellion and the children’s School Strike for the Climate – we are the ones making a difference.
Houses of Parliament, UK, April 2019
Whilst in the UK, Greta spoke to MP’s at the Houses of Parliament. She focussed her speech on how future generations will look back at the climate crisis and how it is time for emergency thinking. A few days later, the UK officially declared a climate change emergency.
17. “This ongoing irresponsible behavior will no doubt be remembered in history as one of the greatest failures of humankind.”
18. “Sometimes we just simply have to find a way. The moment we decide to fulfill something, we can do anything. And I’m sure the moment we start behaving as if we were in an emergency, we can avoid climate and ecological catastrophe. Humans are very adaptable: we can still fix this. But the opportunity to do so will not last for long. We must start today. We have no more excuses.
19. “Many of you appear concerned that we are wasting valuable lesson time, but I assure you we will go back to school the moment you start listening to science and give us a future.”
R20 Austrian World Summit, Vienna, May 2019
Greta Thunberg joined Arnold Scwarzenegger, in his home country for the Austrian World Summit in Vienna. The former Governor of California and film-star admitted to being starstruck when meeting Greta for the first time. They both spoke at the ‘Climate Kirtag’ as part of the Austria World Summit.
20. “This is above all an emergency and not just any emergency. This is the biggest crisis humanity has ever faced. This is not something you can like on Facebook.”
21. “Politicians one second say climate change is very important, it is the most important topic and we are going to do everything we can to stop it. And the next second, they want to expand airports, build new coal power plants and motorways. And then they fly off in a private jet to attend a meeting on the other side of the world.”
Transatlantic Crossing 2019 – UK to USA, August 2019
Greta Thunberg was invited on a 60-foot carbon-neutral racing yacht, the Malizia II. The yacht has solar panels and underwater turbines to generate zero-carbon electricity on board. The trip took 15 days, leaving from Plymouth, UK and arriving in New York on 28th August.
She was joined by her father, Svante Thunberg, on her journey that took her to the UN Climate Action Summit in New York in September. Followed up by visits to Canada and Mexico, before attending COP25 in Santiago, Chile in December, using trains and buses to travel as she refuses to fly.
22. “I’m not that special. I can’t convince everyone. I’m just going to do what I want to do and what will have most impact.”
23. “Of course there are climate delayers who want to do everything to shift the focus of the climate crisis to something else or want to make people question the science.”
US Congress, Washington DC, September 2019
24. “This is the year 2019. This is not the time and place for dreams. This is the time to wake up. This is a moment in history where we need to be wide awake.”
25. You must not gamble your children’s future on the flip of a coin. Instead, you must unite behind the science. You must take action. You must do the impossible. Because giving up can never ever be an option.
UN Climate Change Summit New York, September 2019
26. “This is all wrong. I shouldn’t be up here. I should be back in school on the other side of the ocean, yet you all come to us young people for hope. How dare you?”
27. “You have stolen my dreams and my childhood with your empty words.”
COP25 Madrid, December 2019
28. “Without that sense of urgency how can we, the people, understand that we are facing a real crisis. If the people are not fully aware of what is going on then they will not put pressure on the people in power to act. Without pressure from the people, our leaders can basically get away with not doing anything.”
29. “There is hope – I’ve seen it – but it does not come from the governments or corporations, it comes from the people. The people who have been unaware are now starting to wake up, and once we become aware we change. We can change and people are ready for change.”
We hope you have enjoyed these Greta Thunberg quotes. You can follow her journey on Instagram.