Greta Thunberg spoke to world leaders at a United Nations climate conference in Madrid, Spain, in December 2019.
Greta Thunberg (TOON•berg) is only 17 years old, but she has become a powerful voice in combating the human-made causes of climate change. Climate change is the way Earth’s climate, or general pattern of weather, is shifting over time. In their study of climate, scientists have been tracking the increasing amount of ice melting in the polar regions and the rising of average global temperatures. Many climate scientists predict that these changes will cause oceans to warm and rise. They also predict that weather will become more extreme with longer droughts and more violent storms. Changes in climate affect animals, plants, and people around the world.
Greta wasn’t always a strong voice for her cause. When she first learned about climate change, she became sad and withdrawn. She was so depressed about climate change that she stopped speaking and had trouble eating for a time. She has Asperger syndrome, a form of autism. Autism is a condition that affects the way people view the world. People with autism often develop a strong interest in a particular subject. Greta has said that because she has autism, she is able to clearly see the problems caused by climate change. It helped her develop a strong focus on an issue she is very passionate about.
In August 2018, Greta decided to take action on climate change and began skipping school to protest in front of the Swedish government building. Others joined her in Sweden, and soon people around the world took part in the protest. Now, every Friday in countries across the globe, children, teenagers, and their supporters have been protesting to persuade governments to take action on climate change. These protests are called Fridays for Future. Greta had to take time off from school to continue her protests, but she still got As and Bs in all of her classes.
While Greta has gotten a lot of publicity for her protests, she has worked to share the spotlight with others. She has called attention to young leaders from native groups of North and South America. These activists, including Helena Gualinga of the Sarayaku people of Ecuador and Autumn Peltier of the Wiikwemkoong First Nation of Canada, have been working around the world for many years on environmental issues.
Greta has spoken to world leaders in their countries, at the United Nations, and at large conferences. Like many people with autism, she feels uncomfortable around crowds of people. However, she puts her discomfort aside to spread her message that action on climate change is urgently needed. She has shown an amazing amount of dedication in her effort to educate people around the world about climate change.