Tes people of the year: Greta Thunberg

The 16-year-old climate change activist has changed the way people think about global warming, inspiring millions of pupils to join her

Catherine Lough

How to help students 'channel outrage' about the world

You would not usually expect a leading cause of mass truancy to feature in an education people of the year list.

But Greta Thunberg has changed the way people think about global warming, inspiring millions of pupils to join her.

This month the sixteen-year-old climate change activist admitted she thought the mass school anti-climate change strikes she inspired had, in the end, had little impact.

They had achieved “nothing,” given that greenhouse gas emissions have risen by 4 per cent since the Paris agreement was signed in 2016, when governments committed to limiting planetary warming to 1.5 degrees, she said.

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However, 2019 has undoubtedly been Thunberg’s year. In March, more than 1.4 million young people walked out of lessons as part of the “Fridays for the Future” movement to make their voices heard, and in September, a series of international strikes across 1,500 locations involved over 6 million people.

And she has also been an inspiring figurehead for children growing up with autism – Thunberg has Asperger's, which she has credited as enabling her to "see through" the lies and obfuscation around climate change.

She famously sailed across the Atlantic to attend climate summits in the United States, revealing her commitment to the most carbon-efficient forms of travel. At a meeting with the UN in New York, she made an impassioned plea to adults to ensure catastrophic climate change was kept at bay: "The eyes of all future generations are upon you. And if you choose to fail us, I say – we will never forgive you."

Therefore, despite her doubts about how effective the campaign has been, Thunberg has been a galvanising force of the environmental movement, inspiring thousands upon thousands of young people worldwide to challenge governmental apathy over global warming.

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author bio

Catherine Lough

Catherine Lough is a reporter at Tes.

Find me on Twitter @CathImogenLough

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