See climate change as a crisis similar to Covid-19: Greta Thunberg

Greta Thunberg appears in the three-part documentary series Greta Thunberg: A Year To Change The World, which premiered on June 5.
Greta Thunberg appears in the three-part documentary series Greta Thunberg: A Year To Change The World, which premiered on June 5.PHOTO: BBC STUDIOS

SINGAPORE - After a turbulent year, it looks like the world is at last coming to grips with the pandemic. In countries where it once looked as if the disease was raging out of control, infection rates are down, vaccinations are up and lockdowns are loosening.

Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg, 18, sees a lesson there.

Covid-19 proves that even the thorniest global problems can be solved, she says. Ms Thunberg, thrice nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize, says that for a start, "the media can start treating an emergency like an emergency".

Speaking at an online press conference from her home in Sweden, she says the pandemic has also shown that scientific data cannot be negotiated with. And the excuse given by some that a sector of the population can be sacrificed because it will cost too much to save them has been proven to be a lie.

She adds: "Some people say we don't have enough money to deal with the climate crisis. But that's been proven wrong. Governments - this is to oversimplify it - have been able to print more money to finance medical programmes.

"So, yes, we need to treat a crisis like a crisis."

She appears in the three-part documentary series Greta Thunberg: A Year To Change The World, which premiered on June 5 on BBC Earth (StarHub TV Channel 407) and BBC Player.

In the show, filmed from August 2019 to late last year (2020), she travels around Europe and North America, speaking to researchers who explain how rising temperatures have affected their field of study.

Since capturing global attention in 2018 with school climate strikes in her home country, she has become the face of climate activism. By speaking out, she has attracted mockery from leaders such as Russian President Vladimir Putin, while former United States president Donald Trump called her "ridiculous" in a tweet.

Asked what she thinks about the lively Twitter exchanges she shared with Mr Trump, known for his support of oil companies, she says "it's time the world moved on from that era".

"I hope he's enjoying himself, but I don't miss him."

Being a young woman who names and shames nations that fail to take measures against climate change has also made her a target for trolls from across the political spectrum. She finds their attacks amusing.

"The conspiracy theories about me are very entertaining. One second, I'm an American agent, next, I'm a Russian agent, then a Pakistani agent. I'm a communist, then I am a capitalist. I cannot keep track of all of them. It's very fun," she says.

Asked if she finds being under media scrutiny exhausting, especially now that personalities like Japanese tennis player Naomi Osaka have given up post-match media appearances for the sake of mental health, Ms Thunberg says speaking to the press gives her joy.

"I feel more happy that my life has meaning when I'm doing something I'm passionate about, that I'm making a difference."


Greta Thunberg says the pandemic has also shown that scientific data cannot be negotiated with. PHOTO: BBC STUDIOS

But there is media pressure of a different kind on teenagers and children, she notes. Society seems to have placed the burden of speaking up for the climate on the shoulders of the generation who will have to inherit a ruined planet.

"In a perfect world, we shouldn't have to do this, because there would be no need for climate activists, especially young climate activists. We would be more than happy if others took over the responsibility."

The three-episode documentary series Greta Thunberg: A Year To Change The World premiered on June 5. New episodes air on Saturdays on BBC Earth (StarHub TV Channel 407). Also available on BBC Player.