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TIME’s Person of the Year and Fellow Activists Mislead on Climate

It’s hard to argue Swedish climate activist Great Thunberg didn’t deserve this week’s TIME Person of the Year honor after starting a multinational movement. But it should also go without argument that the person receiving such a big honor and her fellow activists should have to be straight with the facts around their climate claims.

In a recent op-ed written by Thunberg and fellow activists, they mislead readers on the source of pollution in India, falsely pinning the blame on energy companies. Thunberg writes:

“Just last month, five million masks were handed out at schools in New Delhi, India’s capital, owing to toxic smog. Fossil fuels are literally choking the life from us.”

But the CNN story that Thunberg links to cites a top government official who blames the need for masks on “smoke from crop burning in neighboring states.” There was zero mention by officials in India linking any kind of fossil fuel use to the spike in smog levels, but Thunberg chose the opportunity to misinform the public to push her climate agenda.

Not an Isolated Issue

Lately, we’ve seen even more sinister trickery from climate activists. The Colorado chapter of the Sunrise Movement – a national environmental group pushing the Green New Deal – sent out a fake press release intended to sow confusion around a sustainability summit and then lied to reporters about what they were up to.

The group linked to and the Rockefeller Family Fund was quickly called out by reporters.

There’s respecting the ref. There’s working the ref. Then there’s trying to trick the ref to gain attention. @SunriseMvmtCO: no one’s doubting the urgency of climate change — but plz don’t lie to reporters?

— Sam Brasch (@samuelbrasch) December 6, 2019

Why do climate activists feel the need to constantly twist the facts or outright lie to the public? It’s likely because addressing climate change isn’t actually their goal. In the same op-ed mentioning smog in India, Thunberg admits what her movement is really about:

“That action must be powerful and wide-ranging. After all, the climate crisis is not just about the environment. It is a crisis of human rights, of justice and of political will. Colonial, racist, and patriarchal systems of oppression have created and fueled it. We need to dismantle them all. Our political leaders can no longer shirk their responsibilities.” (emphasis added)

Rarely do activists show all their cards with such transparency, but Thunberg made it clear that her movement has larger political and social goals than just climate, the environment or energy.

Other activists were on the same message as Thunberg. Jamie Henn, a top official at the prominent environmental group, tweeted while at the COP 25 conference in Madrid that climate activism really is meant to serve broader social goals:

“These can’t just be the climate talks anymore — they need to be the climate *justice* talks. #COP25 was moved from Chile because of protests to demand dignity & human rights. We will never address the climate crisis unless we address the injustice & inequality at its core.”

This transparency helps explain why Thunberg and other activists spend so much time talking about destroying energy companies and so little time talking about solutions. Take Thunberg’s speech at the United Nations for example. It was filled with plenty of threats and warnings, but not a single mention of what can be done to address the problem. There was nothing on wind, nothing on solar, nothing on carbon capture, and nothing on new technologies that lower emissions – and definitely nothing on how American natural gas is providing a strong solution.

Likewise, extreme environmental group Extinction Rebellion, whose members shut down traffic, march through the streets with signs, stage “die-ins,” and deploy other disruptive tactics, rarely if ever talk about solutions.

When the stated goal of the so-called climate movement actually isn’t focused on climate, then its leaders will go to great (and often misguided) lengths to make their case.

We Need Innovation, Not Protests

While Thunberg,, Extinction Rebellion, and others spend plenty of time protesting, they haven’t contributed very much to solving the problem.

That responsibility has fallen to energy companies (many of which are targets of the protests) to innovate and develop the new technologies needed to address climate change. And they’ve had great success the past couple decades.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, national greenhouse gas emissions in the United States have declined by 13 percent since 2005 and power sector emissions have declined by 27 percent.

The oil and natural gas sector has played a huge role in this progress. Thanks to tremendous innovation in fracking, natural gas production has skyrocketed and that cleaning-burning fuel has cut 2,823 million metric tons of carbon emissions since 2005.

And because of the strength of natural gas development here at home, the United States is able to export more natural gas to other countries, providing those same climate benefits to our allies.


Greta Thunberg and other activists like and the Extinction Rebellion have finally revealed that it isn’t about climate change after all. Instead, their environmental talk is just an excuse to tear down energy companies and enact a new social and political system.

If we’re going to address climate change, it’s time to start ignoring those who don’t care about solutions and focus on the people and companies hard at work everyday powering the globe and tackling our biggest challenges.

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Eva Martinusz's picture
Eva Martinusz on Dec 14, 2019 2:28 pm GMT

I can agree with Greta that the current social and political system is playing an active role in generating substantial amount of CO2 emission either by ignorance or profit-making. She is refering to the fact that energy targets should have been taken more seriously, regulations had to be more strict and multinational organisations would need to take more responsibility for emissions.

Matt Chester's picture
Matt Chester on Dec 16, 2019 12:54 pm GMT

Agreed, Eva.


While Thunberg,, Extinction Rebellion, and others spend plenty of time protesting, they haven’t contributed very much to solving the problem.

That responsibility has fallen to energy companies (many of which are targets of the protests) to innovate and develop the new technologies needed to address climate change

The fact that the activists' efforts have been put towards, you know, activism is not a reason for criticism. They are using their voices to put pressure on the people/organizations with the technical ability to develop these solutions. To say that an activist that isn't also doing the engineering/science work to 'solve' the problem isn't actually helping is completely missing the point. 

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