16-year-old Greta Thunberg has become the face of the climate change movement

By Helen Murphy
December 11, 2019 09:13 AM
Advertisement

Greta Thunberg, the 16-year-old climate activist who became a household name this year, has been named the 2019 TIMEPerson of the Year.

The magazine announced the decision on Wednesday morning, with TIMEEditor-in-Chief Edward Felsenthal appearing on the Today show.

“Her rise and influence has been really extraordinary,” Felsenthal said on the morning show. “She was a solo protester with a hand-painted sign 14 months ago. She’s now led millions of people around the world, 150 countries, to act on behalf of the planet.”

He added, “She became the biggest voice on the biggest issue facing the planet this year.”

Thunberg is also the youngest person in history to receive the TIMEhonor.

Greta Thunberg
| Credit: BEN STANSALL/AFP/Getty

The TIMEcover story on Thunberg cites her meteoric rise throughout the year as she raised awareness about the need to curb carbon emissions to prevent the most catastrophic effects of an overheating planet.

Since her solo school-day strike outside the Swedish parliament in August 2018 went viral, Thunberg’s activism has taken on a life of its own, inspiring hundreds of similar climate strikes around the world as part of the Fridays for Future campaign.

Among other accomplishments, this year the activist sailed across the Atlantic in a carbon-neutral boat to give a powerful speech at the United Nations Climate Action Summit, was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize and led a global climate strike on Sept. 20 that became the largest climate protest in history.

“We can’t just continue living as if there was no tomorrow, because there is a tomorrow,” she told the outlet. “That is all we are saying.”

Greta Thunberg
| Credit: EVGENIA ARBUGAEVA FOR TIME

Thunberg, who also has Asperger’s, recently told PEOPLE: “I think most people are still very unaware of how big this crisis is … Right now, I have a lot of people listening to what I am saying, so I am using that platform to try to achieve a change.”

“Even though some scientists say that we have already passed the tipping point, you cannot think like that,” she added. “You cannot think that we are doomed. We are not doomed unless we choose to be, unless we want to be. My hope is that we can fix it in time.”

In addition to the young climate activist, TIME also announced the winners of the other Person of the Year categories, which included Disney CEO Bob Iger for Businessperson of the Year, Lizzo as the Entertainer of the Year and the U.S. women’s soccer team as Athletes of the Year.

Last year, TIMEselected a group of journalists — including Jamal Khashoggi, Maria Ressa, Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo, and the staff of the Capital Gazette in Annapolis, Maryland — as the 2018 Person of the Year.