The 2019 Nobel Peace Prize went to Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed Ali
Though her passionate plea to save the planet had made her a frontrunner in many eyes, teen climate change activist Greta Thunberg was not awarded the 2019 Nobel Peace Prize, leading many on social media to take it upon themselves to recognize all of the good she’s so far inspired.
The coveted award instead went to Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed Ali, for “his efforts to achieve peace and international cooperation, and in particular for his decisive initiative to resolve the border conflict with neighboring Eritrea,” the Norwegian Nobel Committee said in a statement on Friday.
The committee said the win was also meant to recognize “all the stakeholders working for peace and reconciliation in Ethiopia and in the East and Northeast African regions.”
The Swedish 16-year-old’s loss was a surprise for those who’d been convinced she’d receive the honor after becoming a household name since first skipping school and standing alone outside the Swedish parliament in August 2018 with a sign reading, “School Strike for Climate.”
Her strike soon went viral, sparking hundreds of similar protests around the world that continue to draw millions of teens and adults in a campaign now called Fridays for Future.
Fans of Thunberg were quick to weigh in on her loss but saw the silver lining in all the good she’s done thus far.
“How @GretaThunberg did not win the #NobelPeacePrize is beyond me,” one user wrote. “She has inspired a generation & proven that you’re never too young to make a difference. Climate change is affecting the planet & the world’s leaders need to realise that our actions speak louder than words.”
Wrote another, “Even though @GretaThunberg didn’t win the peace prize this time around, the awareness and sense of responsibility she has inspired around the world is an award far greater! Thank you Greta the fight has only just begun though! Let’s take the powers to school about #ClimateChange.”
Others, still, argued that Thunberg should instead win a Nobel Prize for science and not for peace, while more looked ahead to the teen’s bright future.
“Congratulations to Abiy Ahmed for winning the Nobel Peace Prize,” one user wrote. “For everyone hoping that @GretaThunberg/#FridaysForFuture would win, let’s look to the future. If they inspire real change then their odds will be better in future years. It probably was too soon this year.”
Regardless of Nobel recognition, Thunberg — who has credited her Asperger’s syndrome with helping her “think outside the box” and zero in on her goal of reducing carbon emissions — has drawn attention from world leaders thanks to prominent speaking engagements at events like the World Economic Forum and the United Nations Climate Action summit.
Her speech at this year’s summit went viral in September thanks to her impassioned words that accused leaders of being more focused on money than on doing their part to save the world from global warming.
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“People are suffering. People are dying. Entire ecosystems are collapsing. We are in the beginning of a mass extinction. And all you can talk about is money and fairytales of eternal economic growth. How dare you!” she said. “You have stolen my dreams and my childhood with your empty words.”
Thunberg has been showered with attention since rising to prominence, appearing on the covers of Time magazine’s “Next Generation Leaders” issue and British Vogue as part of a lineup of trailblazing women hand-picked by Meghan Markle. She even graced the front of British GQ, winning the title of “Game Changer of the Year.”
“I was so frustrated that nothing was being done about the climate crisis and I felt like I had to do something, anything,” she wrote on Facebook in February. “And sometimes NOT doing things – like just sitting down outside the parliament – speaks much louder than doing things. Just like a whisper sometimes is louder than shouting.”
Thunberg was one of 301 candidates for this year’s Nobel Peace Prize, the fourth-highest number of candidates ever, according to the Nobel Foundation.
Nominees are kept secret and are not revealed until 50 years have passed, though news of Thunberg’s nomination was reported in March after three Norwegian lawmakers said they’d be giving their vote to the teen activist.
“We have nominated Greta because the climate threat may be one of the most important causes of war and conflict,” parliamentary representative Freddy Andre Oevstegaard told Norwegian media outlet VG.
“The massive movement Greta has set in motion is a very important peace contribution,” he added.
Had she won, Thunberg would have been the youngest person to ever receive the Peace Prize, as she is one year younger than Malala Yousafzai was when she won in 2014 and set the new record for the youngest winner of all time.
Abiy will receive his honor — which consists of a medal, a certificate, and a cash amount — in December, along with the rest of the winners.