Greta Thunberg, the 16-year-old from Sweden who started a global movement of schoolchildren striking to demand climate change action, has been nominated for the Nobel peace prize.
The nomination comes a day before thousands of pupils worldwide are expected to walk out of school in more than 1,600 towns and cities across more than 100 countries.
If she won, Thunberg would be the youngest person to become a Nobel peace prize laureate, a title Malala Yousafzai took as a 17-year-old in 2014 for her work on the right to education.
It would also be only the second time an individual had won for work on climate change. The first was former US vice-president Al Gore, who was awarded the prize in 2007 alongside the UN climate science group, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
Thunberg tweeted that she was: “Honoured and very grateful for this nomination.”
The nomination was made by Freddy André Øvstegård, a member of the Norwegian parliament, and two colleagues in the Socialist Left Party.
“Climate change is maybe the most important driver for war, conflict and refugees already, and especially into the future,” says Øvstegård. “When Greta sat down in front of the Swedish parliament and started a mass movement all around the globe for climate action, she made a contribution to peace too.”
The suggestion that global warming can lead to war has been made by authorities such as the UN’s hunger agency, though links between conflicts and climate change are not always clear cut.
Øvstegård says it doesn’t matter that policies haven’t yet changed because of the school strikes. “It’s about the momentum right now,” he says.
The nomination will probably have been a surprise to Thunberg, as Øvstegård said she was a “global superstar” and he hadn’t spoken to her beforehand.
The Swedish schoolgirl has attributed part of her success to the backing she has had from campaigners.
“I [have] got enormous support from the international environmental community. For some reason, my school strike got a lot of attention and then of course I was invited to various things. Extinction Rebellion [the civil disobedience movement], the climate march in Helsinki, the COP24 [UN climate talks last year] and the World Economic Forum in Davos,” she says.
Asked by New Scientist what it said about the state of the world that it has taken schoolchildren to put climate change back at the top of the media and political agenda, she says: “It’s very sad. I think everyone must realise that we have failed in many ways. But there is still time to fix it if we all try to do the impossible. It can and must be done.”
The winner of the Nobel peace prize will be announced in October.
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