Right-Wing Think Tank Hopes Its Greta Thunberg Knock-Off Will Convince People To Torch The Planet
Over the last few years, teen climate activist Greta Thunberg has been a thorn in the Right's side, so much so that many of them have spent a weird amount of time bullying the 17-year-old autistic Swedish girl for rudely trying to save the planet. This includes the current President of the United States. They have insisted that she is actually an actress hired to pretend to be a teenager who cares about climate change. Meatloaf said she was "brainwashed." The Federalist even accused her of witchcraft!
But the climate-change-denying Heartland Institute came up with a plan! They went and got their very own fugazi Greta Thunberg — Naomi Seibt, a blonde, 19-year-old German girl who wants you to "think" about how she probably knows more about climate science than actual climate scientists, and then go along with her when she says man-made CO2 emissions are not having that much of an impact on climate change.
Pretty much all of Seibt's videos are framed as her versus Greta Thunberg, and yet she demands to know, in the description of one of them, if she is really the "anti-Greta that the media wants [her] to be.
I cannot answer that question, of course, because I had not heard of her until the Washington Post published a profile on her on Sunday. Though if I were her, and did not want people to compare me to Greta Thunberg, I would not produce endless videos about myself and Greta Thunberg, nor work for a think tank that made videos of me and Greta Thunberg that look like an advertisement for children's pro-wrestling.
Then again, not being a scientist, I also would not produce many YouTube videos about how I am right and all of the scientists are wrong.
Via the Post:
Naomi said she does not dispute that greenhouse gas emissions are warming the planet, but she argues that many scientists and activists have overstated their impact.
"I don't want to get people to stop believing in man-made climate change, not at all," she said. "Are man-made CO2 emissions having that much impact on the climate? I think that's ridiculous to believe.
Oh does she? Does she just like being wrong about things? Apparently!
Naomi argues that other factors, such as solar energy, play a role — though the amount of solar energy reaching the Earth has actually declined since the 1970s, according to federal measurements. A slew of peer-reviewed reports, from scientific bodies in the U.S. and elsewhere, have concluded that greenhouse gas emissions are the dominant cause of warming since the mid-20th century, producing a range of devastating effects from massive marine die-offs in South America to severe wildfires in Australia and sinking ground in the Arctic.
According to the Post, the Heartland Institute, despite being based in the Chicago burbs, is particularly interested in Germany's climate change policies, because it's worried they are too good and that other countries will follow suit and also try to save the planet through environmentally-friendly policy:
For two decades, Germany has been a leader in pressing other nations to curb carbon output and shift to renewable energy. Though it is falling short of its ambitious goals, Germany has pledged to cut its greenhouse gas emissions this year by 40 percent compared to 1990 — and by up to 95 percent by mid-century. [...]
"These restrictive environmental programs are largely unnecessary," says [a Heartland Institute proposal for combating German efforts to fight climate change], a copy of which was obtained by The Post. "Worse, other nations — including the United States and European Union nations — are increasingly being influenced by unwise German policy."
That's weird. I mean, unless you know for absolute sure that environmental programs won't help anything (which, how could they?), it seems like a good idea to err on the side of caution. Especially when people who know a lot more about this stuff than any of us are saying climate change is real and that these things will help.
You may be wondering to yourself now, but is she terrible in other ways? And yes, yes she is.
In addition to climate change, Naomi echoes far-right skepticism about feminism and immigration. The German media have described her as sympathetic to the nationalist Alternative for Germany (AfD), the biggest opposition party in parliament, whose leaders have spoken of fighting "an invasion of foreigners." Naomi says she is not a member of AfD — she describes herself as libertarian — but acknowledges speaking at a recent AfD event.
But hey! She's 19! Lots of people have terrible opinions at 19. Sure, my political opinions at 19 were fantastic and I still agree with myself on all of them -- and now other people agree with me too! It's very refreshing!) -- but I certainly had some questionable fashion choices. There was a lot of glitter.
Does the Heartland Institute actually think Greta Thunberg is mostly popular is merely because she is a blonde teenager from Europe? And that they can just come out with their own fugazi version and it will have the same effect? Because that is not actually how anything works. It's not like secretly replacing fresh brewed coffee with Folger's Crystals. People are not going to go "Oh wait! Greta Thunberg says that destroying the planet is bad, but this other blonde teenager from Europe says it's not actually a problem! How do we decide who is right? This is quite a pickle!"
The reason Greta Thunberg is popular is because she is doing a lot of good work on an issue people already care a lot about. It would not have the same effect if she were campaigning for a more effective dishwashing detergent. Thunberg isn't just making YouTube videos, she's organizing weekly student-led protests, she's asking people to do more so that the planet remains livable, and she's passionate about it. Sure, there are lots of people who don't think climate change is real, but it's not an easy thing to be passionate about.
It's just not as compelling to beg people to do nothing, just in case it doesn't actually matter.
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Robyn Pennacchia is a brilliant, fabulously talented and visually stunning angel of a human being, who shrugged off what she is pretty sure would have been a Tony Award-winning career in musical theater in order to write about stuff on the internet. Follow her on Twitter at @RobynElyse