Why So Many People Hate Greta Thunberg — And Why They're Wrong About Her Climate Activism

She's a young woman in an old man's world.

Greta Thunberg Liv Oeian / Shutterstock

Not long after Greta Thunberg's recent speech at the Youth4Climate conference, her critics flocked to social media to recycle their criticisms of the young activist.

Most people know Thunberg from her fiery calls to action and accusations of passivity toward world leaders on the topic of climate change. She’s young, passionate, direct, and outspoken.

But, some people rage against her words, criticize her activism and spread harsh words about her online. But, for what reason?


Why do people hate Greta Thunberg so much?

Well, in short, it’s for the same positive qualities listed above, and if that seems odd to you, that’s because it is. It’s a combination of factors that makes Thunberg such an appealing target, particularly for anti-climate reform groups.

Often, her critics are middle-aged men who can't seem to fathom listening to the thoughtful words of a young woman.

Detractors of Thunberg attempt to discredit her for being “a child” or “mentally ill” on account of her age and being on the autistic spectrum.

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Even those who push back against such condescending remarks will often describe Thunberg as “just a child,” in an attempt to say that it’s a low blow to go after her.

Even this defense is problematic because by saying that Thunberg is too young to be attacked by adults, one also implies that she is too young to have valuable and independent opinions. 

To use Thunberg’s age as an attack or defense is to say that she is less than the adults that supposedly run her life and that she doesn’t belong in the conversation at all. 

The truth is, that Thunberg’s detractors actually care a lot about what she has to say and will take any excuse to tear her down or, more importantly, trivialize her words and her beliefs.


Some people cruelly claim Greta Thunberg is 'mentally ill.'

Describing Greta Thunberg as “mentally ill” is both nonspecific and a smokescreen meant to distract from her words and beliefs. Thunberg is on the autism spectrum.

Awareness of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is on the rise but is far from where it should be.

RELATED: The Archaic Reasons Men Care Less About Climate Change Than Women, According To New Research

When haters mention Thunberg's diagnosis they are saying that this somehow makes her opinions less valuable and that she isn’t to be taken seriously. Let’s be clear here, people with ASD are people with thoughts and opinions that matter — and more importantly, people that have to share this one world that we get with the rest of us.


They have as much of a say in how we preserve the future of this planet as the rest of us.

Others diminish Greta Thunberg's work because of her age.

Ever since Greta first made headlines a few years ago and she delivered her now-famous “How dare you” speech, her age has been leveraged against her words.

As Thunberg points out in her speech, her detractors are right in a sense. Thunberg shouldn’t have to stand before world leaders, telling them the obvious, which is that we’re being led directly into the jaws of the greatest threat to humanity we have ever known. Climate change.


It’s shameful that Thunberg has to do what she does, but the adults of the world are failing to ensure a future for the next generation. So it’s up to people like Thunberg to try to do something to save the world that the youth will inherit.

Frankly, it is ridiculous to say that Greta Thunberg’s youth does anything besides strengthen her message. It seems like the world’s elderly need to be reminded that they will not feel the consequences of climate change one, two, three decades from now.

But Greta Thunberg will, as will her generation.


Greta Thunberg’s story is not one of oil tycoons, world leaders, corporations, and nations.

It’s one of a young woman in an old man’s world.

And they hate her for it.

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Dan O'Reilly is a writer who covers news, politics and social justice.