Anti-Greta: Far-right groups trying to turn teenager into climate change-denying version of Greta Thunberg

Harry Cockburn
Naomi Seibt says she believes scientists have overstated the science behind the climate crisis: YouTube/Screengrab

A 19-year-old German climate change sceptic who has been described by her supporters as “the antidote to Greta Thunberg”, is gaining support from right-wing organisations, including Germany’s far-right party AfD party, and a think tank with links to The White House.

Naomi Seibt began uploading videos to YouTube last year, with titles such as “Climate change – just hot air?”, “Fierce without Feminism”, and “Message to the Media – HOW DARE YOU?”.

Her stance on the climate apparently caught the attention of The Heartland Institute, a US think tank based in Chicago, which has previously lobbied on behalf of tobacco firms, supports fracking and rejects the scientific consensus on climate change.

The organisation, which reportedly “has the ear of the Trump administration”, and held its 2019 International Conference on Climate Change at the Trump International Hotel in Washington, recently hired Ms Seibt as the face of its climate denial campaign.

In a video put out by the Heartland Institute, titled “Naomi Seibt vs Greta Thunberg: Whom Should We Trust?”, Ms Seibt begins: “Science is entirely based on intellectual humility and it is important that we keep questioning the narrative that it out there instead of promoting it, and these days climate change science really isn’t science at all.”

In between cuts from footage of Thunberg’s 2019 address to the UN in New York, Ms Seibt says: “Climate change alarmism at its very core is a despicably anti-human ideology”.

In an interview in the video, Ms Seibt says she rejects being called a “climate denier”, because she says “especially as a German, it is so rude to refer to someone as a climate denier because obviously there is a connection to the term ‘holocaust denier’, which carries a lot of weight in Germany.”

In the blurb on its video, the institute decries Thunberg’s “doomsday climate predictions” and describes Ms Seibt as “a rising star”, who “advocates for proper scientific discourse over climate change.”

The Heartland Institute’s support and promotion of Seibt has set alarm bells ringing.

While Ms Thunberg has become a global phenomenon, winning support from concerned people across the world, and becoming Time magazine’s person of the year, those remaining groups and individuals threatened by the weight of climate science appear to believe Ms Seibt is some sort of opposition figure who can inspire people through similar means.

“She’s a fantastic voice for free markets and for climate realism,” James Taylor, director of the Arthur B Robinson Centre for Climate and Environmental Policy at The Heartland Institute, told The Washington Post.

But while The Heartland Institute is “one of the most notorious climate change denial groups in the United States” – according to environment website DeSmog UK, Ms Seibt has not made a case for outright denial of the climate crisis.

In a video published this month, Ms Seibt instead argues the scientists have overstated the impact of emissions on the planet’s climate, and she also asks if researchers have considered the “immense impact that the sun has on the climate in comparison to CO2 emissions.”

After reinterpreting the scientific data for a live audience to indicate CO2 emissions are not much to worry about, she then adds: “We must not make ourselves the victim of a tight tax corset”, adding, “we must not deny ourselves, or the people from awfully poor third world countries access to cheap and reliable energy.”

Her videos are accumulating tens of thousands of views, and together with reams of positive comments below, it is clear Ms Seibt is striking a chord with many.

The overall message – one which is being facilitated by a right-wing think tank – is that business as usual is fine. She also aims to undermine existing efforts to combat climate change by suggesting activists deserve pity rather than anger.

“Rage and panic belong to our opponents,” she says.

In an earlier jibe at Ms Thunberg, Ms Seibt says: “Do not create an ideology out of something that a young girl has to say. Regardless of the political side she’s on.”

But while Ms Thunberg is merely hammering home the science – that 97 per cent of peer-reviewed climate studies agree with the scientific consensus that manmade global warming is real – Ms Seibt appears to have more interest in ideology.

Alongside her interest in climate denial, she has voiced concerns about immigration and feminism, and has previously spoken at events run by Germany’s far-right AfD (Alternative for Germany) party. She has denied being a member of the far-right group, but previous reports suggest she is or has been a member of the party’s youth wing.

Ms Seibt’s mother is a lawyer who has reportedly represented politicians from the AfD in the past.

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