Greta Thunberg is currently the most famous climate protector in the world. For her campaign of school strikes on Fridays, the 16-year-old has not only received encouragement in recent months. A reproach of the critics: The student formulated only what her advisors whispered. Kevin Anderson is at least one to whom Greta Thunberg hears. Sometimes, at least. If the Swede wants to be on the safe side, she asks the British climatologists to check their speech manuscripts.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: Professor Anderson, Greta Thunberg has revealed that she is getting help from scientists - and named her name. So you are the man who writes the well-formulated speeches of the 16-year-olds?

Kevin Anderson: What you hear from Greta Thunberg's mouth is what Greta Thunberg is thinking about and what she writes down. It is not the mouthpiece of her parents, a public relations campaign or any of us scientists. Although some people do not want to admit it - especially some older white men.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: But what is your role?

Anderson: Greta sometimes sends me manuscripts and asks me to check if everything is correct. Of course, sometimes we both discuss issues as well.


Anderson: In conversations with her, I often have the impression of having a younger colleague at our institute, but not with a teenager. Greta knows so much about climate change, and she's constantly learning. Recently she sent me one of her texts about aerosols ...

SPIEGEL ONLINE: ... suspended particles that can reduce the greenhouse effect ....

Anderson: I asked where she got this or that number from. Then she sent me several links and summaries of scientific texts that she had worked through. Impressive for a 16-year-old.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: How did you get in contact with each other?

Anderson: I also research and teach in Sweden, at the University of Uppsala. The Thunberg family approached me some time ago. Greta was already very interested in climate change. Since she started the strike, we are in regular contact.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: Does she listen to you?

Anderson: Only if she thinks it's right. I have heard that her father advised Greta several times not to say certain things so hard when she met the UN Secretary-General. She said it as hard as she thought fit. Greta cares little about what others think of her. It does not take into account the sensitivities of interest groups or politicians. For me she is like the child in the fairy tale "The Emperor's New Clothes," which exclaims: "But he's none of his business." And so it is with the climate: we emit more and more CO2 - and talk about it beautifully, appease, delay big change. But Greta says how it is. That's why she is so worshiped. And so vilified - by those who do not want change.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: But can a 16-year-old even overlook this highly complex topic? Christian Lindner said: "Children and adolescents can not be expected to see all the global connections, the technically meaningful and the economically feasible." This is "a thing for professionals".

Anderson: Who is this man, how old is he?

SPIEGEL ONLINE: Lindner is 40 years old and head of the FDP, a liberal party.

Anderson: Then he's been in politics for several years. And one of the politicians who failed. Since the first report of the IPCC in 1990, everyone knows that they must reduce emissions. But with you in Germany, the emissions from traffic have even increased since then. You will clearly miss your 2020 climate target. It's stupid of politicians to downgrade Greta's sensible statements just because she's a teenager.

In the video: Climate rebel Greta Thunberg



SPIEGEL ONLINE: But she is not an expert.

Anderson: She is an expert - for communication. She manages to summarize vast amounts of information into concise, simple, honest messages. This expertise has been missing us so far. Greta reaches people we scientists have never met, especially children and adolescents.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: Do they really have to skip school for their protest?

Anderson: It's sad: we adults are failing so much that the kids now think it necessary to skip school to raise awareness about climate change. But I think they learn a lot during the strikes: about climate change, about politics and about getting involved. The strikers I know are not lazy. These are young people who are thinking about the future.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: Greta Thunberg says: "I want you to panic". Does not sound very scientific.

Anderson: She does not mean that we should run around like headless chickens. She means the kind of panic that brings us out of our comfort zone. Just one example: Is not it ridiculous that even 1500 kilograms of heavy cars transport 80 kilos of people a few kilometers? We have to radically change our lifestyle.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: Many people would say: Such a life is not fun.

Anderson: Is it just fun to burn fossil fuels on a massive scale? That's sad. I go cycling and climbing in my free time. You can also spend more time with the children or the parents. Or drink a beer with a friend in the pub. And when traveling, the more you move forward, the more you experience.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: Greta travels to Berlin this week. Here she is to be awarded, among other things, the "Golden Camera". She has just been voted "Woman of the Year" twice in Sweden. And recently, Norwegian parliamentarians even nominated them for the Nobel Peace Prize.

Anderson: I'm not sure if that helps. These awards are part of a celebrity culture. My concern is that too many people in Greta see a climate icon, the great savior. She can not be the savior of the climate - and she does not see herself that way either. Her role is to hold a mirror up to us adults. She is an impetus for change. We must not put all our hopes on Greta. We have to do something ourselves. Then we can hope.