Update (2/28/20): Seibt appeared at CPAC, where she praised white nationalist YouTuber Stefan Molyneux.
Yesterday, a German teenager dubbed the “anti-Greta” Thunberg for opposing climate activism made her Fox News debut.
Appearing on The Daily Briefing with Dana Perino, Naomi Seibt previewed the climate denial message she’ll deliver at the Conservative Political Action Conference, where she takes the stage today.
DANA PERINO (HOST): Pretty much everybody knows who Greta Thunberg is by now, but you might also be reading about a fellow teenager making a name for herself in the political world, one who is set to take the stage at CPAC. Let's bring in Naomi Seibt. She is a 19-year-old from Germany whose willingness to ask questions has earned her spot at CPAC tomorrow. It’s good to have you here, Naomi. So you have been hired by the Center for Climate and Environmental Policy, and you have just a different view about climate. What is it about the current narrative that kind of drives you crazy?
NAOMI SEIBT (HEARTLAND INSTITUTE): Well, it is mostly that there is so much fearmongering going on about this entire climate change propaganda that is being put out there. And I hate to see so many young people especially panicking about climate change, about a topic that they haven’t even done their research about. Because many young people, they claim to know a lot about the science, but they really don't. And I tried approaching those young people in my own town and from all over the world, and most of them don't really know what they are talking about. And they are just so fearful of what is to come. And I want to give them back their hope.
SEIBT: I absolutely believe that climate change is real. You shouldn't ask the question “is climate change real,” because climate change has always been real. The climate has been changing for millions and billions of years. But what you should actually be asking is are humans actually destroying the planet with man-made CO2 emissions.
PERINO: And your position on that is what?
SEIBT: My position on that is no, CO2 emissions are not actually harmful to the planet. Because if you want I can talk about it more thoroughly --
PERINO: No, that’s OK. We don't have enough time to get into all of it, I just wanted to make sure. It's not that you think that climate change is not real, but you believe that humans have no contribution to climate change?
SEIBT: They might contribute slightly, but I think it is so insignificant that we shouldn’t focus on that. Especially we should not rush to solutions that are really not sustainable in the long term. Yeah.
PERINO: I hear you.
SEIBT: That is the main issue.
Naomi Seibt is not an activist -- she’s a paid spokesperson for the Heartland Institute, one of the most notorious climate denier think tanks in the U.S.
Seibt initially gained some notoriety for anti-climate rhetoric through her channel on YouTube, which is a popular platform for spreading climate misinformation.
The Heartland Institute reportedly began paying Seibt a monthly wage of approximately $2,000 after her videos went viral. In return, she began producing videos specifically for Heartland’s YouTube channel and appearing at the organization’s events. These videos and speeches, like her previous output, are full of climate denial talking points and geared toward young people. In December, Heartland headlined Seibt at its forum during the U.N. climate conference in Madrid.
Heartland, which has long promoted climate denial, has been funded by a number of fossil fuel interests and right-wing organizations such as Murray Energy, the Koch network, and the Mercer Family Foundation. Collectively, these groups have spent hundreds of millions of dollars to erode the public consensus around climate change and block support for climate solutions.
The Heartland Institute has tried to push climate denial to young people before. In 2017, it ran a campaign targeting 200,000 K-12 and college science teachers across the country, sending copies of its book Why Scientists Disagree About Global Warming along with a cover letter asking them to “consider the possibility that the science in fact is not settled" and falsely claiming that the scientific consensus on climate “is not only false, but its presence in the debate is an insult to science.”
Now it is trying to use Seibt to create an astroturf movement to blunt the global impact of the remarkable youth climate movement. Her appearance on Fox and upcoming speech at CPAC shows that the right-wing mediasphere is bolstering these efforts.
This face of climate denial is new, but her misinformation is old and has long been debunked
In her interview on Fox, Seibt claimed to believe that climate change is real because “the climate has been changing for millions and billions of years.” This argument is a well-known tactic used by deniers to downplay the scope and scale of the current period of warming.
She also questioned the role of man-made emissions in dangerously overheating our planet, claiming that they are “so insignificant that we shouldn’t focus on that.”
In reality, humans have overwhelmingly contributed to global warming: “Since 1850, almost all the long-term warming can be explained by greenhouse gas emissions and other human activities,” says the website CarbonBrief. Carbon dioxide is a key driver of climate change, and as it warms the earth, it also leads to a number of negative impacts on human health and the environment. CO2 levels are now at some of their highest levels in millions of years -- and climate scientists nearly unanimously predict that unless solutions are achieved to bring down emissions, there will be drastic consequences for the planet, including worsening heat waves, rising sea levels, and more intense hurricanes.
Though Seibt is pushing long-debunked misinformation, she is framing her message as one of “climate realism,” which is a nuanced form of climate denial that is being embraced by some conservatives, the fossil fuel industry, and even the White House. No longer able to outright deny that our planet is warming, these actors are looking for a way to shift the conversation on climate change while still obstructing climate action.
Fox thinks young people aren’t credible -- unless they are saying what it wants to hear
It’s long been a goal of right-wing media, especially Fox News, to make the rise in climate activism and public awareness about Greta Thunberg. They've personally attacked her, doubted her credibility, and questioned her motives -- and now they are offering a platform to her industry-backed foil to blunt the remarkable and powerful impact of the youth climate movement and delay climate action.