Right-wing media are trying to downplay climate risks by fixating on a five-year-old now-deleted tweet from climate activist Greta Thunberg.
Citing the headline of an article from the now-defunct GritPost.com, Thunberg wrote on June 21, 2018: “A top climate scientist is warning that climate change will wipe out all of humanity unless we stop using fossil fuels over the next five years.”
Attacks over the tweet began in March, when far-right pizzagate conspiracy theorist Jack Posobiec (perhaps deliberately) misinterpreted its point: that continuing to burn fossil fuels over the next five years would create an existential crisis for people later in the future.
Posobiec and other influencers insisted that Thunberg was predicting a doomsday in 2023 that would wipe out all of humanity, and this trend picked back up as June 21 approached.
As many have pointed out, the confusion is astonishing. Reading comprehension aside, it takes only a few seconds to find details on the speech that Greta was referencing, which was a Harvard climate scientist talking about necessary short-term climate action. But right-wing media took the opportunity to sow confusion and mock legitimate concerns put forth by experts.
A wide range of conservative media pretend to lack reading comprehension skills to mock a 20-year-old
Online right-wing media anticipated the anniversary of the tweet, even starting an eight-day countdown, with the intention of blowing it out of proportion on June 21.
Climate change deniers like Steve Milloy (who recently said that air pollution isn’t hazardous to human health), Power the Future’s Daniel Turner, Tony Heller, right-wing media outlets, and right-wing trolls including Catturd, Chaya Raichik (aka Libs of TikTok), Tim Young, and many others parroted each other with slightly different versions of the same tired message: Because this prediction (that Thunberg never actually made) did not come true, it proves once and for all that no one should be concerned about climate change, and that warming will not yield serious consequences for humans in the future.
On Fox’s Outnumbered, the hosts took turns denigrating Thunberg, insisting that June 21 was supposed to be a doomsday, and suggesting she’s partly to blame for findings from a recent Morning Consult survey. The survey found that 53% of parents across five countries say that climate change affects their decisions about having more children.
Co-host Harris Faulkner said that humans shouldn’t worry about being severely impacted by climate change, noting: “We aren’t dinosaurs. We haven’t become extinct.”
Fox News contributor David Webb contended that climate change is a “grift” and that “they’re going to keep giving you years — ignore them.”
Finally, Fox & Friends co-host Ainsley Earhardt called Thunberg a liar, saying that she and other activists “will not ever admit the truth” and would instead keep pushing the false narrative.
Newsmax host Rob Schmitt on June 21 claimed that according to Thunberg, “the Earth will explode very soon” if you don’t have solar panels.
“They've been predicting this for like 50, 60 years,” he continued. “Somehow it never really changes. But, you know what, a lot of people have made a lot of money on all those lies.”
Newsmax host Chris Plante mocked Thunberg on his show The Right Squad as well.
On June 22, Newsmax host Eric Bolling went on a climate change denial-filled rant about The Washington Post’s coverage of the heat wave in Texas, where he called climate advocates “hired assassins who are making every effort to kill 150 years of reliable climate science and replace it with the quality-of-life killing tool of fake science," and called Thunberg “the Dylan Mulvaney of climate change.”
Right-wing media have long aimed to discredit science using supposedly failed predictions
Claims that climate science has been plagued by supposedly failed predictions have been repeatedly debunked. Many of these so-called failed predictions are cherry-picked. By and large, projected warming has been “remarkably accurate.” Even the predictions that Exxon scientists made nearly 50 years ago have correctly reflected the trajectory of global temperature rise since the early 1970s.
Thunberg, who was recently arrested for blocking traffic to an oil port in Malmo, Sweden, has never claimed to be a climate expert, instead committing herself to elevating the work of climate scientists.
The tweet being lambasted by climate change deniers cited Harvard atmospheric chemistry professor James Anderson, who in a speech at the University of Chicago called “for a Marshall Plan-style endeavor in which all of the world takes extreme measures to transition off of fossil fuels completely within the next five years.”
Anderson said that such a mobilization was necessary to preserve sea ice at the poles, which is melting even faster than scientists originally thought.
Since her rise to fame in 2019, Thunberg has attracted the ire of right-wing media figures who accused her of being both a Marxist pawn and a propagandist. They’ve mocked her autism diagnosis, called her “psycho” and “mentally ill,” and even advocated for violence against her.
In the face of abundant real evidence of climate change, right-wing media have deliberately chosen to fixate on one misinterpreted tweet from a teenager who had only just started to develop a public profile. That in itself says a lot about how bad faith this attack clearly is.