Environment

Greta Thunberg is Time's 2019 Person of the Year

Safia Samee Ali
Time names Greta Thunberg Person of the Year.
Source: Time

Greta Thunberg, the soft-spoken Swedish teen who became a global conscience for climate change and environmental activism, has been named Time's Magazine's Person of the Year for 2019.

The magazine announced 16-year old Thunberg as its choice Wednesday exclusively on NBC's "TODAY."

Thunberg quickly bloomed into one of the world's most notable and youngest climate change activists

She sparked a collective movement to fight climate change after protesting alone outside the Swedish parliament during school hours on Fridays when she was 15. The teen held up a now universally recognized hand painted sign that read "skolstrejk för klimatet," which translates to "School strike for the Climate."

More from NBC News:
Suspects targeted kosher market in deadly Jersey City shootout
Yankees sign Gerrit Cole to record nine-year, $324 million contract
California lawsuit blasts SAT, ACT exams as discriminatory

Thunberg's initiative to strike, galvanized hundreds of students to protest for climate justice throughout Europe and that momentum quickly fanned across the globe becoming the "Fridays For Future" movement.

Her signature no-nonsense blunt style of speaking made her a force that could not be ignored by world leaders and she was asked to speak in front of several high-profile entities including the United Nations and the United States Congress.

Thunberg, who was diagnosed with Asperger's syndrome at a young age, heard about climate change at 8 years old and said she became instantly concerned to the point that she plunged into depression over it.

"I remember thinking that it was very strange that humans that are an animal species, among others, could be capable of changing the Earth's climate," she said during a 2018 Ted Talk.

She gave up eating meat and traveling via airplane, among other things, in order to reduce her carbon footprint.

The young activist sailed for just over two weeks on a zero-emission boat with her father in August to attend the U.N. Climate Action Summit in New York City and to meet with various politicians.

When she appeared before Congress, Thunberg refused to read prepared remarks and instead submitted a 2018 United Nations global warming report to lawmakers telling them, "I don't want you to listen to me. I want you to listen to the scientists, and I want you to unite behind the science."

One of her most notable appearances occurred at the UN Climate Change Summit in September when she excoriated global leaders, including U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres by telling them they had "stolen her dreams and childhood" with their "empty words."

Youth activist Greta Thunberg speaks at the Climate Action Summit at the United Nations on September 23, 2019 in New York City. While the United States will not be participating, China and about 70 other countries are expected to make announcements concerning climate change.
Stephanie Keith | Getty Images

"People are suffering. People are dying. Entire ecosystems are collapsing," she said. "We are in the beginning of a mass extinction, and all you can talk about is money and fairy tales of eternal economic growth. How dare you!"

The "how dare you!" sentiment reverberated universally, emboldening climate change activists while making politicians uncomfortable.

Her fiery words drew ire from several detractors including President Trump.

"She seems like a very happy young girl looking forward to a bright and wonderful future. So nice to see!" Trump commented after retweeting a video of Thunberg's speech.

Despite being a frequent target of criticism, Thunberg has trudged forward making impact for environmental justice.

Earlier this year, Thunberg, along with 15 other young climate activists, filed a legal complaint with the United Nations against five countries under the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child alleging the nations are not doing enough to combat climate change and that their inaction is affecting their right to thrive.

Led by Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg (C), young activists and their supporters rally for action on climate change on September 27, 2019 in Montreal, Canada. Hundreds of thousands of people are expected to take part in what could be the city's largest climate march.
Minas Panagiotakis | Getty Images News | Getty Images

Her efforts also earned her a nomination for the 2019 Nobel Peace Prize. While the teen lost the award to Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed Ali, she remains one of the youngest nominees for the illustrious Prize.

Last year, Time chose "The Guardians and the War on Truth," which included four journalists and one news organization who paid a hefty price, either with their lives or freedoms, to be journalists at time when the profession has been under attack on several fronts.

The other 2019 finalists were House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, President Donald Trump, The Hong Kong Protesters, and the anonymous whistleblower whose memo on Trump's dealings with Ukraine triggered the impeachment inquiry.