Greta Thunberg: The 16-year-old Swede who inspired a global teenage rebellion

Teen activist Greta Thunberg addresses Extinction Rebellion crowds in London. Credit: PA

If you believe most of what your hear and read about teenagers, the majority of 16-year-olds want to be left alone in their bedrooms to listen to grime or play Call of Duty.

So Greta Thunberg really stands out from the crowd.

She has become the face of the groundswell of young activists taking action to try to save the planet as the adults seem incapable of recognising the danger the world is facing.

The global warming activist is due to embark on a two-week trip across the Atlantic from Plymouth, where she will attend UN summits on climate change in New York and Chile.

So, who is Greta Thunberg and how did she get to be the face of teenage climate change rebellion?

Greta stages a 'School Strike for Climate' protest at the World Economic Forum in Davos. Credit: AP
  • How does her story begin?

Last year, Sweden suffered drought and dozens of wildfires during its hottest summer on record.

Greta - then aged 15 - decided she'd had enough.

In the run up to national elections in September 2018 she decided to miss school and stage a sit-in outside Parliament with a sign saying: "School strike for the climate."

She said: "What am I going to learn in school? Facts don’t matter any more.

"Politicians aren’t listening to the scientists, so why should I learn?"

And her #fridaysforfuture protest grew.

Pretty soon, she was joined by other young people in Stockholm - and then word spread across social media and children across Sweden started skipping classes to protest.

And it's continued to grow, spreading to hundreds of cities and towns across scores of countries, including the UK.

She has continued to miss school every Friday since last August.

Greta has taken her message to the European Parliament and beyond. Credit: AP

She told Rolling Stone magazine that the first woman to inspire her was Rosa Parks, who famously kick-started the civil rights movement in the US in the 1950s by refusing to give up her seat to a white bus passenger.

"I learned she was an introvert, and I'm also an introvert," said Greta.

Greta explained how "one person can make such a huge difference".

Greta, centre in first row behind the banner, attends a 'Friday For Future' rally in Berlin. Credit: AP
  • What has she said about the climate change threat?

Greta has used her growing influence among young people to press the message on climate change in the highest of political circles.

She has addressed the European parliament, economic and political leaders at the World Economic Forum in Davos, taken her message to the United Nations and even the Pope.

Her activism has seen her nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize.

Greta Thunberg met Pope Francis to press her case. Credit: AP

At Davos, in January - she warned delegates from around the world to act as if the "house was on fire. Because it is".

When asked at the weekend "How do you respond to climate-deniers?", she replied: "I don't."

Greta Thunberg addressed the World Economic Forum in Davos. Credit: AP

She has spoken in the past about how her Asperger's condition means she can think differently and has described it as a gift rather than a hindrance.

In an interview on BBC Radio 4, she said her message for politicians was: "Listen to the science, listen to the scientists. Invite them to talk.

"I am just speaking on behalf of them, I'm trying to say what they've been saying for decades."

Greta has criss-crossed the globe spreading her message, including here in Rome. Credit: AP

Although not part of the Extinction Rebellion protests, she made a point of addressing crowds in Marble Arch in April, saying: "For way too long the politicians and people in power have got away with not doing anything at all to fight the climate crisis and ecological crisis.

"But we will make sure they will not get away with it any longer."

She added: “Humanity is now standing at a crossroads.

"We must now decide which path we want to take."

Theresa May was "empty chaired" as Greta met Westminster party leaders for a round-table discussion in the House of Commons.

Greta meets political leaders - but Theresa May is absent Credit: PA

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, Liberal Democrat Sir Vince Cable, Green MP Caroline Lucas and the Westminster leaders of the Scottish National Party and Plaid Cymru, Ian Blackford and Liz Saville Roberts were there.

A place at the table was left free for Mrs May, with a sign bearing her name, but she did not attend.

The Prime Minister was instead chairing Cabinet in 10 Downing Street.

  • Setting sail for America

The teenage activist will set sail from Plymouth to attend UN summits in both New York and Chile, where there will be high-level talks on how to tackle climate change.

She is making the trip on a high-tech racing yacht, which has no beds or toilets, with the boat emitting no greenhouse gas emissions.

Greta Thunberg will set sail from Plymouth and head across the Atlantic to UN Summits in the US and Chile. Credit: PA

The 60ft Malizia II is fitted with solar panels and underwater turbines which generates zero-carbon electricity on board.

Speaking about the lack of toilet on board the boat, which she will travel on across the Atlantic in two weeks, she said: "We will have to do it in a bucket but its fine.

"We have a small heating and we boil our water in freeze-dry bags and eat that, and that is quite good. I don't need fancy food."