“She’s a fantastic voice for free markets and for climate realism,” said James Taylor, director of the Arthur B. Robinson Center for Climate and Environmental Policy at the Heartland Institute, an influential libertarian think tank in suburban Chicago that has the ear of the Trump administration.
In December, Heartland headlined Naomi at its forum at the UN climate conference in Madrid, where Taylor described her as “the star” of the show. Last month, Heartland hired Naomi as the young face of its campaign to question the scientific consensus that human activity is causing dangerous global warming.
“Naomi Seibt vs. Greta Thunberg: whom should we trust?” asked Heartland in a digital video. Later this week, Naomi is set to make her American debut at the Conservative Political Action Conference, or CPAC, a high-profile annual gathering just outside Washington of right-leaning activists.
If imitation is the highest form of flattery, Heartland’s tactics amount to an acknowledgment that Greta has touched a nerve, especially among teens and young adults. Since launching her protest two years ago outside the Swedish parliament at age 15, Greta has sparked youth protests across the globe and in 2019 was named Time magazine’s “Person of the Year,” the youngest to ever win the honor.
The teenager has called on the nations of the world to cut their total carbon output by at least half over the next decade, saying that if they don’t, “then there will be horrible consequences.”
“I want you to panic,” she told attendees at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, last year. “I want you to feel the fear I feel every day. And then I want you to act.”
Naomi, for her part, argues that these predictions of dire consequences are exaggerated. In a video posted on Heartland’s website, she gazes into the camera and says, “I don’t want you to panic. I want you to think.”
Graham Brookie directs the Digital Forensic Research Lab, an arm of the nonprofit Atlantic Council that works to identify and expose disinformation. While the campaign “is not outright disinformation,” Brookie said in an email, it “does bear resemblance to a model we use called the 4d’s — dismiss the message, distort the facts, distract the audience, and express dismay at the whole thing.”
Brookie added: “The tactic is intended to create an equivalency in spokespeople and message. In this case, it is a false equivalency between a message based in climate science that went viral organically and a message based in climate skepticism trying to catch up using paid promotion.”
Naomi said her political activism was sparked a few years ago when she began asking questions in school about Germany’s liberal immigration policies. She said the backlash from teachers and other students hardened her skepticism about mainstream German thinking. More recently, she said that watching young people joining weekly “Fridays For Future” protests inspired by Greta helped spur her opposition to climate change activism.
“I get chills when I see those young people, especially at Fridays for Future. They are screaming and shouting and they’re generally terrified,” she said in an interview. “They don’t want the world to end.”
Naomi said she does not dispute that greenhouse gas emissions are warming the planet, but she argues that many scientists and activists have overstated their impact.
“I don’t want to get people to stop believing in man-made climate change, not at all,” she said. “Are manmade CO2 emissions having that much impact on the climate? I think that’s ridiculous to believe.”