Business Insider Edition

A climate change denial group has hired a German YouTuber to challenge Greta Thunberg

Paulina Cachero , Business Insider US
 Feb 25, 2020, 09:08 AM
HAMBURG, GERMANY - FEBRUARY 21: Teenage climate ac
Teenage climate activist Greta Thunberg speaks at a Fridays for Future climate protest on February 21, 2020 in Hamburg, Germany. The city-state of Hamburg is scheduled to hold elections on February 23 and climate politics are likely to play a significant role in the outcome. (Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images)
  • The Heartland Institute, a conservative think tank with ties to the Trump administration, has a history of promoting climate denialism.
  • Most recently, the organisation has enlisted the help of a 19-year-old German YouTuber named Naomi Seibt and framed her as a challenger to climate activist Greta Thunberg.
  • Although Seibt detested her "anti-Greta" label, she claims that Thunberg and other youth climate activists are spreading views that are not based on science.
  • For more stories, go to Business Insider SA's home page.

Nineteen-year-old German YouTube Naomi Seibt says she, too, once believed the world was in the midst of a global crisis and rallied behind environmentalist policies and the uprising of youth climate activism - but not anymore.

Seibt now finds herself on the warring side of Greta Thunberg's climate justice movement, working for a conservative American think tank with ties to the Trump administration to combat what she claims is "climate alarmism."

"I have good news for you. The world is not ending because of climate change," Seibt says in a YouTube video for the Heartland Institute. "People are being force-fed a very dystopian agenda of climate alarmism that tells us that we as humans are destroying the planet and that we, the young people especially, have no future."

For decades, the Heartland Institute has promoted what it calls "climate realism" and spreading doubts about the overwhelming science supporting human's role in causing climate change. The organisation cited "science backing climate realism" from the Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change, a riff on the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change which they sponsor themselves.

One of its senior fellows, William Happer, objected to a US intelligence official's finding that climate impacts could be "possibly catastrophic" when serving on the White House National Security Council, the Washington Post reported.

The conservative think tank has recently come under scrutiny for its shadowy funding stream through Donors Trust, an organisation that has allowed wealthy contributors to donate millions of dollars to conservative causes anonymously. Mother Jones referred to the organisation as the "dark-money ATM of the conservative movement."

A recent investigation by German journalists believed they unveiled a plot by the Heartland Institute to utilise Seibt to undermine climate protection measures in Germany - but James Taylor, the director of the Arthur B. Robinson Center for Climate and Environmental Policy at the Heartland Institute, claims the organisation has nothing to hide.

"We're always looking to advance individual freedom and better human health and welfare in the United States and around the world," Taylor told Insider. "Even for folks who think they need to undercover to get that information for me. I'll be happy to have that interview today."

In a new effort, the Heartland Institute has enlisted the help of a YouTube influencer to continue to "spread the truth" about climate change. The organisation has pitted Seibt against the face of the climate justice movement: Swedish activist Greta Thunberg.

"Greta Thunberg took the world by storm with her doomsday climate predictions. Naomi Seibt, a rising star, advocates for proper scientific discourse over climate change," read a caption on a YouTube video featuring Seibt and Thunberg. "Who seems like the more reasonable advocate to you?"

Naomi Seibt, the self-proclaimed "climate realist"

Seibt's crusade against "climate alarmism" online began in 2019 after Thunberg's activism won her a Nobel Peace Prize nomination and Time Magazine's "Person of the Year" Award, the youngest person to earn the title. In addition to challenging what she calls the "mainstream" climate narrative, Seibt also raised questions about feminism and immigration on her channel that echoed far-right views.

Her views caught the attention of a conservative German think tank with ties to the nationalist Alternative for Germany, and later Taylor.

Taylor saw Seibt speak at a conference in Germany and believed she could help further Heartland's agenda of advocating for "free markets" and "individual liberties."

"Here we have a 19-year-old young lady with tremendous poise tremendous intelligence," Taylor told Insider of its decision to hire Seibt as a digital media specialist. "Essentially, we are helping to provide resources so that she can continue to spread the message advocating individual freedom, which includes economic freedom, as well as climate realism."

Seibt, a former "climate alarmist" herself, claimed her skepticism began with Thunberg's own Fridays for Future movement. While she disagrees with Thunberg, she emphasises that she is not the "anti-Greta."

"I'm not this evil opposite of Greta - she might be a really nice girl and I would love to talk to her someday," she told Insider.

However, Seibt claimed Thunberg and other youth climate justice activists espouse views that are not based on science.

"The main issues that I have with the climate change is the narrative. There's a lot of fear-mongering going on. Climate change is not something we're allowed to question anymore," Seibt said.

She said her own research suggests that the role of manmade greenhouse gas emissions in destroying the planet has been inflated by the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. The international body is made up of world-renowned scientists who have reached a consensus on the detrimental effects of human greenhouse gases and contribute to reports on how to mitigate climate change.

"I do not believe that the climate is changing because of manmade CO2 emissions. And if it was, I don't believe that would have such a detrimental effect," Seibt told Insider, who did not cite where her own research derived from.

While the 19-year-old believes that the climate is, in fact, changing, she protested the hysteria around the impending climate crisis. Seibt claimed that the widespread fears about the effects of climate change have not only caused "eco-depression," but has effectively silenced any dissent about the climate crisis.

"To be a scientific skeptic has nothing to be with an authoritarian radical," Seibt, who identified as Libertarian, said. "We are not allowed to speak up - people are losing their job in the wake of this supposed 'climate crisis.'"

With the Heartland Institute, she said she hoped to promote climate realism, which claimed is "pro-human."

"This mainstream narrative of fear-mongering and climate alarmism is holding us hostage in our own brains," Seibt said in a video for Heartland. "Don't let an agenda that is trying to depict you as an energy-sucking leech on the planet get into your brain and take away all of your passionate spirit."

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