Fact check: Viral video doctored to change Greta Thunberg’s remarks on climate crisis

The claim: Greta Thunberg said the climate crisis is not real 

At age 18, Greta Thunberg is one of the most famous climate activists in the world. But her young age has not protected her from harsh criticism from world leaders or kept her from becoming the target of misinformation online.

Recently, critics are sharing an altered clip of one of Thunberg’s interviews to make it appear as if she is undermining her own cause.  

The clip shows an MSNBC interview with journalist Mehdi Hasan. After Hasan asks Thunberg what executive action she would like President Joe Biden to take to address climate change, she says she wants democratic change. She then appears to say climate change is a hoax.

“I would just tell him to tell the situation like it is – since the climate crisis does not exist, how can we expect people to want climate action?” she appears to say. 

The video then repeats “since the climate crisis doesn’t exist” several times and shows a photo of Thunberg with a Pinocchio-style nose. 

“Greta says climate change doesn’t exist,” Instagram account Republican Party News captioned the video in a June 21 post. “Freudian slip by Greta Thunberg?”

By June 23, that post had more than 61,000 views. 

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However, the clip has been altered to change the meaning of Thunberg’s sentence. The full clip shows she was actually saying world leaders should treat climate change like a crisis to garner public support for democratic climate action.

USA TODAY reached out to the poster for comment.

Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg protests during a "Fridays for Future" demonstration in front of the Swedish Parliament Riksdagen in Stockholm on Oct. 9, 2020. (Photo: JONATHAN NACKSTRAND, AFP via Getty Images)

The clip is doctored to change Thunberg’s statement

Thunberg made the statement during a March 7 interview on MSNBC’s “The Mehdi Hasan Show,” during which Thunberg said of Biden:

“I would just tell him to tell the situation as it is. Because, I mean, yes, you could say – I meet with a lot of world leaders and they say, ‘I can’t do anything because I don’t have the support from voters.’ Well, how can you expect support and pressure from voters if you aren’t treating the crisis like a crisis? Since the climate crisis doesn’t exist, how can we expect people to want climate action?” 

Throughout the full 5-minute clip, she repeatedly said world leaders need to present climate change as a crisis to influence public support for democratic climate action. She criticized Biden for not doing enough to address climate change and treating it as another political issue. She repeatedly said climate change was a crisis.

“Treat it as a crisis, that’s the number one step we need to do,” she told Hasan.

Fact check: Videos show G-7 climate demonstrators, not satanic ritual

A close examination shows the video jumps as Thunberg appears to make the controversial statement. When she says, “I would just tell him to tell the situation like it is,” her head is tilted slightly to the left and then jumps to the right – a clear sign that the clip was doctored to alter her words. 

Both PolitiFact and The Associated Press rated the video false.

Our rating: Altered

A viral video that purports to show Thunberg saying “the climate crisis doesn’t exist” is ALTERED based on our research. The full video reveals Thunberg was saying world leaders need to treat climate change as a crisis to build democratic support for climate action. Close inspection of the video shows an edit to cut out a crucial segment of Thunberg’s statement to change its meaning. 

Our fact-check sources: 

  • USA TODAY, Jan. 3, On// 18th birthday, Greta Thunberg says ‘we shouldn’t be relaxing’ on climate change. She wants new headlights for her bike, too.
  • USA TODAY, Jan. 20, Greta Thunberg ends Twitter feud with ‘very happy old man’ Donald Trump as he leaves White House: ‘So nice to see!’
  • Reuters, Feb. 5, Fact check: Greta Thunberg has not been arrested or charged by Indian police for tweeting about a protest
  • MSNBC, March 7, Greta Thunberg urges Biden to address the climate crisis
  • PolitiFact, June 22, Manipulated video distorts Greta Thunberg’s comments on climate change
  • Associated Press, June 22, Video manipulated to make it look like Thunberg denied climate change

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