Tomorrow, Swedish teen climate activist Greta Thunberg could become the youngest ever recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize, being the bookmakers’ favorite among the other 300 candidates.
The 16-year-old has already received Amnesty International’s top honor and the Right Livelihood Award, sometimes dubbed the “alternative Peace Nobel.” Thunberg stressed that while the award would be “a recognition for this movement,” she and her supporters were not “doing this to get awards and prizes”.
The teenage Swedish activist first grabbed the world’s attention in August 2018 by skipping school and standing outside the Swedish Parliament to seek a stronger response to climate change. In a little more than a year, she has galvanized millions of young people around the world to take part in demonstrations to raise awareness for action on climate change. She made global headlines in late September when she lambasted world leaders at the UN climate summit in New York.
At the moment, she seems like the favorite to win — she is the bookies’ favorite to scoop the prize, with London-based betting company Coral putting her at 1/2 odds.
But the teenager faces competition from world leaders. According to London-based online betting company Betfair, Abiy Ahmed, the Ethiopian Prime Minister who brought an end to his country’s conflict with Eritrea, is the second most likely candidate to win.
Other contenders include Raoni Metuktire, the indigenous Brazilian leader and environmentalist who led a campaign to protect the Amazon, and Jacinda Ardern, the Prime Minister of New Zealand. Plus, organizations such as Reporters Without Borders also rank high in the list.
Opinions from the experts
Predicting the winner is always a challenge since the Norwegian Nobel Committee never reveals the names of the nominees. All that is known is that a total of 301 individuals and organizations have been nominated this year.
For Henrik Urdal, director of the Peace Research Institute in Oslo (Prio), the chance of Thunberg’s winning is “extremely unlikely.” He argued that while some say climate change might aggravate conflicts, in his view there is still no consensus on whether it is actually the cause of armed conflict. He also said her tender age could make the prize more of a burden than a reward.
“The only way I could see that happen is that she would be part of a shared prize like Malala,” Urdal said, referring to Pakistani activist Malala Yousafzai, who shared the 2014 prize – at age 17 – with Indian children’s rights activist Kailash Satyarthi.
Norwegian historian Asle Sveen echoed that view.
“Of course, she is now an international star, in conflict with Donald Trump, and she put the searchlight on climate change better than anyone else,” he said. “What’s against her is that she is only 16 years old,” he continued.
On the other hand, Dan Smith, director of the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (Sipri), believes Thunberg should be considered a “serious candidate” and that climate change is linked to conflict.
“First of all, I think that what she has done over the past year is extraordinary,” Smith said. “I think that climate change is an issue which is strongly related to security and peace.”
Several recent studies have shown that climate change is a threat to world peace, with the Pentagon officially calling climate change a “threat to national security” — a feeling echoed by several other countries. In this regard, Greta Thunberg would be justified in receiving the prize.
Last year’s Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to former ISIS sex slave Nadia Murad and Congolese doctor Denis Mukwege “for their efforts to end the use of sexual violence as a weapon of war and armed conflict.”