Greta Thunberg’s Team Taking Transatlantic Flights as She Sails in Solar Yacht

PLYMOUTH, ENGLAND - AUGUST 14: Climate change activist Greta Thunberg sets sail for New Yo
Kirsty Wigglesworth - WPA Pool/Getty Images

Greta Thunberg, the 16-year-old Swede who gained international attention for organizing school strikes to protest climate change, is sailing across the Atlantic to attend a United Nations (U.N.) summit next month, but her refusal to fly on a plane to save the planet may backfire.

Climate change zealots praise her and she has even been nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize, but details of her trip reveal that fossil fuels not only are part of the plan, but the trip would be impossible without them.

In reporting on Thunberg’s trip, the German news website reported that although the racing yacht Thunberg is traveling on is solar-powered, its hull is oil-dependent:

Critics will find fault with its 18-meter-long, carbon-fiber hull — derived from oil — but otherwise the yacht relies on its sails and autopilot, hydrofoils for underwater dynamics, a solar panel and water-driven turbines for electricity.

A mandatory diesel motor is sealed away for emergencies. 

AFP reported that while Thunberg is not stepping foot on a plane, those helping her with the trip will be:

The team behind teenage climate activist Greta Thunberg’s yacht voyage to New York on Sunday fended off claims that her trip will create carbon emissions because team members will take transatlantic flights.

A spokesman for German round-the-world sailor Boris Herrmann, the yacht’s co-skipper, told Berlin newspaper TAZ that several people would fly into New York to help take the yacht back to Europe. Hermann himself will return by plane, according to the spokesman.

The paper estimated that in fact Thunberg’s boat trip would end up being more polluting than if she and her companions had just taken flights to New York themselves.

A manager for Team Malizia — the name of the racing yacht — said that all of the flights will be “offset.”

“We only have one boat, so they cannot easily sail over to meet them,” Holly Cova said. “Altogether, four crew will be sailing the boat back. These are logistical decisions that Team Malizia alone has taken.”

Cova admitted: “The world has not yet found a way to make it possible to cross an ocean without a carbon footprint.”

Thunberg will be on this continent for some time so she can attend the U.N. climate change summit on Sept. 23 and take part in “youth demonstrations” in the U.S. before traveling to Canada, Mexico, and then to Chile for another U.N. conference in December.

“I don’t know yet how I will get home,” Thunberg, who is traveling with her father and a filmmaker, said before she sailed away from the English port of Plymouth for New York.

She dismissed her critics in one media report. “I will just ignore them because I’m only acting and communicating the science, and if they don’t like that, what have I got to do with that?” Thunberg said.

Follow Penny Starr on Twitter.


Please let us know if you're having issues with commenting.