16-Year-Old Activist Travels to Climate Summit Aboard Racing Yacht

Thunberg aboard the Malizia II (courtesy Greta Thunberg)

Published Aug 16, 2019 11:48 PM by The Maritime Executive

Prominent Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg, 16, has attracted both attention and controversy by traveling to a summit on climate change in New York aboard a racing yacht. The vessel, the Malizia II, is fitted with solar panels and water turbine generators, which will enable her to make a carbon-free transatlantic crossing. 

Malizia II is the racing vessel of Team Malizia, the ocean race team of Monaco businessman Pierre Rainier Stefano Casiraghi. The Malizia, an IMOCA 60 built in 2015, recently finished the Rolex Fastnet race and is set to compete in next year's Vendee Globe. Casiraghi is aboard for the voyage to New York. 

Thunberg will not be subject to the usual criticism afforded those who use fossil-fueled transport to attend a climate summit, but she is no stranger to scrutiny: she has been mocked variously as a "prophetess in shorts," a “brainwashed child” and a "cult member" by prominent climate skeptics. (Thunberg has Asperger's syndrome, a borderline form of autism, which affects her appearance and speech.) In public responses, she generally directs attention to the scientific record, saying that she is "only acting and communicating on the science."

Despite the criticism, her student movement - which leaves class every Friday to protest for climate action - is having a visible political effect. OPEC secretary-general Mohammed Barkindo recently described climate activism as "perhaps the greatest threat to our industry" and said that the student protests were leading to new conversations between OPEC executives and their children, who "see their peers on the streets campaigning against this industry." Thunberg thanked him for his words, which she called "our biggest compliment yet." 

On Wednesday, as her crew set sail from Plymouth, Britain, Thunberg told press that she still doesn't intend to let her critics faze her. “Climate delayers want to shift the focus from the climate crisis to something else. I won’t worry about that. I’ll do what I need," she said.