NEW YORK - Climate activist Greta Thunberg has been named TIME’s 2019 Person of the Year.
The 16-year-old Swedish activist is the youngest individual to ever receive the distinction. The previous individual to hold the record was 25-year-old American aviator Charles Lindbergh, selected as most influential man of 1927.
Thunberg has become the face of the youth climate movement, drawing large crowds with her appearances at protests and conferences over the past year and a half. Veteran campaigners and scientists have welcomed her activism, including her combative speeches challenging world leaders to do more to stop global warming.
“TIME’s Person of the Year is supposed to be the person who has had the most influence on the global events of the year, for good or for ill,” explained TIME national correspondent Charlotte Alter. “Over the course of the past year, Greta has gone from being a young girl sitting alone at the steps of the Swedish parliament, to leading a global movement demanding urgent action on climate change.”
“Her rise coincides with an explosion of youth momentum around the world,” Alter added.
Thunberg was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize in March. She later made headlines in September after sailing from England to New York and delivering a powerful speech to the United Nations urging world leaders to do more to combat climate change.
Thunberg scolded the audience at the U.N. Climate Action Summit, repeatedly asking, "How dare you?"
“My message is that we’ll be watching you,” she said. “This is all wrong. I shouldn’t be up here. I should be back in school on the other side of the ocean. Yet, you all come to us young people for hope. How dare you!”
Other candidates on TIME’s shortlist included President Donald Trump, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, the anonymous CIA whistleblower whose complaint triggered the impeachment inquiry into Trump, and the pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong, according to Today.
“It’s a top-secret process,” Alter said of choosing the recipient. “It starts with a meeting a couple months ago in the fall where the entire staff comes together and brings all their ideas. Then over the course of the next couple months we have many different stories in the works, and at the end our editors make the decision on the best one.”
Former Vice President Al Gore, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2007 for efforts to increase public knowledge about climate change, called Thunberg an “inspiration.”
“Brilliant decision for TIME to choose Greta Thunberg as its Person of the Year,” Gore wrote on Twitter. “Greta embodies the moral authority of the youth activist movement demanding that we act immediately to solve the climate crisis. She is an inspiration to me and to people across the world.”
This story was reported from Cincinnati. The Associated Press contributed.