Greta Thunberg's parents 'thought her climate activism was a bad idea'

Greta Thunberg’s father has opened up about his daughter’s struggles with depression, and revealed that he and his wife had “thought her climate activism was a bad idea”.

Svante Thunberg said his daughter “fell ill” and stopped eating and talking to others, three or four years before going on the school strikes that propelled her into the public eye.

Greta Thunberg and her father Svante arrive in the US in August after a 15-day journey crossing the Atlantic on a zero-carbon yacht. (Getty Images)

Since then Greta, now 16, has inspired millions of people to join her in taking action to raise awareness of the climate crisis.

Speaking to a special edition of the BBC’s Today programme guest-edited by Greta, Mr Thunberg said activism had helped her out of her depression but that he worries about the impact of international fame.

Svante Thunberg said his daughter 'fell ill' and stopped eating and talking to others, three or four years before going on the school strikes that made her name. (Getty Images)

Svante said it was the “ultimate nightmare for a parent” when Greta began refusing to eat, but that she is now “very happy”.

Asked how she got better, he said he and his wife, opera singer Malena Ernman, took time off from their work and sought help from doctors.

Mr Thunberg said changes made in their own lives – such as his decision to become vegan – had given Greta energy.

Greta and her father at the COP24 summit on climate change in Poland in 2018. Mr Thunberg talked about the difficulties that his daughter, who has been diagnosed with Asperger syndrome, experienced with depression. (Getty)

“We just took a very, very long time to spend a lot of time together and just work it out together,” he said.

Mr Thunberg said his wife had stopped flying and had to “change her whole career”.

He added: “To be honest, [Greta’s mother] didn’t do it save the climate – she did it to save her child, because she saw how much it meant to her, and then, when she did that, she saw how much she grew from that, how much energy she got from it.”

He said Greta thought her parents were “huge hypocrites” because they were active advocates for refugees but did not take the climate issue seriously.

"Greta said: 'Whose human rights are you standing up for?'” Mr Thunberg said.

Of her climate change activism, Mr Thunberg said: “We thought it was a bad idea, just the idea of your own daughter putting herself at the very front line of such a huge question like climate change.

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“You wouldn’t want that as a parent.”

He said he and his wife spoke several times with Greta before she pursued her campaigning, explaining that she would have to do it by herself and be well prepared for questions she would face.

On the abuse the teenager faces, Mr Thunberg said: “The hate, quite frankly, I don’t know how she does it but she laughs most of the time, she finds it hilarious.”

Greta spoke via Skype to David Attenborough, who told her she had 'achieved things that many of us who have been working on the issue for 20 years have failed to do'. (AP)

The programme also featured a Skype interview in which Greta discussed climate change with Sir David Attenborough, who told her she had "achieved things that many of us who have been working on the issue for 20 years have failed to do".

He said the 16-year-old was the "only reason" that climate change became a key topic in the recent UK general election.