Steve Mnuchin's wife defends Greta Thunberg after US treasury secretary said climate activist should get economics degree

Harry Cockburn
Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg at the World Economic Forum, in Davos, Switzerland: AP

Greta Thunberg’s ability to cause otherwise powerful men to lose control of their tempers is legendary, with both Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin being among those unable to contain their animosity for the teenage climate activist.

But in a new twist, after Ms Thunberg’s tireless environmental work caused yet another hot-headed senior US politician to publicly attack her, it appears the man’s wife stepped in to defend her.

The politician in question is investment banker Steven Mnuchin, US secretary of the treasury.

When asked at the World Economic Forum in Davos, whether public and private divestment from fossil fuel companies would threaten US growth, Mr Mnuchin took aim at the 17-year-old, who has called for such measures.

He said: “Is she the chief economist? Who is she, I’m confused.”

“After she goes and studies economics in college she can come back and explain that to us,” Mr Mnuchin added.

Ms Thunberg responded by tweeting a graph based on UN figures illustrating the world’s rapidly diminishing carbon budget which is on course to be used up by 2027 unless emissions are drastically curbed.

“My gap year ends in August, but it doesn’t take a college degree in economics to realise that our remaining 1.5° carbon budget and ongoing fossil fuel subsidies and investments don’t add up,” she said.

The exchange revealed the huge gulf in concern about the environment between the White House and those worried about the future of the planet, but would likely have ended at this point were it not for Mr Mnuchin’s wife, Scottish actor Louise Linton, who apparently took it upon herself to publicly take Ms Thunberg’s side over the view espoused by her spouse.

Writing on Instagram, she said: “I stand with Greta on this issue. (I don’t have a degree in economics either). We need to drastically reduce our use of fossil fuels. Keep up the fight @gretathunberg.”

However, Ms Linton’s public support was short lived, as her post was deleted without explanation about 30 minutes after it appeared, according to US journalist Olivia Nuzzi.

Mr Trump and his allies have repeatedly lashed out at the teenage activist.

In December, when Ms Thunberg was announced as Time magazine’s person of the year, the US president responded, saying: “So ridiculous. Greta must work on her Anger Management problem, then go to a good old fashioned movie with a friend! Chill Greta, Chill!”

His team then photoshopped the president’s face onto the front cover of the magazine.