Extinction Rebellion demands that governments act now to halt biodiversity loss and reduce greenhouse gas emissions to net zero as soon as possible. Here’s why.
Photo: Markus Spiske.
The climate and ecological crisis is already with us
The future is coming for us — faster than we imagined. Destruction that was forecast to unfold decades from now is already here. As carbon emissions and global temperatures continue to rise, extreme weather is becoming both more common and more destructive.
The science is only becoming clearer as the years pass. An ever-growing number of scientific studies prove two things: the earth is warming and we are the cause.
Changes that were predicted years ago — like severe storms, heat waves, and melting glaciers and ice sheets — are accelerating. Climate feedback loops — in which a symptom of climate change, such as more frequent wildfires, feeds the causes of climate change — are creating a cascade effect. And scientists are learning that the earth is even more sensitive to increases in carbon emissions than they initially thought.
Some of the most above-average temperatures have been recorded in places we’d expect to be the coldest, including parts of Siberia, Alaska and Antarctica. And for over two decades, the Arctic has been warming much faster than the rest of the planet. Today, Arctic warming is happening at least two and a half times as fast as the global average.
At the same time, we are going through a mass extinction event. The number of animals living on the earth has fallen by half since the 1970s. The extinction rate of species is now thought to be about 1,000 times higher than before humans dominated the planet. Through pollution, destruction of habitats such as forests and industrial agriculture, human activity is shrinking the space for all species to survive.
As we disrupt and kill off species after species of the ecosystem, we are not only losing what cannot be replaced — we are disrupting the conditions that make human life itself possible. It is only by allowing nature the space and protection it needs to survive that the human species can avoid total ecological collapse and possibly our own extinction.
The powerful have blocked progress
Powerful interests who profit from the status quo have blocked meaningful progress. They have lobbied against environmental laws that would limit emissions. They’ve made it their goal to make people care less about the climate and ecological crisis. In 2020 alone, fossil fuel companies contributed around $50 million to politicians in the United States.
But, like the polar ice caps on a 38C day, the comfort zone in which denial has been possible is quickly shrinking. We are living through an ever more undeniable climate crisis. Without urgent action, the coming decades will bring an increasingly inhospitable new normal.
We remain on track for man-made temperature increases of more than two degrees celsius above pre-industrial levels. This was the threshold outlined in the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement, which world leaders vowed to stay “well below” because they deemed it too risky. A threshold that many scientists have since argued does not go far or fast enough.
In fact, five years on, we’re not yet close to reining in global temperatures. Not even close to meeting the emissions reduction goals that countries set for themselves, which were already insufficient in their ambition.
Top climate scientists, including Sir Robert Watson, the former chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, have said that we’re on track for catastrophic warming of 3-4C by the end of the century.
But it’s not too late
We can still create a better future. But only if we urgently demonstrate to our governments that we do not accept the status quo. A status quo of irreparable harm to our collective wellbeing and to that of future generations. A scenario in which those who can least afford it will suffer the most.
The good news is that climate change’s clear and catastrophic consequences are at last making it a mainstream concern. The majority of people surveyed in a recent poll in 26 countries say climate change is a major threat to their nation, a drastic increase from 2013. Technology has also progressed significantly. If introduced now, low or zero-carbon technologies could help to reduce the emissions generated by our everyday activities.
But, while these developments are positive, they are not yet enough. Concern without action is meaningless. When it comes to the accelerating climate and ecological crisis, conventional resistance — voting, petitions, lobbying — is failing to do the job.
Why civil disobedience, why now
Photo: Callum Shaw.
What does work is mass civil disobedience. Studies show that worldwide movements for change that actively engaged 3.5 percent of the population have been most successful in achieving their goals. It’s now time to convert mainstream concern into mass mobilisation.
Through Extinction Rebellion’s non-violent civil disobedience, people like you are disrupting business as usual to demand deep decarbonisation. Every single person who protests is increasing our chances of creating a better future. Bold actions like occupying roads, blockading bridges and creatively disrupting the work of banks which finance the climate crisis can capture government and media attention and change the conversation in ways conventional resistance hasn’t.
While some may call our approach extreme, it is no more than what is necessary — and far less disruptive than what is coming if we fail to act.
Thanks to a growing community of rebels worldwide, the movement is gaining strength and shifting the conversation, but we need your help to reach critical mass. The window of opportunity is getting smaller but is still very real. Can you help us avoid climate and ecological catastrophe and create a better future?