Telling the truth so we can learn from mistakes - reflections five years on

Thursday, October 19, 2023 by Clare Farrell, Gail Bradbrook and Roger Hallam

This letter contains the personal views of three co-founders of Extinction Rebellion. XR Global Support believes it will be of interest to rebels worldwide, and spark important debate on how we adapt to a rapidly heating world.

Telling the truth means being ready to accept when you have been led astray, got things wrong and so have to modify your views. Five years since the launch of Extinction Rebellion, this world we live in is changing so dangerously fast that it demands we revisit our assumptions and learn some painful lessons. It is now clear that 2023 is very likely to average more than 1.5 °C above a 1850-1900 baseline. Whilst emissions are still rising world wide. It is only through commitment to the truth that we might help humanity and wider life around as we enter a disturbing new era.

We got something wrong. We were misled. So, we misled you too. Aerosol pollution matters decisively to our global climate. There are other factors deserving of more serious attention such as forest cloud seeding and ocean health. Many factors were sidelined by scientists who were narrowly focusing on CO2. In addition, IPCC processes did not find an adequate way to address issues of extreme risk where data was deemed insufficient or where there was higher uncertainty *, such as aerosols, methane release from permafrost, and feedbacks from wildfires or droughts rendering sinks incapable of sustaining their role in the system. This misled other scientists, academics and activists including us.

Some of us have attempted over the years to responsibly communicate the extreme and cascading risks, and the severe consequences of not taking emergency action. Despite founding the movement on the precautionary principle we found ourselves being ground down. For years we were moderated, and moodsplained by experts from narrow disciplines who demanded we change our press releases, our lectures, and play down the reality and potential speed of catastrophic consequences. As we pass into the horrors of a 1.5 °C plus world, at least 10 years earlier than the worst official expectations, we realise we should have made a firmer stand. As we observe some top climatologists claiming we need to wait decades before accepting that the planet is 1.5 °C warmer, we also realise that silence about our disagreements is no longer an option for us, or the climate movement.

Understanding how this repression happened is important. We would welcome any career climatologists, academics and journalists who undermined our communications in public to make amends, especially as they have influenced attitudes amongst those who judge us. But more importantly, for the sake of life on Earth we must tackle this emergency with our eyes wide open to everything that we need to do from this point forward. The rapid heating and extreme events of the last year demonstrate that overall predictions of institutionalised climate science were less accurate than the conclusions of generalist scholars and leading climate activists, who better saw the frightening signals through the noise produced from siloes, hierarchies, and privilege. Notably, economists, politicians and consultants pulled the conversation in the opposite direction to what was needed. Because these people carry an identity associated with ‘authority’ they were not challenged enough by journalists, lay people, or activists.

XR was always about responding to the whole ecological emergency, not just the climate. We need to bring this back to the fore, as much for the climate as for nature. We need to prioritise preserving and growing forest cover, learning how to restore the oceans' role in atmospheric modulation, experimenting with marine cloud brightening in the Arctic and exploring every option for climate restoration and cooling, and even consider reversing recent shipping fuel regulations if they are causing an aerosol ‘termination shock’. And at the same time we must reject the lie that high consumption societies do not need to power down equitably, with the rich going first. We waste vast amounts of energy, which is unspeakable in these circumstances. The rallying cry from here on is that we Must Stop Oil, end the fossil fuel era, and we must also urgently start the repair of Planet Earth, our only home.

We are entering a new era for humanity and the prospects are terrifying. We committed five years ago in October 2018 to live in truth. Our movements need to look directly at that truth and act according to reality. That means being in resistance, standing for peace, justice and freedom.

Signed: Clare Farrell, Gail Bradbrook, Roger Hallam.

October 2023

*A footnote in the IPCC AR6 SPM: "Warming levels >4 °C may result from very high emissions scenarios, but can also occur from lower emission scenarios if climate sensitivity or carbon cycle feedbacks are higher than the best estimate. {3.1.1}"


反抗灭绝是一个分散的、国际的和政治上无党派的运动,利用非暴力的直接行动和公民抗命来说服政府对气候和生态紧急情况采取公正的行动。 我们的运动是由来自各行各业的人组成的,他们用自己的时间和精力以不同的方式做出贡献。我们很可能有一个离你很近的当地分部,我们很想听到你的声音。 参与进来 ...或考虑捐一次款