Climate Activists Heat Things Up in Global Protests

Climate Activists Heat Things Up in Global Protests

Over the past week, climate protests organized by Scientist Rebellion (SR) and Extinction Rebellion (XR) took place around the world.

In London, Olympic athletes and activists climbed on a Shell oil tanker and hung a banner proclaiming "End Fossil Filth,” and held a large demonstration in Hyde Park the next day. Earlier in the week, four activists glued themselves to another oil tanker, and hundreds of XR protestors shut down Waterloo, Blackfriars, Lambeth, and Westminster bridges -- a number of central London’s main bridges.

Guardian: XR | Climate protesters enter Shell HQ and scientists glued to government building, April 16, 2022.

Sky News: Climate activist interviewed while glued to road, April 13, 2022.

In Paris, ahead of the upcoming presidential election, activists held a protest causing the closure of a square in central Paris. The group XR’s website said that it aimed to "disrupt the [city’s] electoral cycle and its 'business as usual’ attitude.”

Across 25 countries, including the US, Spain, and Rwanda, one thousand scientists organized by SR took part in protests and teach-ins. The international collective of science and academic activists calls out current climate plans as "grossly inadequate” and demands "emergency decarbonization and regrowth, facilitated by wealth redistribution.”

Euronews: Climate protests in Madrid: 'The red paint represents the blood of all those who have died,’ April 7, 2022.

SR: "We're not doing activism, we're just doing our job" Scientists blockade energy giant ENI | SR Italy, April 16, 2022.

Why This Matters

The protests come on the heels of the most recent UN climate report, which drove home how far the world is from meeting climate targets that will keep the planet livable. Existing oil and gas infrastructure alone puts the world over the 1.5-degree Celsius mark.

A survey of Americans earlier this year captures the growing frustration with the slow, inadequate response to the climate crisis: about a third are "alarmed” by global warming -- and 10% of that group would "definitely'' engage in non-violent civil disobedience.

"We are in this genuine emergency, and we’re not acting like that. So we have to fix that,” said NASA climate scientist, author and activist Peter Kalmus, who took part in protests in Los Angeles where he chained himself to the front of a Chase Bank.

Dovice: Peter Kalmus Discussing climate breakdown, potential solutions, and future politics, April 14, 2022.

BBC: UN scientists say it's 'now or never' to limit global warming, April 4, 2022.

Criminalizing Climate Protests

As climate protests continue to call for action, some governments are responding by trying to limit people's ability to protest.

Since 2017, US legislators have introduced 245 bills that restrict the right to peaceful assembly. Specific state laws have been enacted to target protesters around gas and oil pipelines in Alabama, Arkansas, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, West Virginia, and Wisconsin

In the UK, the Police, Crime, Sentencing, and Courts Bill (PCSC Bill) introduced last year would give police expanded power over defining and controlling protests.

"The bill was devised with climate protest as its focal point, and if passed in its current form, its effect will be to limit what communities are able to do in the continued drive to drag this government to create effective climate policy,” said Will Jackson, a lecturer in criminology at Liverpool John Moores University, to Atmos. The vision of acceptable protest that this bill creates is one that is ineffective and causes no real problem for a government that is reluctant to effectively tackle the climate crisis.”

District 34: Dr. Peter Kalmus' Climate Change Protest at Chase Bank, LA, April 12, 2022.

CBS: Huge carbon emissions cuts needed, UN climate report finds, April 4, 2022.