Climate "Alarm" Rises, Extreme Activists Take on SUVs

Climate "Alarm" Rises, Extreme Activists Take on SUVs

SUVs have rapidly become the top car worldwide, a rise that’s come with major consequences to the climate. From 2010 to 2018, the collective use of these larger, heavier vehicles has made them the second-largest contributor to global carbon emissions increases since 2010 after the power sector, but still ahead of heavy industry (including cement, aluminum, iron, and steel), as well as trucks and aviation.

Now, an extreme, urban, grassroots movement has begun organizing and protesting SUVs, unlawfully, but with real momentum across cities from London to New York and beyond. The Tyre Extinguishers, as they call themselves, place lentils into SUV tire valves during the night so that owners are met with an undrivable vehicle come morning. The group says its mission is to “make it impossible to own a huge polluting 4x4 in the world’s urban areas.”

Channel 4: Meet the climate activists deflating tyres to stop SUV ownership, June 2022.

KPIX CBS: Bay Area climate activists target SUVs, deflate tires, July 9, 2022.

“The amount of damage from a flat tire is nothing compared to climate change,” said one activist to the Guardian. “You have freedom of choice, sure, but you don’t have freedom from consequences.”

Grantham Imperial: Dr Friederike Otto speaks to BBC World News about the heatwaves, 18 July 2022, July 19, 2022.

BBC: Deadly heatwaves '100 times more likely' due to climate change, May 18, 2022.

NBC: Heat Wave Worsens As 75 Million Americans Are Under Alerts, July 22, 2022.

Why This Matters

In a larger sense, movements like the Tyre Extinguishers are forms of “climate vigilanteism,” born from frustration and lack of faith in institutions to solve the climate crisis. The speed and scale at which governments and corporations are taking on the climate crisis does not match what’s needed to avoid climate change's worst impacts. As a result, civil disobedience is increasing.

According to polls, people are more and more looking for ways to take action. A recent analysis of a group representing 8.6 million American adults found that 10% are “alarmed” by climate change and say they would “definitely” engage in non-violent civil disobedience over the issue.

Euronews: Environmental activists stage protest at Uffizi, Botticelli masterpiece unharmed, July 23, 2022.

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

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

Criminalizing Peaceful Climate Protests

As Americans become more interested in protesting, using forms that range from peaceful to non-violent civil disobedience, some governments are responding by trying to limit people’s abilities to protest. Since 2017, US legislators have introduced 245 bills restricting rights to peaceful assembly. States, including Alabama, Louisiana, Texas, and Wisconsin, have enacted specific laws to target protesters around gas and oil pipelines. The UK’s recent bill, the Police, Crime, Sentencing, and Courts Act, gives law enforcement 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.”

DW: Climate activist group Extinction Rebellion wants to paralyze cities worldwide, October 7, 2019.

Guardian: Locking on and breaking in: the climate protesters who want to Just Stop Oil, May 10, 2022.