Ruth Jarman, 55, Phil Kingston, 82, Fr Martin Newell, 51, Richard Barnard, 45, and Nick Cooper, 36, used spray paint cans to write messages that called for a zero carbon future.
Shortly before his arrest, Richard Barnard said: “I decided to take part on behalf of all the people around the world who are already suffering the effects of climate change.
“Of course I’d rather not be here today; I would rather be at home. However, I have the privilege of being able to speak out for justice and I will do that for those around the world who don’t have that luxury.”
The group also attempted to block the entrance to Downing Street and Jarman used glue to stick herself to railings, before being removed by police.
The Extinction Rebellion protest was one of a series that happened across the capital yesterday.
The group had previously declared a fortnight of planned protests they described as ”the rebellion’ after the government failed to agree to their demands by 12th November which included declaring a state of emergency around climate change.
Kingston, 82 who is a Christian Climate Action member,was led away two weeks agoby police without being arrested after lying in the road outside parliament for several hours.
Those involved with the ‘rebellion’ have said the movement is “prepared to risk arrest in order to ensure the world avoids climate breakdown”.
The Australian Government’s contemptuous dismissal of the latest report of theIntergovernmental Panel on Climate Change(IPCC), including the panel’s recommendation to dramatically reduce coal power by 2050, is unacceptable.
As Australian health professionals and scientists, we are dismayed by the implications of our government’s ongoing stance to disregard the consensus of the world’s leading climate scientists, the precautionary principle, and any idea of duty of care regarding the future wellbeing of Australians and our immediate neighbours.
Australia is the world’s largest coal exporter and produces about 7% of the world’s coal.
Worldwide, fossil fuel burning produces around 72% of all greenhouse gas emissions resulting from human activities.
To limit global warming to 2°C, a third of oil reserves, half of gas reserves, and more than 80% of current coal reserves as of 2010 should remain unused.
Air pollution from coal burning is responsible for numerous health problems—according to the Global Burden of Disease Study 2016,around 2·5 million deaths were caused by solid fuel burning worldwide.
Ironically, no other member country of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development is as vulnerable to climate disruption as Australia.
Climate disruption is already amplifying the frequency, intensity, and duration of extreme weather events such as heatwaves, bushfires, drought, and tropical storms, causing harm and damaging livelihoods.
As with other established historical harms to human health (eg, tobacco and exorbitant hepatitis C drug prices), narrow vested interests must be countered to bring about fundamental change in the consumption of coal and other fossil fuels.
The Australian Government must commit immediately to embrace strategies of energy generation that do not put more greenhouse gases into the atmosphere (panel)—with healthier communities reaping the benefits now and in the future. Without concerted action by all, the IPCC recommendation to achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2050 will certainly not be achieved.
Because of processes of colonisation and marginalisation, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities in Australia have been cut off from lands and seas and are in poorer overall health; climate change will only amplify these inequities. Australia’s Pacific Island neighbours are also highly vulnerableto climate-related risks to health, extreme weather events, rising sea levels, coastal erosion, habitability, food security, water supply, and economic growth.
Our disregard of their plight through continued coal burning is shameful.
In 2012, Gilding delivered a presentation on the thesis of his book at the 2012TED conferencetitledThe Earth is Full, which earned him press attention.
He lives in southernTasmaniawith his wife and children.
The Extinction Rebellion – A Tipping Point for the Climate Emergency?
The only rational response to thescientific evidenceon climate change, is to declare a global emergency – to mobilise all of society to do whatever it takes to fix it. As the UN Secretary General Guterres recently stated: “We face a direct existential threat”.
Failure is really not an option when “failure” means we could “annihilate intelligent life or permanently and drastically curtail its potential” This is now a war for civilisation’s survival. 
Meanwhile we blunder on…. Deeply committed to making verbal commitments, while delivering pathetically inadequate actual responses. Responses that treat the clear and urgent advice of the world’s top scientists – that we face the risk of global collapse – as merely passing thoughts to be casually contemplated.
Well, time’s up. To quote Winston Churchill:“Owing to past neglect, in the face of the plainest warnings, we have entered upon a period of danger. The era of procrastination, of half measures, of soothing and baffling expedients of delays, is coming to its close. In its place we are entering a period of consequences …We cannot avoid this period, we are in it now…”
Enter the Extinction Rebellion.
This is group of people who have simply had enough.
They have looked at the science and concluded that the world has gone mad, that we now face the risk of extinction. And they’ve decided not to stand by in the face of that – but instead to rebel against the madness that has overtaken us. To try to shock us all into action, to face up to reality.
Maybe. But maybe not.
Of course, we can’t know for sure.
The crucial mistake we tend to make in complicated issues like climate, is to fail on very basic risk assessment and management.
We don’tknowsocietydefinitelyfaces collapse, so we assume (or hope) it won’t and act accordingly.
This is madness.
If your doctor told you, “on balance I think your child will be dead in five years – I can’t be sure but the best medical science suggests a 90% likelihood.
However, if you take these simple steps – steps that will be quite inconvenient and disruptive but totally doable – the likelihood of their death will fall to 5%.” What would you do?
Wait for certainty?
Which could only come when your child was on their death bed?
To make us all stop and think – to ask the simple question: Am I really paying attention?
To what I know, to what we all nowknow?
The big question is whether this will be any different from the past 30 years of climate activism.
It may of course not be.
We have shown an incredible ability to stay in denial about what is now asked of us. But it may also be very different.
Why? I suggest five reasons.
Civil Disobedience at (potentially) large scale.
To date most climate activism has been advocacy for policy, with a relatively small focus on direct action protests. When the latter has occurred, it has focused on specific activities e.g. Keystone and other pipelines, new coal mines. Important and often powerful, but the debate then tends to then go those particular developments, with the global climate issue as the context. Extinction Rebellion (XR) proposes something quite different. They plancivil disobedience blockades at scale– and if they get sufficient support, to shut down cities. To stop the world and make us think. It’s kind of Occupy Wall St meets the Arab Spring and Tahir Square, but armed with the world’s top science and clear, practical and actionable solutions.
Civil Disobedience has a strong and powerful history in political and social change, including the civil rights, suffragette and peace movements and in bringing down many autocratic governments. In today’s political context, it may become a powerful, hopeful and emotionally engaging way for young people to respond to the despair and frustration they feel. XR may be flooded with people joining them. AsGreta Thunberg– the Swedish 15 year old who started the School Strike For Climate said: “We’re facing an immediate unprecedented crisis that has never been treated as a crisis and our leaders are all acting like children. We need to wake up and change everything.”
The science is now crystal clear. This is an emergency.
Civil disobedience is of course not new on climate change. At Greenpeace International in 1993 I helped organised a blockade of a key city intersection demanding the Dutch Government take action on climate change. It had little impact. Why might this be different?
This is not 1993. We have 25 years more evidence of the problem. We are also now living in the reality of a changed climate, with the process just beginning. To avoid catastrophic risk, the most recent IPCC report  said we have around a decade tohave cut CO2 emissions by about 50%. To be clear : not a decade to start doing it, but a decade tohave it done. Churchill’s “era of procrastination” is well and truly over.
The solutions are ready.
We also have 25 years of progress in both developing and delivering solutions. In 2008, when I wrote with Professor Jorgen Randers, theOne Degree War Plan, showing how we could slash emissions by 50% in five years, commencing in 2018, it was seen by many as economic fantasy. Fast forward just 10 years and we see renewables blitzing fossil fuels in the market. The most recentannual report from Lazardon the levelized cost of energy concluded: “We have reached an inflection point where, in some cases, it is more cost effective to build and operate new alternative energy projects than to maintain existing conventional generation plants”. Consider that – it is often already cheaper (and getting cheaper every year) tobuild and operate newrenewable power plants than to justoperateold (i.e. fully depreciated and paid for) fossil fuel and nuclear power plants. This is without strong policy on climate change – so imagine how fast we could move if we had it!
The Extinction Rebellion is not alone.
This all comes on top of agrowing awakening that climate change is a real emergency. Groups likeThe Climate Mobilization(TCM) formed by people who also faced despair but decided that telling the truth and taking action was the right response. TCM has taken the climate emergency message across the USA getting cities and towns to formally declare an emergency. They also acted in the recent US elections, which saw unprecedented engagement by young people with strong action on climate change one of their key demands. One result is that new members of Congress, like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, arenow fully engagedin the emergency mobilizing approach.
Meanwhile, continuing to build on the intellectual basis for all this, think tanks likeBreakthrough – National Centre for Climate Restorationhave put forward the clear scientific case for an emergency and, I think critically, defined what an emergency mobilisation is. They explain this is not just a verbal intent to accelerate urgency and action, but apractical organising basis with clear goals, most closely referenced by the industrial transformation and economic mobilisation we saw in WWII.
Considering this growing momentum, XR might just be the tipping point.
Nothing else we are doing is working.
My final reason this could be different is the very uncomfortable fact we in the climate movement must face. We are failing. We have built huge and widespread global support for action across policy makers, business and the public. Never has there been such engagement on the climate issue. But success cannot be defined as support for potential action. Success is slashing emissions. And on that we are failing. There are countless good reasons and justifications for this – and it’s not like millions of us aren’t trying as hard as we can. But we are still failing. And time is up.
Of course, it’s possible that Extinction Rebellion will also fail. That a few protests will gather media attention then fade away. Perhaps their deep commitment to non-violence will be disrupted by outsiders or agent provocateurs. Perhaps they will be written off as the crazy fringe, with wacky ideas about the future of democracy. All possible.
But they may also succeed. They may make enough of us ask some questions: Am I part of the problem? Am I sitting back clearly recognising the scale of the crisis and the risk of collapse, maybe even extinction, but paralysed by either fear and despair? Or just not knowing what the hell else to do?Should I join them on the streets? Is it time?
Extinction Rebellion may be the crazy fringe. Or they may be the only sane people in the room.
2. IPCC 1.5 degree reporthttp://www.ipcc.ch/report/sr15/ Note these reductions are from 2010 levels, with the task actually greater given 2018 emissions are higher. And this is for a low level of certainty of achieving the 1.5 degree goal ( 40% – 60% likelihood ).
The cost of new wind and solar power generation has fallen below the cost of running existing coal-fired plants in many parts of the US, threatening to wreck President Donald Trump’s hopes ofreviving the mining industry.
New estimates published on Thursday by Lazard, the investment bank, show that it can often be profitable for US generation companies to shut working coal plants and replace their output with wind and solar power.
The calculations suggest that closures of coal-fired plants are likely to continue, eroding US demand for coal and jeopardising Mr Trump’s ambition to “put our coal miners back to work”.
The falling cost of renewable energy is adding to the pressure from cheap gas and stagnant demand for electricity, which have cut US coal power output by more than 40 per cent since 2007.
Retirements of US coal-fired plants are expected to hit a record high this year, and companies includingFirstEnergyandAmerican Electric Powerhave in the past few months announced further closures. Many of the plants being shuttered are reaching the end of their working lives, but even some relatively new capacity is being shut because it is no longer economically viable.
Vistra Energy said last year it was shutting coal plants in Texas including one that had brought its latest unit into service only in 2009.
According to Lazard, the all-in levelised cost of electricity from a new wind farm in the US is $29-$56 per megawatt hour before any subsidies — such as the federal Production Tax Credit, which is being phased out by 2024. The marginal cost of operating a coal plant is $27-$45 per MWh. So there are often times and places where building a wind farm even without any subsidy would make sense. Add in the PTC, which can cut the cost of wind power to as little as $14 per MWh, and the case becomes even stronger.
George Bilicic, head of power, energy and infrastructure at Lazard, said utilities could often make the case to regulators that it would be cheaper to shut coal-fired plants and replace them with renewables and energy efficiency improvements, delivering both higher returns for the companies and lower bills for customers.
Xcel Energy, the Minneapolis-based utility group, is one of the pioneers of this model, In August, the regulator in Colorado approved its plan to shut 660 megawatts of coal-fired capacity and replace it with 1,100MW of wind, 700MW of solar and 275MW of battery storage. The company said the plan would save about $200m for customers.
Ben Fowke, Xcel’s chief executive, said in a speech at the annual convention of the Edison Electric Institute, the industry group, in June: “I will tell you, it’s not a matter of if we’re going to retire our coal fleet in this nation, it’s just a matter of when.”
Other companies are putting more emphasis on energy efficiency.Public Service Enterprise Group, the New Jersey utility, in September proposed to its state regulator a $4bn six-year investment plan based principally on energy efficiency improvements, including financial incentives to buy more efficient appliances, smart thermostats and other equipment. The company closed its last two coal-fired plants in New Jersey last year.
Ralph Izzo, PSEG’s chief executive, told the Financial Times that its customers’ bills had dropped 30 per cent over the past 10 years, principally because of the plunge in the cost of gas caused by the shale revolution. Now gas prices had levelled off, he saw curbing power use would be the best way to reduce customers’ bills, and to “decouple” the company’s revenues from the number of megawatt hours it sold. “It really is a no-brainer,” he said.
US coal production picked up last year, helped by strong exports. The industry employs about 2,100 more people than it did when Mr Trump took office, an increase of about 4 per cent.
Output has been falling back again, however, and is expected to drop next year to close to its level in 2016, which was the lowest since the early 1980s. Westmoreland Coal, a Colorado-based mining company, last month filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection with debts of about $1.4bn.
The Trump administration has been looking at ideas for subsidising coal and nuclear plants, on the grounds that the increasing reliance of US grids on gas and renewable energy exposes them to risks of blackouts in extreme conditions such as a period of severe cold weather. A first attempt launched last year was rejected by federal regulators, however, and although Mr Trump has alluded to a new plan, the administration has not yet published any formal proposals.
“There is a lot of smoke and not much fire,” said Seth Feaster of the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis, a think-tank that supports renewables.
“Policy is not easy to turn on a dime, even if you want to.”
Utilities are making investment decisions that could last for decades, he added, and are unlikely to change course based on a policy that could be abandoned if Mr Trump fails to win re-election in two years’ time.
Anika splits her life between her family’s arid outback sheep station in Far Western NSW, her PhD crop trials in central NSW, and lush green rice paddies in Southeast Asia working as a researcher …
The images of dust storms across Far West NSW have spurred me to write this article.
https://www.facebook.com/1080144937/posts/10214740779528006/ If you’ve ever stood before an approaching dust storm, you will know what I mean when I describe it as a formidable dark beast crawling along the landscape. Bellowing a low grumble as it makes its way across vast stretches within minutes, unfolding to the heavens and engulfing everything in its way. It’s a sight we out west have seen numerous times during this drought. A powerful reminder of one’s insignificance in the face of Mother Nature – and simultaneously our impact upon her. But dust storms are not new to this region. Broken Hill township was established in 1883, and by the early 1900s overgrazing and mining operations had denuded the landscape. Sand drifts and dust storms threated the town, and rags were regularly jammed under doorways and along window seals to prevent red dust creeping into one’s house.
Images of this time period remind us of how bad it got. And how, in the face of such adversity, locals banded together to fight for their future. Led by Albert and Margaret Morris and William MacGillivray, the Barrier Field Naturalists club was established and one of the earliest known ecological regeneration projects in the world began.
The vision for a set of regeneration reserves started in the early 1920s, and by 1936 the first had been established. The benefits of the reserves in reducing dust became clear to the townspeople, and the scheme was soon being championed by locals and community groups. More than 80 years since the first reserve was established the benefits of the regeneration reserves to wildlife, vegetation and the town are still clear. Take a stroll through the natural green belt that wraps around the Silver City, and see the striking red flashes of Sturt Desert Pea and the bedeared dragons lounging on Ruby Saltbush. But despite a harsh exterior, we are reminded that this landscape is incredibly fragile.
The recent dust storms highlight just how vulnerable these special places are if we do not look after our common home.
In a region that is projected to become hotter, drier and experience more frequent and intense droughts and dust storms, what does the future hold for towns like Broken Hill in semi-arid inland Australia? Our future rests in our hands.
Just like the courageous people who defiantly changed the trajectory before, so again the outback people stand with their home and fight for its future.
Whether it’s to save the Darling River, the Menindee Lake system, endangered wildlife or farming families, the power and might of dust storms rolling across the landscape remind me of the groundswell happening in these rural communities.
Outback people have resilience and fight imprinted in their DNA.
Our climate and environment are changing rapidly and we will not sit quietly and accept inaction.
Hear the rumble, cause we’re fighting for our future.
31 October 2018: Researchers at Princeton University and the Scripps Institution of Oceanography published a study that warns that global warming may be happening faster than scientists have previously estimated.
The study, published inNature, suggests that these findings may mean that emitted greenhouse (GHG) gases have generated far more heat than scientists originally predicted, meaning that the Earth is more sensitive to carbon dioxide than scientists thought.
The study titled, ‘Quantification of Ocean Heath Uptake from Changes in Atmospheric Oxygen and Carbon Dioxide Composition’, assesses ocean warmth using “a whole-ocean thermometer” to measure carbon dioxide and atmospheric oxygen, both of which increase as the ocean warms and releases gases.
In other words, the researchers measured the amount of carbon dioxide and oxygen lost by the oceans, and then calculated the amount of warming needed to explain that change in gases.
Previous studies have estimated ocean temperature using hydrographic temperature measurements and data, which the authors argue is an “imperfect ocean dataset.”
The findings suggest that achieving the Paris Agreement targets is even harder than previously thought.
The study estimates that the world’s oceans absorbed 60 percent more heat energy between 1991 and 2016 than previous estimates have suggested.
Further, the study suggests, GHG emissions generate more heat than scientists originally predicted, which, the authors argue, may make it harder for the world to limit the global average temperature increases to the targets set in the Paris Agreement on climate change.
In addition, the findings indicate that extra heat will go into the world’s oceans, resulting in implications for marine ecosystems.
Laure Resplandy, the Princeton University researcher who led the study, said the study finds that the planet warmed more than researchers had previously thought. “It was just hidden from us because we didn’t sample it right,” she explained. Resplandy elaborated that the study suggests that achieving the Paris Agreement targets is “even harder because we close the window for those lower pathways” outlined by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) recentSpecial Reporton Global Warming of 1.5°C (SR15). [Ocean Action Hub Story] [WEF News Story] [Nature Abstract]
KAUB, Germany — Just after sunrise, Capt. Frank Sep turned to his ship’s radio for the defining news of his day: the water level in Kaub, the shallowest part of the middle section of the Rhine, Germany’s most important shipping route.
The news was bad, as it so often is these days.
One of the longest dry spells on record has left parts of the Rhine at record-low levels for months, forcing freighters to reduce their cargo or stop plying the river altogether.
Parts of the Danube and the Elbe — Germany’s other major rivers for transport — are also drying up. Some inland ports are idle, and it is estimated that millions of tons of goods are having to be transported by rail or road.
With castles and vineyards dominating the river banks near Kaub, just five miles from the Lorelei rock, named for a siren who was said to lure sailors to their deaths, it would be easy to forget how important the area is to German commerce. It is roughly halfway between the inland ports of Koblenz and Mainz, and virtually all freight shipped from seaports in the Netherlands and Belgium to the industrial southwest of Germany passes through here.
On a day in late October, Captain Sep learned that the river was just 10 inches deep. That meant the water in the man-made shipping channel dredged near the center of the river was about five feet deep, down from an average of about 11 feet. Even with cargo at one-third of its usual weight, his 282-foot freighter Rex-Rheni — the King Rhine — would have only inches of water under its hull.
“I’ve never experienced so little water here,” said Captain Sep, who has been working on the river since 1982, the last 22 years on the Rex-Rheni. “It’s becoming so low that it’s very difficult for ships to pass.”
Anexceptionally dry summerhas caused havoc across Europe. A trade group in Germany put farmers’ losses at several billion dollars. The German chemical giant BASF had to decrease production at one of its plants over the summer because the Rhine, whose water it uses to cool production, was too low.
Gas stations in the region that rely on tankers to deliver fuel from refineries in the Netherlands have run out. And the wreck of De Hoop, a Dutch freighter that sank after an explosion in 1895 and is normally submerged, now lies exposed on the Rhine’s banks.
About half of Germany’s river ferries have stopped running, according to the Federal Waterways and Shipping Administration, and river cruise ships are having to transport their passengers by bus for parts of their journey.Thousands of fish in the Swiss section of the river diedbecause of the heat and low oxygen levels.
There are reasons to believe such weather will become more frequent with a warming climate.
It’s difficult to overstate the importance of the Rhine to life and commerce in the region.
“It’s simply the most important river in Germany,” said Martin Mauermann, head of the hydrology and water management section of the federal body responsible for waterways. “It’s like the thick branch in the middle of the tree.”
Roughly 80 percent of the 223 million tons of cargo transported by ship in Germany each year travels the Rhine, which links the country’s industrial heartland to Belgium, the Netherlands and the North Sea. An exact tally of how much is being diverted to rail and road is not yet available, but “it is a significant number,” said Martyn Douglas of the German Federal Environment Agency.
While most freight can simply — albeit often more expensively — be put on rails or wheels, some cannot. A shipping company,Kübler Spedition, specializes in heavy and oversize freight that cannot be carried for more than a couple of miles on roads. Because ships carrying the heavy components of a wind farm can no longer reach the company’s terminal in Mannheim, Kübler’s storage area lies empty.
“It’s effectively stopped the building of the wind farm entirely,” said Robert Mutlu, who runs the terminal.
Just before reaching Kaub, Captain Sep slowed his ship to a crawl. The forward thrust generated by a propeller drives a ship deeper, so a slower ship is slightly higher in water. The reduced speed would also make pulling the boat off rocks easier, if the worst were to happen.
The number on the Rex-Rheni’s digital depth meter dropped, and dropped some more, eventually showing only about 25 centimeters, or 10 inches, of water below the ship.
It passed the Pfalzgrafenstein Castle, which resembles a large, stationary boat in the river. Built in the 14th century to collect tolls, it has a windowless foundation to withstand the Rhine’s high water levels. Today, the foot of the building is at least five feet above water.
The Rhine’s flow relies not just on annual rainfall, but also on enormous long-term reserves of water in the Alps. Melting snow and glaciers, as well as Lake Constance, feed the upper parts of the river, but with climate change, those reserves are lower, Dr. Koch said.
The shipping lane could be made deeper, but that would take years, if not decades, and would cost millions. And even if that were to succeed, it would remove only one bottleneck on a river that is just starting to show how many trouble spots it has.
“Low water events will be more frequent,” said Mr. Douglas of the Federal Environment Agency, “and at the same time the Rhine fleet is becoming bigger and heavier.”
When the Rex-Rheni was built in 1966, it would have been considered a big ship. Today, at least under normal conditions, it would be one of the smaller ones on the Rhine, where it is not unusual to see a 600-foot freighter capable of hauling 6,000 tons — when there is at least 12 feet of water.
A clause in German shipping contracts that allows ships to set their own prices when the water level is below about 32 inches at Kaub makes such trips worthwhile for smaller boats, even if their holds aren’t full. But the clause cannot make the river deeper.
“We need the level in the Bodensee to rise,” said Martin Deymann, using the German name for Lake Constance. His 35 ships stopped transporting goods along the middle section of the Rhine last month. “We need rain, and hopefully it will come before it becomes cold and it comes down as snow.”
The world faces a near-impossible decision – one that is already determining the character and quality of the lives of the generations succeeding us.
It is clear from the latestIPCC climate reportthat the first and only effective course, albeit a deeply unpopular one, would be to stop using any fossil fuels.
The second would be to voluntarily minimise their use as much as climate scientists have calculated would deliver some prospect of success.
Finally, we can carry on as we are by aiming to meet the growth in demand for activities dependent on fossil fuels, allowing market forces to mitigate the problems that such a course of action generates – and leave it to the next generation to set in train realistic solutions (if that is possible), that the present one has been unable to find.
These are the choices.
There are no others.
Future generations will judge us on what we choose to do in full knowledge – accessories before the fact – of the devastating consequences of continuing with our energy-profligate lifestyles.
What a legacy we are bequeathing – regions of the world becoming uninhabitable at an accelerating rate, creating potentially millions of ecological refugees; a burgeoning world population, diminishing reserves of finite and other resources, shortages of water and food, calamitous loss of genetic variability, and wars of survival.
Remarkably, public expectations about the future indicate that only minor changes in the carbon-based aspects of our lifestyles are anticipated.
It is as if people can continue to believe that they have an inalienable right to travel as far and as frequently as they can afford.
Indeed, there is a widespread refusal by politicians to admit to the fact the process of melting ice caps contributing to sea level rises, and permafrost thawing in tundra regions cannot now be stopped, let alone reversed.
The longer we procrastinate, the greater the certainty of environmental degradation, social upheaval and economic chaos.
National leaders are unable to reconcile the expectations of their electorates for higher living standards by burning fossil fuels, with the absolute need to live within the planet’s finite environmental capacity. Nor, in democracies, can they move too far ahead of public opinion.
In this key area of international policy, the undesirable outcomes can all too often be laid at the door of scientists who inform politicians of the options now open to them.
They subscribe to many fallacious assumptions about carbon dioxide emissions that are close to tenets of faith.
Progress continues to be measured in terms of carbon dioxide reductions towards the goal of zero emissions.
However, carbon dioxide emitted into the global atmosphere remains there for well over 100 years.
Switching to low-carbon developments and renewable energy sources makes no contribution to reducing its concentration: it can only reduce the rate at which the concentration continues to rise.
Fossil-fuel dependent economic growth is the prime cause.
Most growth can only be partly decoupled from its use.
Happiness, positive health, nature, life-long education, community, music and love have no price that can realistically be attached to them so are not counted for the purposes of measuring “growth” – although their enjoyment requires hardly any of these fuels.
The claims of future generations on reserves are not considered to be sufficiently relevant to policy to be included in any share-out.
Likewise, no value is given to cover unquantifiable yet potentially huge adverse effects, such as the resettlement of ecological refugees.
One may ask: whose brief within governments is it to speak out about the consequences of decisions affecting medium- and long-term futures?
Until recently, just over half the emissions were taken up by the sinks, with the balance accumulating in the atmosphere.
This is no longer the case.
The present upward path of global emissions from fossil fuel burning shows clearly that “sink-efficiency” has been noticeably decreasing since 2010.
The IPCC report is also the first time that measuring and integrating carbon and feedback emissions has been acknowledged, and this is the most serious warning yet that global warming is accelerating out of control. Whereasbudget emissionsof carbon could theoretically be reduced by not burning fossil fuels, the release of thefeedback emissions of methanefrom rising temperatures cannot be.
History shows that, when presented with unpalatable evidence of the undesirable effects of our decisions, we either bury our collective heads in the sand, or order the problems we face in terms of their tractability. Where they are judged to be intractable, as in this instance, they are relegated for later attention. We cannot continue to delude ourselves that the transition to near-zero fossil fuel use is possible without global mandation.
The overriding message located between the lines of the IPCC report is that we must lead our lives within the planet’s means. In all conscience, we are currently locked into a process that will inevitably result in passing on a dying planet to our children and their successors. Should this not be at the absolute top of the international debating agenda?
•Mayer Hillman is a senior fellow emeritus at the Policy Studies Institute and author of How We Can Save the Planet
As opuses documenting the spectacular hypocrisies, vagueries and stupidities of modern day politics go, this piece by Dr Lissa Johnson is quite something. Indeed, it’s possibly the most heavily linked and referenced demolition of modern politics ever published on New Matilda. Sit down before you start reading it. And keep a bucket handy.
With the votes finally counted for the October 20 Wentworth by-election, independent candidate Dr Kerryn Phelps has maintained her lead over Liberal candidate Dave Sharma, riding the crest of the19 percent swingagainst the Liberal Party all the way to Federal Parliament.
Phelps will be sworn in this month, taking ousted Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s seat, forcing the Coalition into minority government. It is the first time since the Liberal Party’s inception that Wentworth has parted ways with the Liberals at an election.
Dr. Kerryn Phelps
Although the Coalition’s new powerbrokers are putting on a brave face, it’s got to hurt being thrust into minority status by a formerly loyal electorate. Having staged an internal coup against Turnbull in order to run their own show, it can’t be easy coming to terms with his replacement, Phelps, whose first order of business is gettingchildren off Nauruand tackling climate change.
As the post-Turnbull guard shifts into power-sharing mode, what has their response to the Wentworth by-election revealed about them so far?
How will they fare making nice with crossbenchers?
Has the Wentworth result taught them anything?
On election night, Prime Minister Morrison assured voters that he was all ears. “Tonight is a night where we listen”, he said, “where we learn.”
And so, with his listening ears on, and the magnitude of the swing against him sinking in, at hisconcession speechMorrison spoke in rallying terms about “what we believe” as Liberals. He dished up a slightly re-heated serve of the Abbott Government’s victim-blaming ‘lifters and leaners’ of 2014, stale and cold around the edges.
Morrison invoked a pro-austerity, anti-tax world populated by undeserving ne’er-do-wells and “hard working” Australians who “get up early in the morning” and “have a go”.
What it had to do with Wentworth wasn’t clear.
Wentworth isamong the leastwelfare reliant seats in the country. Its residents, on average, are among the most likely to benefit from Coalition tax policies.
Perhaps the unfolding reality was too much for Morrison to absorb: the strata of society he sought to prop up had turned against him.
So Morrison went instead to a happy Liberal place, pledging to fight for the early risers of Australia (formerly known as ‘lifters’) “til the bell rings. And the bell hasn’t rung Liberals, the bell hasn’t rung. We’ll take this all the way to the next election.”
The following day Morrison and Treasurer Josh Frydenbergdoubled downon their existing climate change and asylum seeker policies, despite both issues being central to the winning Phelps campaign.
Other senior figures in the Coalition seemed equally mis-attuned to voters’ sentiments. The day after the by-election, former Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyceopinedthat Malcolm Turnbull had neglected his “responsibility” to “campaign to save his own seat… And I truly believe… that if he had… we would still have a majority in parliament.”
‘It’s all Malcolm’s fault’ is what the by-election said to Joyce.
Being a professional listener, I can’t help but observe that the Coalition’s listening skills need some work. Others seem to have noticed too.
Aneditorialin the Canberra Times, for instance, concluded that the Coalition would only succeed as a minority government “if they discover an ability to listen to voices other than their own. The Coalition’s current problems are the direct result of their refusal to do that.”
In fairness to the Coalition, perhaps ‘listening 101’ is not a step on politicians’ career ladders these days. Perhaps our leaders could use some tips. So, to help them out, here is a little listening 101.
As any good listener will know, real listening involves hearing not what you want to hear, as our leaders seem prone to do, nor simply the words that are being spoken, but the underlying meanings, themes, feelings and implications. This, in turn, requires putting oneself in the other person’s shoes, which listeners call perspective-taking.
The next level of listening entails reflecting back the themes and underlying meanings that you have gleaned, in order to enhance attunement and check your understanding. We call this reflective listening.
Given the level of mis-attunement to Wentworth voters, to help the Coalition with their perspective-taking skills, here are some messages they might have deciphered from within the Wentworth results. And to help them with their reflective listening, here are some honest reflections* they might have offered in response.
We thought this was a democracy
Although the Financial Reviewblamedsocial media and GetUp!, according toexit pollingthe biggest issue driving voters from the Liberal Party to Kerryn Phelps was that their elected candidate and Prime Minister, Turnbull, had been rolled. Were the Coalition listening attentively and reflectively to these voters, their responses might have included some or all of the below:
“We understand your anger at being forced to get out and vote right now. You’d rather be off enjoying your weekend. Who wouldn’t? You’re only here because the candidate you elected to represent you – and govern the country – has been ousted. By us.
You are probably extra peeved because no good reason was ever really offered for the leadership spill, other than the fact that we didn’t like Turnbull’s style and wanted his job. Plus there was Abbott’s revenge. Which are thin excuses for a coup, granted.
You probably also feel like the whole thing was all about us. Which it was. Maybe you thought governance should be about you.
In fact, you must be fed up with elected Prime Ministers getting rolled by ambitious rivals. Not that Turnbull is innocent, as you know. He did the same thing to Tony Abbott in 2015. Just like Julia Gillard did to Kevin Rudd in 2010 and then Rudd did back to Gillard in 2013. It’s practically the Australian way by now, with no elected Prime Minister serving a full term since 2007.
You may even remember the ABC telling you in 2015 not to get too het up about it all. It’s ‘just the Westminster systemin action’ apparently.
But you do seem fed up. Fair enough. Australia has a good reputation as a democracy. We get great scores on thoseDemocracy Indices. Nine out of 10 even.
And – it can’t be denied – elections are a cornerstone of democracy. You’d be forgiven for thinking that you had the right to choose who leads your country. Even if you’re mistaken, technically.
But Westminster system or not, we recognise that we were probably a little naïve to think that you’d be cool with us changing your electoral minds for you like that. Hell, even America, whose democracy is in tatters, takes the issue of ousting an elected President seriously. It’s only polite when you think about it, even if just to maintain theappearanceof democracy. Otherwise the plutocratic nature of the whole project becomes a little too obvious, and that makes everyone uncomfortable.
Some of you might have noticed that in the US they need years of special investigations, indictments galore, endlessprimetimeandprintpropaganda, intelligence reports, no matter howdubiousoramateurish, and reasons – real andimagined– to try to roll a President. Even then there’s no guarantee. In Australia we treat it like it’s no big deal.
You could be excused for thinking ‘what the fudge?’Americatakes democracy more seriously that we do? Sure, American elites bang on endlessly about democracy. But it’s obvious to any non-elite that this is what psychologists call ‘overcompensation’.
In America they’re barely eventryingat democracy. Here we consider ourselves the real deal. And yetwe’rethe ones whose Prime Ministers get ousted when elites-in-waiting just can’t keep it in their parliamentary portfolio anymore.
You’d be forgiven if you were thinking all of that. Even if you weren’t – even if you’re just mad that we took your candidate away – we get it. You’d prefer to elect your leaders democratically.”
We could have been a lot angrier
“To be honest, it could have been a lot worse. Asothershavepointed out, you weren’t calling for revolution or shouting ‘down with capitalism’ or ‘neoliberalism sucks’ or anything like that.
Although you did vote against us in Wentworth, you chose an establishment candidate with ahistoryof supporting corporate tax cuts and opposing the right to publicly protest. One who preferenced us right-wingers, just in case, climate nihilism, asylum seeker abuse and all.
Of course, Kerryn Phelps has a more progressive stance than us on climate change and asylum seekers, which is another reason many of you voted for her, but she’s not about to fundamentally rock the climate-catastrophe, human-rights abusing predatory-capitalist boat.
So, as ruling elites – which matters much more than which ruling elite party we represent – we’re grateful.
We’re also, believe it or not, grateful that you don’t read theWorld Socialist Website. Not that you’d be interested in mobilising the working class, probably, but on the subject of democracy, you might be interested in reports that pressure from Donald Trump’s administration may have played a role in Turnbull’s ouster.
At the time of the leadership spill, the World Socialist Website (WSW)reportedthat:
‘Among those leading the charge against Turnbull have been figures closely associated with the US-linked military and intelligence forces…. Over the past two years, a succession of key figures in the US ruling elite, including former National Intelligence Director James Clapper, ex-presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and US Vice President Mike Pence, have visited Australia to insist that Canberra remain totally committed to Washington’s geostrategic confrontation with China.’
China. Bet you didn’t think you were giving up your Saturday to vote because of China.
The whole thing reads like a case study in plutocracy. How many powerful vested interests does it take to bring down an Australian Prime Minister?
Not that we recommend you read the WSW article or anything, but if you did you’d find out that a few weeks before Turnbull was heaved overboard he ‘gave a speech that would not have pleased the US ruling elite. He vowed his determination to maintain a ‘very deep’ and growing relationship with China.’
Over at the WSW they reckon that that’s when we made our move against Turnbull – when the US was good and mad at him. ‘The move against Turnbull was certainly not opposed in Washington, if not tacitly endorsed,’ they said.
You must admit, timing is everything.
Then, a few weeks later inanother articleabout the ‘survival of prime ministers… being determined by intrigues between billionaires’ the WSW added that ‘Turnbull was regarded as unreliable in Washington because of his reluctance to join provocative US military operations in the South China Sea and his attempts toprotect the profit interestsof those sections of Australian capitalism most reliant on China.’
Typical Turnbull. Thinking he knows best right to the end.
But luckily you don’t read that kind of stuff. If you did, you might have taken umbrage at the possibility of a foreign government deciding you’d voted the wrong way, and helping to correct your mistake for you.
True, the US does thatall the timedirectly and indirectly in places like Venezuela, Nicaragua, Iran, Honduras, Guatemala, Brazil, El Salvador or Haiti, to name a few. But this is Australia. We’re an arm of the US Empire. Or a bicep at least, surely. Not a client state. Are we?
But, look, don’t worry. As long as you don’t read the World Socialist Website you won’t have to think about any of that. You won’t be forced to grapple with Australian politics in imperial context. It’s a downer. (No pun intended).
You won’t have to wonder whether ‘Make America Great Again’ ‘Mexicans are Rapists’ ‘Build a Wall’ Trump had anything to do with the Wentworth by-election. There was enoughwhite supremacist madnessin Canberra as it was.
So just don’t read the World Socialist Website. It’s easier that way. In fact, forget we mentioned it.”
“To be honest, before the by-election we didn’t think very much about the whole democracy angle.
It hadn’t occurred to us that you’d be all that bothered whether it was Morrison or Dutton on Turnbull in power, seeing as how their policies are more or less the same anyway. You must admit, judging by actions rather than words, they’re difficult to distinguish, other than the blatant, obvious racism and far-right excess some of us add to the mix.
Take these two impressive lists onclimate changeandrefugeesfor example. Abbott-Turnbull-Morrison makes for a seamlessly integrated three-headed climate-catastrophe human-rights-abusing beast. A beautiful beast, we might add. But we’re biased.
Plus Turnbull took us further down the path to a police state than even Abbott could manage. Here’s asatirical little videoon the subject. (Police states are better digested laughing than crying, we find).
I mean show me a police state that’s not racist. Turnbull just put a ‘market friendly face’ on it. LikeMorrison puts on us. Market friendliness is essential these days.AndTurnbull presided over the ‘Foreign Interference Legislation’, which criminalises dissent and political organising, with up to 20 years jail for journalism the government deems unacceptable. (No prizes for guessing what kind of journalism police states deem unacceptable. Police states are notoriously sensitive to criticism).
The laws are so repressive they go ‘well beyondmeasures in force in other so-called democracies.’
Granted, the US did have to lean on Turnbull slightly to get him torush the legislationthrough parliament. It was priceless, though. The US interfering in Australian politics to push swift passage of foreign interference legislation. You wouldn’t read about it.
After the legislation was passed, Steve Bannon came to Australia andsang its praises. The laws are all bound up with that whole clash between China and the West that Bannon isitching for. Australia belongs on the ‘front line’ of that clash he reckons.
Anyway, truth be told, we were starting to get a little jealous of Turnbull. He was touted as the ‘moderate’ ‘centrist’ one, and here he was presiding over all the hard-right stuff we had our eyes on. It wasn’t fair. We wanted a piece of that action. We didn’t really think you’d mind all that much.
But we neglected the importance of politeness, clearly. You probably didn’t appreciate us championing awhite nationalist slogan, beloved by a former KKK grand wizard, the alt-right and neo-Nazi groups, just before the by-election. We got a little carried away.
We understand now that most people like their politics seemly and respectful on the surface. Then they can turn a blind eye to the ugliness underneath.
People are busy. They don’t have time to dig deep and inspect the rot at the roots of their society.
We should have realised that you’d find that white pride stuff shameful and repugnant. We should have remembered, for instance, that ruling elites on both sides of the aisle despise Donald Trump for much the same reason.
They happilyrubber stamp,abet,enable,support,ignoreandassisthis most reactionary policies, but they hate that he fails to hide the contemptuous prejudice, racism, cruelty and oppression that those policies represent.
Turnbull, on the other hand, understood the importance of the anodyne façade.As didBarack Obama.
The point is, Obama wrapped everything up in such lofty, expansive progressive language that most people didn’t look beyond his pretty words until it was too late. Which made Obama, according to the Executive Editor of Black Agenda Report, Glen Ford, not the lesser evil but themore effective evil.
What we’re trying to say is that we get confused when we see progressive types being so cool with such over the top violence, authoritarianism, climate sabotage and oppression. We forget about the power of empty progressive words.
Your preferred candidate, Turnbull, while no Obama in the rhetoric department, was at least adept at another kind of anodyne façade – playing the lame duck leader.
It was quite a clever trick really, appearing to be a thwarted progressive Liberal (they don’t exist, believe me), doing nothing, getting nowhere, stymied by the hard right, while advancing a hard right agenda all the time.
I mean apart from the stuff we’ve already mentioned about police states, criminalising dissent, climate change and refugees, look what else we achieved under Turnbull. We ramped uparms salesto despots and dictators, earmarked $200bn for arms manufacturers (we prefer to say ‘the military’), whipped up fear of African gangs tovilify the Sudanese community, tried our best tocut student loan schemesandthe pension, cut weekend penalty rates andwelfare and disability(again), punished welfare recipients with the cruelrobo-debtfiasco, passedregressive tax cutsthat benefit the wealthy, presided overongoing neglectof Aboriginal Torres Strait Islander Australians, ignoring the urgentRedfern Statementcalling for an overhaul of Aboriginal affairs, and promised ‘special attention‘ to visas for white South African applicants, while torturing and rejecting black and brown refugees. We could go on.
Same agenda different face. We just rub people’s noses in their oppression harder. We didn’t think you’d mind.
We care about climate change.
“Politeness aside, we understand that although you’re mostly cool with the status quo, you do genuinely care about climate change.
We can’t ignore the polls. (We pretend to, but we don’t).Exit pollstell us that apart from rolling Turnbull, the biggest issue for you Wentworth voters was climate change, and replacing coal with renewable energy.
Which is a bummer for us.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison even takes Coal into the Australian Parliament
It’s not easy propping up coal and sabotaging renewable energy when voters care about their climate.
In the past we tried to hide the fact that97 percent of scientists agreeon climate change being real and human-induced. Our predecessors even stacked the ABC board withclimate deniers, to create fake ‘balance’ and confuse the issue, but the truth seems to have gotten out now.
So it must be difficult for you to put global warming out of your minds, especially as the opportunity to avert climate Armageddon is rapidly narrowing.
You’ve probably heard highlights from the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report, which, let’s face it, makes it look as though we’re actively trying to eliminate life on Earth.
What are the odds? Just as you snatch power, poised to squeeze every last dollar out of fossil fuels while you still can, the scariest and most strongly worded climate report ever comes out.
They reckon that we only haveuntil 2030to cut carbon emissions almost in half. Otherwise we’ll hit catastrophic climate tipping points andfeedback loops.
Which, even we admit, isn’t long.
That’s only four more election cycles. Makes sense you’d be thinking about it at the polls.
If you’ve been following coverage of the IPCC report you’ve probably heard that these tipping points are expected to kick in when we pass1.5 degrees Celsiusof warming on pre-industrial levels.
Not two degrees like everyone’s been saying.
So, look, we understand that it’s probably a little alarming, seeing as how the world has already warmed by one degree, which only leaves half a degree to go.
On top of which other eminent scientists have gone and said that the IPCC report isconservative, andunderstatesthe enormity of the crisis.
If only those F-ers were Australian citizens and our new police state was in full swing. Then we could whip out that Foreign Interference Legislation and slam them with a charge of reputational damage or something.Lawyers reckonthe Foreign Interference laws are good to go for that sort of thing.
See – we Liberals are lifters. We get up early in the morning to do more than our fair share of global warming.
Given all of that, we’re hoping most of you don’t delve too far into the kinds of things that scientists are saying these days. Like this guy, Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, who says, ‘climate change is now reaching theend-game, where very soon humanity must choose between taking unprecedented action, or accepting that it has been left too late and bear the consequences.’
‘Unprecedented action’… ‘end game’. What would he know? He’s just a professor of physics specialising in complex systems and nonlinearity, founding director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (1992-2018), former chair of the German Advisory Council on Global Change and senior climate advisor to the European Union, the German Chancellor and Pope Francis.
‘No precedent’. Again, an amateur. Just a journalist. Quoting the IPCC consensus reached byhundreds of scientific expertsfrom universities all over the world. Amateurs, all of them.
See what we’re up against? It’s not easy campaigning during civilisational end-times, selling apocalypse and omnicide. In the scheme of things we did remarkably well in Wentworth. We got 49 percent of the vote, omnicide and all.
Which is especially impressive considering that renewables are rapidly becomingcheaper than coal. Snake oil salesmen had it easy. This is tough.
So we get that many of you wanted to give our pro-coal ‘business as usual’ agenda a hiding at the by-election.
Even school kids are fed up.Children are going on strikefrom their schools across the country on November 30thto protest our (non) response to the IPCC report. ‘Make coal history’ they say. Little smart alecks.
Do not, we repeat DO NOT encourage your children, or any children, to take part in this climate action.
Once we figure out how to legally expel gay kids from schools we’ll get to work on pro-environmental children.
The worst of it is that you folks in Wentworth and those blasted kids aren’t alone in your attachment to a life-sustaining biosphere. Most Australians would like to preserve life on Earth. (How soft can you get?)\
According to polling, themajority of Australiansare worried about climate change and would like to see us phase out coal and replace it with renewables.
We do understand.
You want climate action.
The trouble is, that makes governing on behalf of fossil fuel giants very difficult.
We were hoping that you wealthy Wentworth voters might at least be too comfortable to care about climate change. But the majority of you are obviously smart enough to realise that your wealth won’t protect you from hurricanes, storms, heatwaves, mass migration, societal breakdown and the global unrest that thePentagon sees coming.
Nor will money protect your children or your children’s children. Unless you’re banking onspace colonisation, which is a gamble.
We realise thatnot all of youin Wentworth are wealthy, but those of you who are might have also begun wondering what will become of yourwaterfront propertieswhen climate change bites.
Once you start imagining your coastlines wracked bystorm surges, floods and erosion– Bondi, Clovelly, Nielsen Park, Redleaf, Double Bay, those gentle oases from the city bustle, where anyone, no matter their income, can bask in some gentle sunshine – you start to realise that the waterfront properties are the least of it.
You probably start feeling a little sad about the imminent loss of such natural beauty: the morning and evening walks along the shore, children playing in the sand, soft breezes, sailboats bobbing in the distance, birds… sunrises… sunsets.
Imagining those tranquil havens as scenes of destruction might rouse a sense of grief in you, or guilt even, for future generations. ‘What are we doing to them?’ you might ask yourself. ‘What kind of world are we leaving behind?’ ‘How can we stop this?’
‘Think of Our Future‘ pleads the placard of one young girl participating in the school climate strike.
No matter how much money you have, or don’t have, you are human. You care about life on Earth, your children, their children and other people’s children. You don’t want to leave a hell hole behind for them.
We get it. You’d like us to do the right thing and address the climate emergency. You saw a chance to register your feelings on the subject and you took it.
So here’s what we’ve decided. To hell with you.
There are profits to be made. Now. Not after some transition process to clean energy, which will require us to turn our brains on, engage with science, and do some genuine problem-solving.
We’ll be out of office by the time the benefits start flowing anyway. What’s in it for us? Climate change might be here and now, but so is coal.
How long do you think we’ve waited to get our hands on this kind of power? Do you think we’re relinquishing it now? Do you think we’re about to leave all that money in the ground? Just because of some stupid by-election? A few votes? The wishes of the majority of the Australian population?
You and your democracy. Didn’t you read thatPrinceton study? Governments don’t govern on behalf of the people any more. They govern on behalf of corporations, and the wealthy elites that own them. Everyone knows that.
Like Adani. That’s who we represent. Our job isn’t to stand up to Adani on behalf of you, it’s to stand up toyouon behalf of Adani.
We’re happy that you’ve had your little moment of democracy. We hope you feel better now. It’s time to go back to your ordinary lives, and we’ll go back to our powerful ones, looking after our powerful mates.
You might prefer politeness, but there’s nothing polite about ending human civilisation.
In fact, sugar-coating it will only seal humanity’s fate, like hiding cyanide in a chocolate drop. So here’s the impolite reality of our response to you and your ‘historic’ swing.
Screw the future. Screw your children and their children’s children. Screwourchildren and their children’s children.
We heard what you’re trying to say. We’re not listening.”
* Disclaimer: The above dialogue is fictional. It is a work of fancy and does not claim to represent the actual intentions or motives of any individuals. It is, however, loosely informed by evidence-based literatures on the psychology ofanti-environmentalandinhumaneclimate and immigration policies.
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In a letter published in the Guardian, a list of nearly 100 senior academics in the UK support a rebellion in the face of climate change.
The stereotype of a college professor is typically that of a bookish person, spectacles sliding down the bridge of their nose as they look down from a quiet ivory tower onto the chaos below.
In reality, some academics actually find themselves in the fray, leading important research or even important rallies for social change.
The ongoing destruction of our global ecosystem is riling them up even more, pushing almost 100 senior academics actually backing a call for rebellion against the U.K. government.
Explaining in a letterpublishedin The Guardian that we are experiencing the Sixth Mass Extinction, they write: “When a government wilfully abrogates its responsibility to protect its citizens from harm and to secure the future for generations to come, it has failed in its most essential duty of stewardship.
The ‘social contract’ has been broken, and it is therefore not only our right, but our moral duty to bypass the government’s inaction and flagrant dereliction of duty, and to rebel to defend life itself.”
The letter’s 94 signatories are made up of about half college and university professors and include members of British Parliament, such as the shadow minister of environment, food and rural affairs, David Drew, and the former archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams.
Specifically, the academics are announcing their official support for a decentralized group of climate activists calledExtinction Rebellionand its plannedDeclaration of Rebellionon October 31. The organization is calling for widespread civil disobedience to pressure the British government to act in the face of climate change and ecological collapse.
Dr. Alison Green, Pro Vice-Chancellor (Academic) at Arden University and the UK National Director ofScientists Warning, is one of the lead signatories of the letter. We reached out to Dr. Green to ask about the significance of having such an esteemed group of academics back acts of disobedience.
“Academics in the UK are, by and large, a cautious community of people not particularly given to disruptive behaviour on a large scale,” Dr. Green said. “It takes a lot to persuade academics to strike, for instance, because we are always aware of the detrimental effect that striking has on students. Massive efforts are always made to avoid strikes. We take our responsibilities very seriously, particularly to students. So when around 100 academics came forward to sign the letter, about half of them eminent professors, we were able to see that academics care passionately about the desperate ecological crisis.”
In Australia, people are in open revolt against politicians who support opening new coal mines.
Green says that an important tipping point for her own entry into climate activism came when she attended a conference for policy related to higher education and climate change was only discussed once without a question and answer portion. She realized that petitions and Facebook activism weren’t good enough, which led her to Scientists Warning and ultimately Extinction Rebellion.
What concrete proposals are the academics and Extinction Rebellion putting forth?The Guardianletter concludes: “We therefore declare our support for Extinction Rebellion, launching on 31 October 2018. We fully stand behind the demands for the government to tell the hard truth to its citizens. We call for a Citizens’ Assembly to work with scientists on the basis of the extant evidence and in accordance with the precautionary principle, to urgently develop a credible plan for rapid total decarbonization of the economy.”
School children around the world are joining the revolution to stop new coal.
Specifically, the plan is to cut the country’s net carbon emissions down to zero by 2025. When asked what a Citizens’ Assembly might look like, Gail Bradbrook of Extinction Rebellion said, “You can compare the concept to that of jury service here in the UK. You get called up completely at random. The idea is that the group forming the jury represents a cross-section of society. The same goes for a citizens assembly. A process called ‘sortition‘ is used, where random people will get selected to be on the citizens assembly. Using a citizens assembly rather than getting our current politicians [to] try and resolve the issues of climate change will mean more transparency and real commitment to come to a true solution rather than one that will only work for the few.”
Zombies join the revolution in Cairns for Halloween
If you’ve ever been to a conference that features breakout groups and drawing on big pieces of papers with sharpies, you might have an idea of what a sortition could look like. Randomly selected members of every community in the country might sit around tables discussing a particular proposal as a facilitator ensures every member is able to speak with equal time and a stenographer takes notes. The proposal is then presented to the entire assembly, who are able to rank results using a keypad.
Bradbrook pointed out that there are already examples of such assemblies around the world including G1000 in Belgium, theIrish Citizens Assembly, the Grandview-Woodland Citizens’ Assembly in Vancouver, Canada, and the Democracy in Europe Movement by 2025.
School students call for climate action
In addition to the Citizens’ Assembly proposal, Extinction Rebellion seems to promote greater democratic participation in other ways. For instance, anyone who follows the principles of the organization can perform actions under the umbrella of Extinction Rebellion, making the group something akin to a Pussy Riot to fight the Sixth Mass Extinction. Members have so farheld meetings across the U.K.to educate locals about the devastating effects of climate change.
They’ve even gone so far as tooccupythe offices of Greenpeace UK, handing out funeral flowers and cake to staff members. Ben Stewart, Head of Media for Greenpeace, explained to us in an email: “They felt we at Greenpeace aren’t doing enough to face down those threats so they did absolutely the right thing, which was to [organize] a peaceful protest and make demands of us. From our point of view we feel we’re following the most effective strategies we have available to us, and that our staff and volunteers are dedicated to making as big an impact as possible.”
Calls for rebellion are happening all over the planet
The organization agreed to meet with the protestors in its boardroom, where Greenpeace members agreed to listen to Extinction Rebellion. Among the suggestions from Extinction Rebellion was that Greenpeace uses the phrase “climate emergency”, which the non-profit has used in the past, particularly when it unfurled a banner from the top of a British Airways jetliner at Heathrow inprotest of plans for a third runway.
Though Greenpeace told Extinction Rebellion in a letter on Friday, October 19 that it would speak with the decentralized activist group again, the non-profit also said that it would not meet one of Extinction Rebellion’s key demands: to invite Greenpeace members to participate in civil disobedience in association with the Declaration of Rebellion event and a “Rebellion Day” event on November 17.
“[W]e told [Extinction Rebellion] we aren’t going to do that,” Stewart explained. “We said we’re not at all adverse to urging our supporters to join civil disobedience actions we haven’t organized ourselves, and gave the Climate Camps as an example. But we don’t have the deep and long-standing relationship with ER that we had with the Climate Campers, which allowed us to feel confident urging supporters to take potentially illegal direct action with them.”
Though Greenpeace has not yet come around, the letter in the Guardian makes it clear that others have and will. “We plan further engagement with academics and more have come forward since the letter was published,” Dr. Green said.
The Declaration of Rebellion will kick off on October 31 at 10 am in Parliament Square, where Extinction Rebellion will perform an “extinction ceremony” in honor of those whose lives have been or will be lost due to government inaction. The ceremony will include a sit-in and nonviolent action, as well as speakers like Guardian writer George Monbiot, 15-year-old Swedish protestorGreta Thunbergand Green MEP Molly Scott Cato.