What next for the Climate Movement?

Extinction Rebellion made fantastic progress in 2019. They have been successful in raising awareness about the urgency of the climate crisis, which became a major issue in the General Election. But it’s been a very disappointing end to the year.

We have seen the Conservatives elected with a massive majority, despite Boris Johnson not even turning up for the debate on the climate crisis. One of the first announcements he made were plans to increase the number of flights. This will make it impossible for the UK to cut its carbon emissions to the required levels by 2030.  

We’ve seen UN climate talks ending with no legally binding agreement to reduce emissions. Locally our Councils continue with business as usual, despite having declared a climate emergency. Barnsley Council win my award for the most outstanding hypocrisy as they plan to destroy Penny Pie Park, including the beautiful trees, for a road scheme.

The only two glimmers of hope have been City Taxi’s announcement to go electric (though the taxi driver I spoke to about this had no idea how he would be able to afford to upgrade to electric) and the prospect of an end to grouse shooting on Yorkshire Water moorland around the North York moors. This could then allow land to be managed to soak up much more rainfall, preventing flooding downstream. Unfortunately, this will take many years to come to pass.

2019 it is on course to be the second hottest year since records began, the hottest being 2016 which was extremely hot due to El Niño. Dr Doug Smith, Met Office research fellow, said: “The forecast for 2020 would place next year amongst the six warmest years on record, which would all have occurred since 2015. All of these years have been around 1.0 °C warmer than the pre-industrial period.”

Worldwide extreme weather continues to take more lives. As Fishlake starts the long process of recovering from the flood, Australia is on fire and the country is sweltering through a record-breaking heatwave. Fires have been burning in the south-east for months, and all four southern mainland states have experienced catastrophic fires. The lack of soil moisture means these fires are tearing through ecosystems that normally don’t burn. Small fires are conflating into megafires, resources are stretched, firefighters are exhausted, more than 750 homes have been lost and six people have already died.  According to the Bureau of Meteorology, Australia’s record for its hottest day has tumbled for two days running, with maximum temperatures reaching an average of 41.9 centigrade on 17th December.

Eleven thousand scientists recently warned the climate emergency will only intensify. And yet despite all the scientific evidence, all the destruction, all the suffering, all the apocalyptic predictions, and all the strikes and marches, nothing happens. Global CO2 emissions continue to rise, and the world leaders procrastinate.  

Photo by Penny Merrett

Extinction Rebellion are taking stock. Their Sheffield city centre protest, complete with massive boat, outside the City Hall, certainly got the public talking just before the election. There were “drown ins” in the fountain, “discobedience” as protesters danced to Staying Alive and passionate speeches insisting that the election should be the climate election, as voters must choose the politicians that put the survival of our species as their top priority. But the voters, heavily influenced by the media, had other ideas and voted to “get Brexit done”.

Photo by Jack Owen

Rupert Read, a leading spokesperson for XR, came to speak in Sheffield on the topic ‘What Should XR Strategy Be Moving Forward?’ He explained that there is now much evidence to suggest that the damage we have done to our planet is now irreversible, with some tipping points already kicking in. He says, “if you are not terrified about the future, you are not paying attention.”

Rupert compared the 2 big actions Extinction Rebellion have carried out in London, in April and October. April was a tremendous success which led to Parliament and then many Councils declaring a climate emergency. October, for various reasons, was not as successful but he highlighted the two best aspects. He said that the occupation of London City Airport was brilliant as it is used by small more polluting aircraft predominantly flying rich businessmen. The actions in the City of London, targeting the heart of the financial sector that supports the fossil fuel industries that are destroying our life support systems, were also praised.

Rupert’s main argument was that XR needs to shift its actions away from those that disrupt the general public, such as road blocks, to actions that will target those who are most responsible for disrupting the climate, such as the rich, large corporations and the Government. This sort of shift should lead to greater support from the public and a further growth in the campaign which could eventually result in the system change we need to save us from extinction.

Graham Wroe

December 2019

References

Increased flights

https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/boris-johnson-climate-change-flights-carbon-emissions-net-zero-queens-speech-a9253516.html

2019 has been the year of climate disaster

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2019/dec/20/2019-has-been-a-year-of-climate-disaster-yet-still-our-leaders-procrastinate

UN climate talks end with limited progress on emission targets

https://amp.theguardian.com/environment/2019/dec/14/un-climate-talks-drag-on-as-rifts-scupper-hopes-of-breakthrough

Greta Thunberg’s speech to the COP 25 talks

Extinction Rebellion Climate Election action in Sheffield

Tree kangaroos on brink of extinction due to palm oil deforestation

https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/asia/tree-kangaroos-extinct-palm-oil-deforestation-indonesia-asia-a7220731.html

Penny Pie Park decision. Protestors form a human chain around Councillor’s bus

https://www.itv.com/news/calendar/2018-12-18/penny-pie-park-decision-campaigners-form-human-chain-round-bus-of-councillors/

Councillor Peter Fielding Penny Pie Park Speech at the Climate Election event

City Taxis to go electric by 2025

https://www.electrive.com/2019/12/14/city-taxis-plans-to-go-fully-electric-in-sheffield/

On Bronte country’s moors, the end of grouse shooting is in sight.

https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2019/dec/22/grouse-shooting-yorkshire-water

Austrailia Temperature record

https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2019/dec/19/419c-australia-records-hottest-ever-day-one-day-after-previous-record

50 degrees predicted

https://www.independent.co.uk/environment/australia-heatwave-weather-forecast-warnings-climate-crisis-scott-morrison-a9248376.html

Rupert Read speech in Sheffield

2020 set to extend period of Earth’s warmest years

https://www.metoffice.gov.uk/about-us/press-office/news/weather-and-climate/2019/2020-global-temperature-forecast

Eleven thousand scientists warn of untold suffering

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2019/nov/05/climate-crisis-11000-scientists-warn-of-untold-suffering

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