What impact has Extinction Rebellion actually had?
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Climate change has featured heavily across media outlets in recent months. David Attenborough presented an emergency climate change documentary and Greta Thunberg visited the Houses of Parliament after her solo school protest gained traction globally.
Extinction Rebellion protest, November 2018. Image credit: Teuta Hoxha
An estimated 1.4 million school children across the world have taken part in school strikes for climate change. In the UK, Extinction Rebellion staged high profile protests across the country, encouraging acts of disruption; including chalking the roads with their hourglass logo in an attempt to get parliament's attention. Its members also disrupted a House of Commons Brexit debate whilst semi-naked.
Image credit: Teuta Hoxha
In 2018, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) published a damning report, warning readers they have 11 years before global temperatures rise by the predicted 1.5 degrees – a point at which devastation and natural disasters will have a significant and fatal impact on human life. According to the report, global warming is 'likely to reach 1.5 degrees [pre-industrial levels] between 2030 and 2052 if it continues to increase at the current rate.' Extinction Rebellion mobilised their campaign on the IPCC's warnings, saying the human race is in the 'midst of mass extinction.' "We are unprepared for the danger our future holds. We face floods, wildfires, extreme weather, crop failure, mass displacement and the breakdown of society," Extinction Rebellion states in its information about climate change. "The time for denial is over. It is time to act." Since the IPCC publication further stories have surfaced, including a study confirming that half of the coral in the Great Barrier Reef has died. Sea levels are also predicted to rise at a twice as far as previously expected. Extinction Rebellions' manifesto points are categorised by three demands. Firstly, they want the government to ‘tell the truth’ about climate change. The UK must set targets to reach net-zero emissions and create a citizens' assembly to lead governmental decisions on climate and ecological justice. The proposed method of achieving this is civil disobedience – mainly in the form of road-blocks and traffic obstruction, as conventional approaches 'of voting, lobbying, petition and protest have failed.' The group states that civil disobedience and rebellion is 'necessary' and that they "are asking people to find their courage and to collectively do what is necessary to bring about change." Most recently, Extinction Rebellion staged a two-week roadblock in Central London. One of the main aims of these protests was to cause significant disruption and bring the capital to a standstill. The group stated that "We don’t want or need everyone to get arrested – for some this is not a good idea. But we do want everyone involved to support civil disobedience as a tool. "Historical evidence shows that we need the involvement of 3.5% of the population to succeed – in the UK that’s about 2 million people." Over 1,000 arrests were made within the first eight days of disruptions, with 69 people charged in connection with Extinction Rebellion protests. After the road-blocks came to an end in April, the question remained as to whether the disruptions had any impact on the UK’s policy and actions regarding climate change. On May 1st the UK declared a ‘climate emergency’, following a motion tabled by Labour. The announcement followed similar declarations by Scotland and Wales a few days prior.
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