The last few weeks have been very eventful in regards to climate activism and advocacy, with environmental activist Greta Thunberg meeting MPs, Extinction Rebellion (XR) disrupting cities across the world and the BBC airing David Attenborough’s documentary, Climate Change: The Facts.

Inspired by Thunberg, UK students had their first school strike on the 15th of February. Organisers Youth Strike 4 Climate said protests took place in more than 60 towns and cities, with an estimated 15,000 taking part, and London being the largest. Some people, the Prime Minister included, saw this strike and the lesson time it wasted as damaging to pupils, rebutted by many that it was not as damaging as the governmental inaction of the past 30 years. Youth Strike 4 Climate have arranged their next Youth Strike for the 24th of May.

However, a similar type of activation has occurred more recently and perhaps more in the public eye with Extinction Rebellion’s London Shut Down commencing on the 15th of April. This protest setup 5 locations (Parliament Square, Marble Arch, Oxford Circus, Waterloo Bridge and Piccadilly Circus) at which the protesters arranged festival-like gatherings, with talks and music, with some protesters even opting to camp in these locations to show their dedication to the cause (helped no doubt by the good weather). The idea was that the ‘rebellion’ would blockade the city and that the civil disobedience would raise awareness of the necessity of correct climate legislation and action. With over a 1000 arrests (but only 70 charges) the Lord Mayor of London directed the Met Police to shut down certain locations and the protest ended prematurely (intended to go on till the 29th April it ended on the 25th). The blockade on the whole appeared to be well-received by Londoners, however, the media had difficulties coming to terms with its meaning. Overall, the ‘rebellion’ was light-hearted, bringing together different generations and classes under a cause of mutual concern.

Why should children be educated in science, if the very people that run our countries are going to ignore climate scientists? Some people have disavowed climate protesters as hypocritical, “they still drive to places and drink out of plastic bottles like the rest of us, so why should we listen to them? “To quote George Monbiot of The Guardian, “we won’t listen to anyone who is not living naked in a barrel, subsisting only on murky water. Of course, if you are living naked in a barrel, we will dismiss you too “. That’s why it is so important for key figures to come out and support climate change activism, like Sir David Attenborough, a man whose authoritative voice on the natural world is familiar in every British person’s ears, and who has said that children striking over climate change is “certainly justified”. With only an estimated decade left to correct our climate before catastrophic damage, protests and action are necessary to save our civilisation’s future. Schooled in democracy and British values, while being denied the right to vote or participate (unlike their Scottish peers in the Indy Referendum), young students have had no alternative than to take to the streets and urgently make their concerns known to the authorities.

A British Antarctic Survey (which uses high-resolution satellite photography to accurately estimate colony size) recently reported that the 2016 catastrophic collapse of the Antarctic Halley Bay ice sheet has wiped out the world’s second largest emperor penguin colony (5-9 percent of the entire global population). One of the study’s authors, Head of Conservation Biology at the BAS, Phil Trathan concludes “emperor penguins’ numbers are set to fall dramatically, losing 50-70 percent of their numbers before the end of this century as sea-ice conditions change as a result of climate change”. In 1988, the UN warned the world that if the trend in global warming wasn’t effectively reversed entire nations could be wiped off the face of the Earth by rising sea levels despite which, from when global record-keeping first began, 18 of the 19 warmest years have all occurred since 2001. According to the Carbon Majors Report since 1988, the year the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change was established, just 100 companies have been the source of more than 70% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions and more than half of global industrial emissions can be traced to just 25 corporate and state-owned entities (e.g. the world’s largest publicly traded international oil and gas company, the American, Exxon, who were aware of global warming for decades, yet spent millions to spread climate-denial propaganda, are still planning to pump 25% more oil and gas in 2025 than in 2017). If fossil fuels continue to be extracted at the same rate as they were between 1988 and 2017 over the next 28 years, global average temperatures could rise by 4°C by the end of this century with imminent catastrophic consequences including risks of global food scarcity and whole species extinction.

Rising seas, catastrophic wildfires and water shortages are changes that are not only having a dramatic impact on diverse ecosystems but also on the wildlife that call these places home. Unfortunately, the root cause for these catastrophise are humanity, with 97% of climate scientists agreeing that humans are the cause of global warming. By country, China has the world’s highest rate of CO2e,but  by head of population, the United States is still by far the biggest polluter. While Chinese authorities, driven by anger over smoke choked cities, have already begun installing renewable energy at a world-beating rate. The Trump Administration (asserting that climate change is a hoax manufactured by the Chinese), resiled from their commitment to the 2015 Paris Agreement on Climate Change Mitigation, with the President stating that “The Paris accord will undermine (the US) economy”.    

This article goes to press in advance of Wednesday the 1st of May when the British Parliament will be asked to vote to declare a ‘climate emergency’, obliging Parliament to commit to putting words into action to stop runaway climate change from the devastation of our planet. To quote Martin Luther King, “We are now faced with the fact that tomorrow is today. We are confronted with the fierce urgency of now. In this unfolding conundrum of life and history, there “is” such a thing as being too late.”