More than 1,000 scientists across the globe chained themselves to the doors of oil-friendly banks, blocked bridges, and occupied the steps of government buildings on Wednesday to send an urgent message to the international community: The ecological crisis is accelerating, and only a “climate revolution” will be enough to avert catastrophe.
“World leaders are still expanding the fossil fuel industry as fast as they can, but this is insane.”
What organizers described as “the world’s largest-ever scientist-led civil disobedience campaign” kicked off just days after the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released its latest report detailing the grim state of efforts to limit global warming to 1.5°C by century’s end, a target set by the Paris accord.
As one of the report’s authors put it during a press call earlier this week, “Unless there are immediate and deep emissions reductions across all sectors, 1.5°C is beyond reach.”
Warning that the IPCC report’s language was watered down at the behest of governments unwilling to rapidly phase out fossil fuels, scientists and their allies took that message further during their direct actions on Wednesday, operating under the slogan “1.5°C is dead, climate revolution now!”
“I’m taking action because I feel desperate,” said U.S. climate scientist Peter Kalmus, who along with several others locked himself to the front door of a JPMorgan Chase building in Los Angeles. A recent report found that the financial giant is the biggest private funder of oil and gas initiatives in the world.
“It’s the 11th hour in terms of Earth breakdown, and I feel terrified for my kids, and terrified for humanity,” Kalmus continued. “World leaders are still expanding the fossil fuel industry as fast as they can, but this is insane. The science clearly indicates that everything we hold dear is at risk, including even civilization itself and the wonderful, beautiful, cosmically precious life on this planet. I actually don’t get how any scientist who understands this could possibly stay on the sidelines at this point.”
The Los Angeles demonstration was accompanied by other protests across the U.S., the largest historical emitter of planet-warming carbon dioxide and home to some of the most powerful fossil fuel companies in the world.
In Washington, D.C., climate scientists chained themselves to the White House fence and were ultimately arrested as they demanded that U.S. President Joe Biden declare a “climate emergency,” a step that would unlock a range of tools needed to combat global warming.
“We have not made the changes necessary to limit warming to 1.5°C, rendering this goal effectively impossible,” said Dr. Rose Abramoff, one of the scientists arrested at the White House. “We need to both understand the consequences of our inaction as well as limit fossil fuel emissions as much and as quickly as possible.”
“I’m taking action to urge governments and society to stop ignoring the collective findings of decades of research,” Abramoff added. “Let’s make this crisis impossible to ignore.”
Similar acts of civil disobedience were held across the globe as scientists took to the streets to demand that governments ramp up their transitions to renewable energy as the climate crisis intensifies extreme weather, endangers critical ecosystems, and takes lives worldwide.
In Madrid, Spain, scientists splashed red paint on the walls and steps of the Congress of Deputies to decry lawmakers’ inaction in the face of the existential climate threat. More than 50 scientists were arrested during the demonstration, according to organizers.
Scientists also mobilized in Germany, blocking a bridge near the country’s parliament building.
In an op-ed published in The Guardian on Wednesday, Kalmus warned that “Earth breakdown is much worse than most people realize.”
“The science indicates that as fossil fuels continue to heat our planet, everything we love is at risk,” he wrote. “For me, one of the most horrific aspects of all this is the juxtaposition of present-day and near-future climate disasters with the ‘business as usual’ occurring all around me. It’s so surreal that I often find myself reviewing the science to make sure it’s really happening, a sort of scientific nightmare arm-pinch. Yes, it’s really happening.”
“If everyone could see what I see coming,” Kalmus added, “society would switch into climate emergency mode and end fossil fuels in just a few years.”