They have been publishing reports on the threat of climate change for years, increasingly clear and forceful on the effects of a crisis that is already being experienced in the present, but among scientists despair spreads when they feel ignored. The Scientific Rebellion movement was born from that feeling, which this week is leading coordinated protest actions in 25 countries against political inaction in the face of a global problem.
“By now the scientific community has realized that it is not enough with the publication of articles. We have been doing it for decades and we are not heard. There is no other, there is no alternative engage in civil disobedience“, explains to RTVE.es Víctor de Santos, environmentalologist and members of the movement. This Wednesday he participated in the media action of the Scientific Rebellion in Madrid. Together with fifty scientists and activists, he threw biodegradable red paint against the facade of the Congress, for which he was evicted and fined by the Police.
Around 1,000 scientists on all continents have decided to go out of the laboratories to the streets to take their message to the governments, but also to set an example. They do not want to be like “the doctor who says that smoking is bad with a cigarette in your mouth,” according to the example of Santos. “If people in the scientific community warn of what is happening but do nothing, the rest of the population will not be aware of the urgency”says Elena González Egea, an astrophysicist and also one of the participants in the protest in front of Congress.
Her left the scientific career to turn to climate activism. “My dream for quite some time was to find life on other planets. But one day I realized that humanity was not going to live long enough to make that discovery and that all the work I was doing was not going to be read. by anyone if we don’t manage to mitigate this,” he says. Since then, she has been arrested three times for participating in protest actions.
Moved by “tiredness, frustration and fear”
In addition to the act in Madrid, other activists have staged a bull run at the University of Granada to make climate change a cross-cutting subject in all subjects, and they have partially succeeded: the center assures that it is working on the creation of an elective on this subject. In Venice, a group of scientists has blocked the way to the facilities of the energy company ENI to protest its investment in fossil fuels, while in Bogotá university professors have taken their classes to the streets to raise awareness about the climate crisis.
In other cities, like Bern or Turin, excerpts from the latest IPCC report have been pasted on government offices, the largest climate analysis in the world, published this Monday by the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. It warns that emissions must reach a ceiling in 2025 and then be drastically reduced, if we want to preserve the minimum possibility of not exceeding a warming of more than 1.5 degrees in global temperature, the threshold set in the Paris Agreement. to avoid the most serious effects of climate change.
Marta Rivera Ferré is a Spanish scientist, author of the IPCC and research professor at INGENIO, an institute of the CSIC and the Universitat Politècnica de Valencia. Fed up that the reports she has participated in have not led to decisive political action, she joined the Scientific Rebellion. Among her motives, she cites “the tiredness of repeating the same thing for yearsthe frustration of seeing that it is ignored and that the governments go to the minimum effort, and the fear because we do not know what is coming to us”. “Fear can paralyze you, but it can also motivate you”it states.
“Fear can paralyze you, but it can also motivate you“
To these reasons is added her “duty as a citizen”: “With all the information I have, I cannot sit idly by”. He claims the importance of “working collectively” with the entire scientific community, showing that they are not alone like the scientists in the movie Don’t look up, who warn of the arrival of a meteorite in the face of general passivity. He also sees signs of hope in the celebration of the Citizen Assembly for Climate, promoted by the Government. “I participated in a session and it seemed to me that it was a very rigorous process that is being done very well,” he defends.
Stronger actions to relaunch climate action
Climate action is not going through its best moment. After a 2019 with record mobilizations and with the Greta Thunberg effect triggered, the arrival of the pandemic stopped the strength of the movement, led at that time by the young people of Fridays for Future-Youth for Climate. The war in Ukraine, and the commitment of countries such as the United States to release oil reserves or the European Union to increase the use of liquefied gas, once again put the need to reduce emissions in the background.
Now, scientists want to give their claims a lost boost and, above all, make visible the sense of urgency highlighted by the IPCC in its important report. “If there is a fire at home, it is not enough to put on a sign that there is a fire, you have to put it out,” says de Santos. “We have the science, we have the information about what is happening and the politicians also have it, so the problem is not scientific but political,” says González, who denounces the “criminal policies” of those in power.
Therefore, they have raised the tone of the actions. “We have had decades of reports and demonstrations, but since they are not working, we have looked back at history, to see what works to make a rapid change. And what works best is nonviolent civil disobedience,” he says. Prestigious names have joined the movement, such as Rivera, the CSIC researcher Fernando Valladares or the professor at the Autonomous University of Madrid.
The Scientist Rebellion movement was born in 2020 as part of the Extinction Rebellion organization. Since then, they have been characterized by mediatic actions of blocking public roads or throwing paint at the headquarters of institutions and companies identified as responsible for the climate crisis.
During the Glasgow climate summit, 21 people were arrested for chaining themselves to a major city bridge, in what the movement called “the first mass arrest of scientists for protesting the climate crisis”. One of them was from Santos, who was also arrested for throwing black paint at the Repsol headquarters in Madrid. “They stop the people who protest, but they don’t do anything against those companies that are destroying our future,” he laments.
They now feel endorsed by the statements of the Secretary General of the United Nations, António Guterres, who during the publication of the IPCC report assured that “climate activists are accused of being radicals, but the real and dangerous radicals are the countries that are increasing the production of fossil fuels.