There is a growing climate protest movement taking shape in the many parts of the world but there are three countries where activism is especially intense. Not surprisingly these countries are all ruled by Conservative political parties.
The UK is third on our list of the top three climate protest countries in the world. However, they have the most progressive climate policy of the three nations listed here. Nonetheless, the Extinction Rebellion (aka XR) is a new protest movement that has revitalized climate activism in the UK. XR wants the British parliament to declare a “Climate Emergency” and communicate the scope of the crisis with the public. They are also demanding the government adopt policies capable of reaching zero emissions by 2025.
In 2014 the UK experienced major climate change related flooding, nonetheless the ruling Conservatives abandoned climate leadership. While the current Prime Minister Theresa May may not be stridently anti-climate, her government is divided on Brexit. It is interesting to note that many of the same people who are supportive of Brexit are also climate deniers. Boris Johnson is a leading pro-Brexit supporter and he has taken donations from Conservative Party donor Michael Hintze, who funds the climate science denial campaign group the Global Warming Policy Foundation (GWPF).
Second on our list is the land from down under. The size and scope of the country’s protest movement has prompted the ABC to predict that in 2019 climate activism in Australia will rival rival the uprising dating back to the Vietnam War.
Australia has suffered from unprecedented heat in recent years and climate change has killed much of the country’s iconic Great Barrier Reef. Climate policy is a political football and more than one Australian government has fallen over the issue. The country has been locked in a bitter struggle between those who support coal and those who do not. Protests tend to focus on Adani’s plans to ramp-up coal extraction and export. This has proven to be a very contentious and divisive issue both within Australian political parties and with the wider public.
Aussies have a lot to protest. The country has some of the world’s most extreme climate deniers in government. Malcolm Roberts is one such individual. He was a member of the
Australian Senate until his election was
declared invalid by the High Court of Australia in 2017. He has made a number of false statements and he has tried to deprive kids of the facts by denying them a science-based climate education.
Another climate denying politician is Liberal MP Craig Kelly. He is the furniture salesman and a self-proclaimed climate expert. Both Roberts and Kelly have attacked what they call the “lefties” a pejorative term meant to slander those who accept climate science. They both have engaged in smear campaigns and deceit.
However, Australia’s protest movement has been emboldened by the irrational views of these so called climate skeptics. The sheer size of Australia’s climate movement is impressive. The Australian Youth Climate Coalition (AYCC) has 150,000
members and there are 160 different stop Adani coal groups across the country.
Recently Australian activists have been stepping up their efforts. They are increasingly focusing on those who fund fossil fuels. “What we’re seeing now is a maturing of the broad environment movement and they’re developing multiple strategies,” Professor Quentin Beresford said. He is the author of Adani And The War On Coal.
“One of the effective strategies is to go for the institutional funders, the big corporations, the big banks and investment houses” said Beresford. “Targeting political parties is necessary, but it doesn’t necessarily bring you success and effectiveness because of the power of the fossil fuel industry and how it’s captured the political system.”
The undisputed king of climate protests is the United States. Americans also have the most reason to protest. Prime Minister May and Australian PM, Scott Morrison are nowhere near as backwards on climate change as the American president Donald Trump.
American protesters are both numerous and committed. They flew to COP24 in Katowice Poland and took over the main hall to call for climate action. Protesters also disrupted the Trump Administration’s panel praising coal. As the panel spun the lie of clean coal and extolled the
virtues of expanding coal production protestors laughed and chanted “shame on you!”.
Some of the protesters read statements including Teri Blanton who is the son of an American coal miner. Teri was in Poland to protest because his father died of black lung. “There is no such thing as clean coal. Coal is deadly from the beginning to the end. They talk about the life cycle of coal, I talk about it as a death march. My
father died of black lung, and I am in this struggle with others whose fathers and husbands are dying of black lung right now,” Blanton said.
Americans traveled to COP24 to protest against their government’s support for fossil fuels. According to the EPA’s own estimates President Trump’s decision to end the Clean Power Plan will kill at least 1,400 people. Scott Pruitt, Trump’s pick to run the EPA, was forced to resign his post in disgrace but his murderous legacy remains.
Trump has reversed the climate progress achieved under
his predecessor Barack Obama. Climate protests are increasing as an appropriate and necessary response to the the ruling administration and and Republicans who control the Senate.
Last year we saw unprecedented protests from organized labor in the US including teachers. Unions have increased popular support and they mobilized to show that they are a political force to be reckoned with. They helped to defeat Scott Walker, the anti-union governor of Wisconsin, and they helped to elect pro-union senator, Jacky Rosen, in Nevada.
Protesters also expressed their outrage at the ballot box helping to elect a blue wave that gave the Democrats control over the House of Representatives.
Early in 2019 Democrats sent Trump a pile of trash to protest the shutdown. In the middle of January President Trump was mocked by hundreds of protesters outside a farmers convention in New
Orleans who chanted “Lock him up!” Protest against Trump continued with the Women’s March. MLK day and Black History Month offers an opportunity to expose environmental racism.
Increasingly people are expressing their displeasure through boycotts. The Trump family has had to deal with its share of boycotts. The #GrabYourWallet campaign alone succeeded in getting retailers to drop
more than 3,600 Trump family
products. Even the once mighty NRA has been severely weakened by boycotts. As reported by Triple Pundit’s Tina Casey “the NRA edifice is finally beginning to crumble” thanks in part to boycotts of affiliated businesses.
We are also seeing the rise of corporate activism. In the absence of climate leadership from the ruling administration corporations are acting and some are directly challenging Trump. There are numberous factors driving this activism but in essence we are witnessing a change in the risk benefit equation. Many CEOs and they are coming to the realization that they can no longer afford to remain silent.
Trump has tried to curtail protest. Last fall his administration proposed dramatically limiting the right to demonstrate near the White House and on the
National Mall. Since Trump was elected more than 60 bills have been introduced in 31 states that specifically try to restrict people’s right to protest.
Despite the efforts of Trump and the GOP there is no sign that protests will abate in the US. If anything 2019 promises to be a year marked by increased activism.