EXTINCTION Rebellion eco-warriors have sparked chaos across the capital by blocking London landmarks over the past four days.
Here, protester Piers Sadler writes his letter to the nation about why they’re protesting (from inside his cell).
I AM a 52-year-old geologist. This letter to the people of the UK was written in a police cell, where I was held for six hours.
The information is from my memory, having spent the past 30 years following climate science. I have never been an activist, nor have I been arrested before.
I came to London to join the Extinction Rebellion and was camping at Marble Arch and protesting at multiple London sites until my arrest on Wednesday afternoon.
The Extinction Rebellion aims are: For the Government to tell the truth about climate change, to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2025 and to form a Citizens Assembly to determine how we achieve this.
Preventing climate catastrophe is the most important political, social, environmental and technical problem humanity has ever faced.
The Inter-Governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is the United Nations body which assesses all available science related to climate change. It suggests a number of routes to limiting the rise in global average temperatures to 1.5C. It also tells us that an increase of 2C will have much worse effects.
REBEL WRITES FROM HIS CELL
All pathways to a maximum 1.5C rise require cuts of around 50 per cent in global emissions within about 12 years. To have any chance of achieving this, we need to take immediate action to drastically reduce emissions.
So far we have caused global average temperatures to increase by 1.1C since the end of the 1900s. We are already seeing the spread of wildfires, hurricanes, drought, melting icecaps, sea levels rising, ocean acidification, coral reef die-off and the largest scale extinction of animal and plant species since the end of the dinosaurs.
The IPCC is predicting 3C to 4C of warming based on our current trajectory. With these changes, the Earth will not look like the one we recognise today, but rather like the planet of 50million years ago. Then there was no ice, temperatures were inhospitable and sea levels much higher — differences that would totally destabilise ecosystems and society.
As climate change continues, human-induced effects are amplified by earth processes, such as methane from melting permafrost and reduced reflection of light back in to space as polar ice sheets shrink. These processes will make global heating worse and are sometimes called tipping points, as they can lead to runaway climate change where the human effects are no longer the main drivers — and they are impossible to halt.
Since human climate change was first predicted by Swedish physicist Arrhenius in 1896, thousands of scientists, working for decades in dozens of countries and disciplines, have come to a consensus that climate change is real and the effects catastrophic. There is no scientific debate to be had.
The Government is complacent about the UK’s emission reductions, while failing to meet its own targets.
I also ask that Government, businesses and public bodies start taking transformative action now to reduce carbon dioxide emissions to zero
Given the situation, I feel the Extinction Rebellion is our last best shot at getting governments to listen and start telling the truth.
Once the truth is being told I believe that YOU will be urging the Government to act fast and vote accordingly.
My involvement in the rebellion and my arrest are my heartfelt attempt to do whatever I can to help prevent the worst effects of climate change and the social, environmental and financial costs it will cause.
I am sorry for the disruption caused to local businesses and commuters.
I also apologise to the Metropolitan Police for the diversion of resources. My experience of the Met is that there has been an atmosphere of mutual respect between them and protesters.
I ask that you, the people, become properly informed about climate change.
I also ask that Government, businesses and public bodies start taking transformative action now to reduce carbon dioxide emissions to zero.
Finally, I ask for a Citizens Assembly, a representative group of the population which will determine the direction we take to get to zero carbon and will take decisions out of the electoral cycle and political and financial influence.
The protesters in London represent a broad church of opinion but I would say my opinions and background are typical.
If you have read this far, thank you very much.
MOST READ IN OPINION
‘CAUSE IS NOBLE, WRITING LAW IS NOT’
By Dr Alan Mendoza, Executive Director, Henry Jackson Society
PIERS writes his letter from a police cell – and for that reason, I cannot take him seriously. He and his fellow protesters might think their cause is noble, but breaking the law is not.
Equality before the law is one of the most important principles of British justice. The expectation has always been that if you commit a crime, you will do the time.
Yet for days now, parts of central London have been overrun by a rag-tag band of climate change activists, Piers among them.
Setting up makeshift camps at Oxford Circus, Marble Arch, Waterloo Bridge and Parliament Square, members of Extinction Rebellion have blockaded roads. And they appeared to be doing so with the support of the Metropolitan Police and the force’s boss, the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan.
Their cause is an important one, but like every good hostage taker, Extinction Rebellion has come armed with a list of demands, and protesters are prepared to be arrested to secure them. Yet even Extinction Rebellion must have been surprised the blockades were not removed for four days.
Excusing their behaviour because it is an important and righteous cause ignores the problem that we are setting a precedent
Dr Alan Mendoza
Hundreds of thousands of Londoners have been suffering on a daily basis. Commuters cannot get to work as buses have been diverted. Shoppers have had to abandon some of the busiest streets. Businesses can’t get essential supplies. Emergency vehicles are unable to take the quickest routes. The blockades have cost London millions.
Nobody denies the activists are committing a crime by obstructing the streets. Until yesterday, police could be found helping them by acting as picket-line cheerleaders and traffic controllers. We have been told the police presence hasn’t detracted from usual police business. Which of us believes that?
Excusing their behaviour because it is an important and righteous cause ignores the problem that we are setting a precedent.
The liberal, metropolitan elite cheering on the protesters should be careful what they wish for. Paris has been convulsed by violent protests that began in a similar way. Failure to apply the law of obstruction when the Yellow Vest movement started has cost France dear.
Others with cause to be angry about politics will have learned the lessons from Extinction Rebellion’s successful action.
Remain-backing Londoners may feel very differently about the taking over of public space if Leave supporters annoyed at the failure to secure Brexit hit the streets in peaceful protest. But they will have only themselves to blame.
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