Editorial: Climate report: revolution or disaster

May 18, 2022

From the May-June 2022 issue of News & Letters

The battle over the latest UN report on climate change laid bare the stark alternative between business as usual, favored by the powers that be, and the millions around the globe fighting for social transformation sufficient to stave off catastrophe.

Unprecedented numbers of scientists who worked on the IPCC “Mitigation of Climate Change” report formed Scientist Rebellion last year and leaked draft documents, knowing that UN member nations would censor the Summary for Policymakers (SPM).


Fridays for Future protest at U.S. Capitol, Washington D.C., Oct. 27, 2021. Photo: Fridays for Future U.S.

On April 4, the day of the final report’s approval, scientists began a week of strikes, protests, occupations and direct actions in at least 25 countries to highlight “the urgency and injustice of the climate and ecological crisis.” Usually seen as conservative and reluctant to speak out politically, scientists raised slogans such as “Climate revolution or we will lose everything” and “1.5°C is dead, climate revolution now!”

The Scientist Rebellion website explained: “The people deserve to know NOW what our corporate owned politicians have done to them….We leaked it to show that scientists are willing to disobey and take personal risk to inform the public.”

All of these points from the draft SPM were eliminated in the official release:

⁕ “Ambitious mitigation and development goals cannot be met through incremental change.”

⁕ “Individual behavioral change in isolation cannot reduce GHG (greenhouse gas) emissions significantly.”

⁕ “Increasing the participation of women, and racialized and marginalized groups, amplifies the impetus for climate action. Collective action through formal social movements and informal lifestyle movements expands the potential for climate policy and supports system change. Climate strikes have given voice to youth in more than 180 countries.”

⁕ Since 2010, aviation increased greenhouse gas emissions by 28.5%, SUV’s by 17% and meat consumption by 12%.

⁕ “The top 10% emitters (the global wealthiest 10% on a per capita basis) contribute ten times as much to global emissions as the poorest 10%.”


The report is a mind-boggling 2,913 pages. Even the 64-page SPM contains an overwhelming array of data, models, projected trends and conclusions, in precise but obscure scientific language, clearly stating that global warming will surpass 1.5oC (2.4oF) as soon as 2025 if present economic and social trends continue unabated. While some warming is already baked in, it is not too late for humanity, but drastic action is urgent.

Climate change drought has worsened ongoing world food crises. The UN Food and Agricultural Organization warned in April that 20 million in East Africa alone are at risk of famine. Meanwhile, President Biden opens federal land to oil drilling, caving to the politics of 8.5% inflation.

Scientist Rebellion joined millions already organized to fight climate change. School strikes and mass marches have covered the U.S. and Western Europe. Less known are multiple forms of resistance in Latin America, Africa, and among the 370 million Indigenous people in over 70 countries. Indigenous land defenders have exercised their rights and responsibilities to not only stop fossil fuel projects in their tracks, but establish precedents to build successful social justice movements. Only 5% of the world’s population, they protect 80% of global biodiversity. Worldwide, women have been leaders, uniting struggles opposing violence against women with defense of the land.

A recent report, Indigenous Resistance Against Carbon, concludes that Indigenous resistance has stopped or delayed greenhouse gas pollution equivalent to at least 25% of annual U.S. and Canadian emissions.


In East Africa, the Stop EACOP campaign, modelled on the coalition of Native Americans, farmers and climate activists that halted the Keystone XL pipeline, is a similar alliance against fossil fuel infrastructure. Over a million people have signed a petition to stop a 900-mile pipeline through Uganda and Tanzania.

According to Global Witness, in 2018, 167 defenders of the earth and environment were murdered. “The widespread impunity…as well as the repression and criminalization of the populations that defend their territories and their right to life… account for the unquestioned progress of capitalist extractivism.”

Likewise, decades of industrial workers’ battles for humane working conditions meld with battles against pollution, as the retired Chrysler workers in Detroit now fight pollution from the new Stellantis Chrysler factory in their neighborhood.

We must overcome a deadly capitalism that has created a world where many are already suffering and dying from climate catastrophe. It is time to inscribe “Climate revolution now!” on all our banners.

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