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researchers join protestors at COP26

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Members of Scientist Rebellion, together with Kyle Topfer (second from the left) and Charlie Gardner (far proper), chained collectively on Glasgow’s King George V Bridge.Credit: Nature

It is about 1 p.m. on 11 November once I arrive at the rendezvous level: South Portland Street Suspension Bridge — a footbridge above the River Clyde in Glasgow, UK. On a dinghy floating throughout the river, a distant determine in a lab coat holds up a banner that reads “Tell the truth or we will lose everything”. It is Tim Hewlett, an astrophysicist and co-founder of activist group Scientist Rebellion. I’m advised that he’ll proceed to drift throughout the river till he docks by the Scottish Event Campus the place the twenty sixth United Nations Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26) is happening, or till he’s arrested — whichever comes first.

For the previous week, I’ve been talking to scientists at COP26, the place nations are attempting to agree on how one can fulfil their pledges to deal with local weather change. Some researchers are advisers at the assembly or a part of the delegations making an attempt to barter a last deal. But others are among the many lots of of activists staging protests on the streets of Glasgow all through the summit to demand stronger motion.

Chained collectively

Scientist Rebellion has carried out varied actions throughout COP26. On 6 November, activists blocked King George V bridge, one of many Glasgow’s foremost routes connecting to the south facet of the town. They chained padlocks round their necks and to one another to type a line. Hours of chain-cutting later, the police arrested 21 individuals — together with 15 scientists, in accordance with Scientist Rebellion.

“We believe this is the first ever mass arrest of scientists over the climate crisis,” says Charlie Gardner, a conservation biologist at the University of Kent in Canterbury, UK, who was amongst these arrested.

About six years in the past, Gardner began educating an undergraduate module on local weather change. “That made me realize just how serious and impactful the climate crisis is for biodiversity,” he says. Gardner transitioned his analysis to give attention to climate-change ecology, and known as on different teachers to join civil disobedience actions, together with in a 2019 paper in Nature Ecology & Evolution1.

Gardner says Scientist Rebellion’s purpose at COP26 is to spotlight failures of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. He provides that he’s not impressed with the COP26 local weather pledges which were made to date, and that cash and lobbying from sectors together with the fossil gasoline trade have an excessive amount of sway over governments. “There are a lot of very powerful vested interests that do not want us to rapidly decarbonize as that will limit their ability to make profit.”

Some members of Scientist Rebellion even glued analysis papers describing the size of local weather change to a constructing. Among them was Kyle Topfer, an environmental scientist from Sydney, Australia, who additionally glued his left hand to a Frontiers in Conservation Science paper. Topfer was finally arrested — nonetheless caught to the paper — and brought away in a police van.

Not getting concerned

It has been troublesome for scientists to steer their friends to join in with protests, says Caroline Vincent, an unbiased marketing consultant for the pharmaceutical trade who’s a member of XR Scientists — a department of the group Extinction Rebellion, which is understood for disruptive protests.

“A lot of people in academia fear about their jobs because some institutions and universities frown upon people who engage in activism,” Vincent provides. “It’s ingrained in scientists to report in an impartial way and not take a view, a little bit like the Queen.”

But Gardner thinks many scientists are delay protesting as a result of “they’re just too busy”. Senior teachers have excessive workloads and are beneath fixed stress to publish and safe grants, he says. And early or mid-career researchers don’t need to become involved in activism as a result of they’ve to focus on their analysis and publications. “To them I say there are no professorships on a dead planet,” Gardner says. “All our hopes for the future are in jeopardy now unless we take emergency action over the next few years.”

Although there are nonetheless comparatively few scientists taking to the streets, Gardner has observed much more discussions, significantly on-line, in regards to the function of teachers in going past educating and analysis to partaking in advocacy and activism. He hopes that this shall be adopted by extra involvement in actions resembling Scientist Rebellion.

“Climate change isn’t just a battle of information, but of power and influence,” says Gardner. “Writing scientific papers doesn’t influence the public or governments, whereas activism might”.

Despite his arrest, he intends to hold on protesting with Scientist Rebellion and hopes to steer extra researchers to join him. “Leading by example is one of the most powerful ways to influence others,” he says.