Extinction Rebellion: No, the World Won't End in 12 Years

Extinction Rebellion’s recent “protest” involved dressing as Padme from Star Wars: The Phantom Menace, disrupting traffic with yoga on petroleum-made mats and wasting taxpayer money by having emergency services remove them from the vehicles they chained themselves to. The movement’s representatives said, on Sky News, they were reluctant to even consider admitting ambulances and visiting family to Westminster Hospital over Westminster bridge during the planned disruption. A week prior, they decided to make a not-at-all-wasteful use of water by spraying “fake blood” at the Treasury with a fire engine. And back in April, at the first major London protest, high-profile celebrities like Emma Thompson took private planes to the UK to attend the protest.

Whilst many agree that climate change is a problem,  Extinction Rebellion’s tactics seem ineffective, hypocritical, and bizarre at best, and morally dubious at worst. It is, therefore, worth us inquiring into Extinction Rebellion’s ideological justification for their actions: that “the world will end in twelve years”.

So, where did the claim that annihilation awaits humanity in a decade’s time come from?

The origin of the claim is an Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report, which suggests ‘Global warming is likely to reach 1.5°C between 2030 and 2052 if it continues to increase at the current rate’. The report claims that the consequences could include ‘mean temperature in most land and ocean regions (high confidence), hot extremes in most inhabited regions (high confidence), heavy precipitation in several regions (medium confidence), and the probability of drought and precipitation deficits in some regions (medium confidence)’. However, there is no mention in the report of an ecological genocide, nor can the severity of any possible predicted outcomes be fully determined.

We must also learn to be wary of the certainty of these predictions; this scepticism is not denialism. After all, since the first Earth Day in 1970, there have been just-shy of twenty failed climate disaster predictions.  Many have been just as high profile as our current twelve-year doomsday deadline: from a new ice age in the 1970s, to the ‘Population Bomb’ by the 2000s, and even Democrat presidential nominee Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth.

However, this healthy scepticism and reservation toward radical political revolution have not permeated our culture. Instead, the “12 years” alarmism was brought to the forefront by Green New Deal author and Democratic Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio Cortex, who made environmentalism a political and economic revolutionary issue with her statement:

‘Millennials and Gen Z and all these folks that come after us are looking up, and we're like, “The world is going to end in 12 years if we don't address climate change”, and your biggest issue is how are we gonna pay for it?’

From there, doomed Democrat presidential nominee hopeful Robert Francis ‘Beto’ O’Rourke reduced the timeline to ten years, taking the opportunity to conflate environmentalism with identity politics. As we can document, the “prediction” has changed from twelve years with Ms. Cortez, to ten years with Mr. O’Rourke, and now to inevitable global catastrophe with Extinction Rebellion. This reduction of two years from the estimate, to the obscuring of a deadline with the nebulous terms “climate emergency” and “mass extinction” , have all occurred within 2019.

So, what is the motivational force behind promulgating this misinformation and narrativized scientific speculation?

The driving forces behind Extinction Rebellion, Stuart Basden and Roger Hallam, have voiced their confessions that the movement ‘isn’t about the climate’, and rather is about dismantling the ‘cruelty and violence’ of ‘600 years of colonialism’ conducted by ‘European civilisation’, the ‘delusion’ of ‘patriarchy’, ‘white supremacy’, and ‘heteronormativity’, and that ‘forcing the governments to act’ or ‘bring[ing] them down and create[ing] a democracy fit for purpose’ to enact their policies will require ‘some [to] die in the process’.

When Andrew Neil highlighted how Extinction Rebellion’s message is counterfactual to the number of climate-related deaths decreasing over time, this was met by spokesperson Zion Lights’ admittance that ‘alarmist language works’ to push their political aims. It is not surprising, therefore, when prominent Swedish philosopher Torbjörn Tännsjö pushes for a global climate dictatorship to curb what he misinterprets to be a proven and impending global catastrophe. Even the IPCC report’s full name includes ‘efforts to eradicate poverty’ as a vague political mission statement packaged into their environmental policies.

It is clear that climate change alarmism has become politically advantageous to leftist activists who desire a rousing justification for economic and governmental revolution, regardless of the factual validity of their claims. As Ms. Cortez herself said, being ‘precisely, factually, and semantically correct’ is not as important as being ‘morally right’ (as if the two can somehow exist independent of one another).

There is, to their credit, some internal disruption among the left of the monolithic support for radical climate change activism. Californian Senator Dianne Feinstein this year was confronted by a group of involuntarily politicised children in her office, who she politely and calmly rebuked in an attempt to return to conducting the finding of solutions among adults. But currently, these examples are few and far between.

We must, therefore, conduct itself as informed and principled opposition, with practical solutions. The British Conservation Alliance is currently doing its part in shaping the conversation towards that direction, and, with his mention of ‘free-market environmentalism’ following the Queen’s Speech, and condemnation of Extinction Rebellion as ‘uncooperative crusties’ the Prime Minister appears to be doing so too.

Although past predictions have been failures, and this particular IPCC report has been drastically over-exaggerated by cynical politicians and opportunistic activists, it does not mean that we shouldn’t use free-market solutions to make our air cleaner, our energy production more sustainable, and provide our society with a contingency plan for unforeseen disasters. It does mean, though, that we shouldn’t sacrifice our systems of government, and economic freedom and prosperity, at the altar of appeasement to the elusive sun-monster just yet.


Connor Tomlinson