In the Face of the Ecological Crisis, Rebellion is Necessary

Recognising governmental inaction in the face of the ecological and climatic emergency, more than 1,000 scientists from all disciplines call for citizens’ civil disobedience and their development of alternatives in (top French newspaper) Le Monde. They urge political leaders to radically change our economic and production model and to take the proposals of the Citizens’ Convention on Climate Change seriously.

This call is inspired by similar initiatives in The Guardian and Le Temps.

Text of the Call

We, the undersigned, represent different disciplines and academic fields. The views we express here are our own and do not necessarily reflect those of the institutions for which we work. Whatever our areas of expertise, we all share the same observation: for decades, successive governments have been unable to implement strong and rapid action to address the climate and environmental crisis, which is becoming more urgent every day. This inertia can no longer be tolerated.

Scientific observations are indisputable and disasters are unfolding before our very eyes. We are experiencing the 6th mass extinction, several dozen species are disappearing every day, and pollution levels from all points of view are alarming (plastics, pesticides, nitrates, heavy metals…).

To speak only of the climate, we have already exceeded 1°C of additional temperature compared to the pre-industrial era and the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere has never been so high for several million years. According to the United Nations Environment and Development Program’s (UNEP) 2019 Emissions Gap Report, countries’ commitments under the 2015 Paris Agreement put us on a trajectory of at least +3°C by 2100, assuming they are met. The objective of limiting warming below +1.5°C is now out of reach unless global emissions are reduced by 7.6% per year, whereas they have increased by 1.5% per year over the last ten years. Each additional degree increases the risk of exceeding tipping points, causing a cascade of irreversible consequences (ice pack collapse, thawing permafrost, slowing of ocean currents, etc.). The preparatory studies for the next IPCC report (CNRS-CEA-Météo France) suggest that previous reports have underestimated the extent of the changes already underway. Global warming of more than 5°C can no longer be excluded if the current runaway increase in greenhouse gas emissions continues. At these temperature levels, France’s habitability would be called into question by temperature and humidity levels causing death by hyperthermia. Human societies cannot continue to ignore the consequences of their activities on the planet without suffering the consequences, as many studies reflecting the scientific consensus have shown long ago and more clearly every day. If we continue down this path, the future of our species is bleak.

Our government is complicit in this situation by neglecting the precautionary principle and failing to recognize that infinite growth on a finite planet is simply a dead end. The economic growth objectives it advocates are in total contradiction with the radical change that our economic and productive model must undergo without delay. Current French policies on climate change and biodiversity protection are far from being up to the challenges and urgency we are facing. Far from confirming an alleged opposition between ecology and social justice, the yellow vest movement has rightly denounced the inconsistency and hypocrisy of policies that would impose sobriety on citizens on the one hand, whilst promoting unbridled consumerism and unequal and predatory economic liberalism on the other. Continuing to promote superfluous and energy-intensive technologies such as 5G or the autonomous car is irresponsible at a time when our lifestyles must evolve towards greater frugality and when our collective efforts must be focused on the ecological and social transition.

The lack of results from this policy is obvious: as the High Council for Climate noted, the greenhouse gas emissions budget set by the French National Low Carbon Strategy was not respected between 2015 and 2018. Despite declarations of good intentions, France’s per capita carbon footprint (including imported emissions) is still higher today than at its 1995 level, 11 tonnes of CO2 equivalent per inhabitant per year, whereas it is expected to fall to 2 tonnes by 2050.

The next decade will be decisive in limiting the scale of future disruptions. We refuse to let the young people of today and future generations pay for the consequences of the unprecedented disaster we are preparing for and whose effects are already being felt. When a government knowingly abdicates its responsibility to protect its citizens, it has failed in its essential role.

Consequently, we call for participation in the civil disobedience actions of environmental movements, whether historical (Friends of the Earth, Attac, Peasant Confederation, Greenpeace…) or more recently formed (Non-Violent Action COP21 (ANV-COP21), Extinction Rebellion, Youth for Climate…). We invite all citizens, including our scientific colleagues, to mobilise to demand action from our political leaders and to change the system from the bottom up today. By acting individually, by coming together at professional or local citizen levels (e.g. in neighbourhood committees), or by joining existing associations or movements (Alternatiba, Transition Network, Territorial Alternatives…), there will be room for manoeuvre to break down barriers and develop alternatives.

We also ask the public authorities to tell the truth about the gravity and urgency of the situation: our current lifestyle and economic growth are not compatible with limiting climate change to acceptable levels. We call on national and local politicians to take immediate action to truly reduce France’s carbon footprint and stop the erosion of biodiversity. We also urge the executive power and Parliament to put environmental issues ahead of private interests by ambitiously implementing the proposals from the Citizens’ Convention for Climate and extending its mandate to give it the power to monitor their implementation.

Tribune initiated by :

Joana Beigbeder, Associate professor in materials science, Institut Mines-Télecom – Mines Alès (IMT Mines Alès)
Frédéric Boone, Researcher in astrophysics, Institute for Research in Astrophysics and Planetology (IRAP)
Milan Bouchet-Valat, Researcher in sociology, National Institute for Demographic Studies (Ined)
Julian Carrey, Professor in physics, National Institute of Applied Sciences of Toulouse (INSA Toulouse)
Agnès Ducharne, Researcher in climatology, CNRS – Institut Pierre-Simon-Laplace (IPSL)
Tanguy Fardet, Post-doctoral researcher in computational neuroscience, Max Planck Institute for Biological Cybernetics – University of Tübingen
Kévin Jean, Associate professor in epidemiology, Conservatoire national des arts et métiers (Cnam)
Jérôme Mariette, Engineers in bioinformatics, National Research Institute for Agriculture, Food and the Environment (INRAE)
Françoise Roques, Researcher in astrophysics, Paris Observatory

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