26 October 2023

Climate activists deserve our support, say 70 Australian and international researchers in public statement


Seventy scholars from 16 countries have signed a public letter in support of climate activists taking non-violent direct action and speaking out about the potentially (and increasingly likely) civilisation-ending risk of accelerating climate disruption.

Discussing the open letter, Professor Colin Butler, of the Australia National University, explains that "Peril lies in understating the risk to global civilisation from unabated climate change (and other aspects of limits to growth); I call on my colleagues to show leadership and courage." 

Focusing on the unfair treatment of climate activists, Professor in Science Education, Dr Caroline Smith, from the University of Tasmania said: "Shooting the messengers is a disgraceful state of affairs. We send congratulations and strength to those courageous scientists who continue to speak out for all our futures." 

Climate scientist Dr Wolfgang Knorr of Lund University in Sweden said that we need of both politicians and experts "nothing more than honesty - say you don't care about the climate crisis, or act in way that does justice to the vastness of the threat".

In the Netherlands, Dr Lummina Horlings, Professor of Socio-Spatial Planning (University of Groningen) said: "We should be grateful to activists such as Extinction Rebellion who play an active role to stop the subsidy of fossil fuels."

French Agronomist Dr Etienne-Pascal Journet said while the climatic and ecological upheaval has never been so obvious, "propaganda against the wise, courageous and peaceful activists is abounding, supported by various lobbies, think tanks, the government, and opportunistic political parties." And Pierre-Henri Gouyon, Professor of Ecology at the Natural History Museum of France said: "Trying to warn humanity of the climate and biodiversity crisis should be 'haloed' not criminalised."

Reflecting how global heating threatens to disrupt everything in society, the open letter is signed by academics from many disciplines, not just climatology. It comes after the public statement issued by the co-founders of activist group Extinction Rebellion, Gail Bradbrook, Roger Hallam and Clare Farrell, about the unhelpful pressures on them from some climatologists over recent years and the need for more courageous truth telling in a world with a rapidly changing climate. 

Statement: Climate activists deserve our support

Around the world, peaceful environmental activists are being vilified by the media, prosecuted by the state and, in some countries, murdered with impunity. Worldwide, one environmental activist is being killed every other day [1], and people who seek to defend our planet are losing their freedoms to do so [2]. Sadly, a globalist-funded network of propaganda against such activists has distorted the media, social media and political responses [3]. 

That is despite the now rapidly changing climate proving that humanity owes climate activists our gratitude and leaders owe them an apology [4]. In this age of consequences, the appropriate response must be to gather environmental activists in dialogue with scientists and wider civil society, to explore why the activists often better assessed the risks from environmental change, why societies were so resistant to that truth, and how to enable better decision making in future. 

As researchers who signed the initial ‘Scholars’ Warning on Societal Disruption and Collapse’ three years ago [5], we have been aware of the limitations of institutionalised scientific research to provide insight into both the reality and risks in highly complex systems, such as the global environment. For instance, we knew that both the consensus and averaging requirements of the reporting from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) led to downplaying data and findings that were crucial to understanding the world’s climate [6]. 

The recent speed and impact of global heating demonstrates that those generalist scholars and citizen scientists associated with campaign groups like Extinction Rebellion, were better able to identify the risks to humanity, and were often better able to bring this to the attention of the public than employed climatologists.

Although hundreds of scientists have welcomed such activism [7], it is a tragedy that some senior climatologists criticised peaceful activists in recent years, inadvertently undermining their credibility with the public and encouraging draconian legislation and punishments [8]. 

We lament this misleading and counterproductive approach to science communication by some of our senior colleagues. Instead, we congratulate those scientists who have themselves become protestors, like members of Scientist Rebellion, and encourage others to join them [9].

It is neither conspiracy-minded nor disrespectful towards scientists to agree with the extensive scholarship showing us that research silos, hierarchies, and funding considerations lead to suboptimal conclusions on real world implications.

There is an urgent need not to allow the same siloed and hierarchical approaches that hampered institutional climatology in the past to dominate its future in this new era of societal disruption [10]. Because there is a lot still to be done to reduce harm, despite the tragic circumstances facing us all. Life on Earth, including humanity, will not tolerate further institutionally-caused blind spots on catastrophic threats. 

Therefore, as signatories, we call for more efforts to bring well-researched activists together with generalist scholars and career scientists, to better understand the complex system that is the biosphere and climate.

To support that, not only do we invite new signatories for the Scholars’ Warning declaration, but also welcome public apologies from those scholars who used their status to undermine the sense of both hazard and urgency that the environmental activists were promoting over recent years. As activists are being persecuted and prosecuted right now, the time for such apologies is also right now. 

[70 scientists from 16 countries signed, with their names listed below].


  1. The NGO Global Witness claims that, on average, somewhere in the world an environmental activist is killed every other day, with 177 known to have been murdered in 2022. https://geographical.co.uk/news/177-environmental-activists-killed-in-2022
  2. In the West, peaceful environmental activists are being criminalised and prosecuted like never before. Many face custodial sentences this autumn. Even peacefully reminding juries of the law is being criminalised in Britain. “There are a number of human rights that are currently not being respected by EU states,” said Michel Forst, the U.N. special rapporteur on environmental defenders. https://www.politico.eu/article/europe-governments-crackdown-climate-change-activists-action-last-generation-extinction-rebellion/ 
  3. Backed by some of the world's largest anti-environmental corporations, The Atlas Network of think tanks has successfully been promoting the demonisation of environmental activists. https://newrepublic.com/article/175488/meet-shadowy-global-network-vilifying-climate-protesters 
  4. Ocean and air temperature anomalies and associated impacts are frightening. See: World breaches key 1.5C warming mark for record number of days
  5. See www.scholarswarning.net 
  6. This has been known for many years, and actively ignored by many top scientists and those that wish to align with them. From 2017, see What Lies Beneath? The Scientific Understatement of Existential Climate Risk and Chapter 1 of Deep Adaptation on bias and limits in climatology.
  7. Unfortunately criticism of climate activists and their analysis of the situation has even been expressed publicly by some scientists who previously supported them. https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2021/apr/19/environment-protest-being-criminalised-around-world-say-experts 
  8. On this problem we note the important statement from XR co-founders https://rebellion.global/blog/2023/10/19/reflections-5-years-on/
  9. See https://scientistrebellion.org/ 
  10. See the 2023 report from the Post Carbon Institute: Welcome to the Great Unraveling: Navigating the Polycrisis of Environmental and Social Breakdown

Signatories, in their personal capacity

Dr. Makere Stewart-Harawira, Professor, Indigenous, Environmental and Global Studies, University of Alberta, Canada
Dr Wolfgang Knorr, Climate Scientist, Lund University, Sweden.
Dr. Colin Butler, Honorary Professor of Public Health, Australian National University, Australia
Dr. Lummina Horlings, Professor Socio-Spatial Planning, University of Groningen, The Netherlands.
Dr. Pascal Maugis, Climatologist, LSCE, France
Dr. Carlos de Castro, Professor of Physics, University of Valladolid, Spain.
Dr. Wolfgang Nitschke, Senior Scientist, CNRS, France
Dr. Jem Bendell, Emeritus Professor, University of Cumbria, UK.
Dr. Pierre-Henri Gouyon, Professor of Ecology, Muséum National d'Histoire Naturelle, France
Dr. Michal Palasz, assistant researcher, Jagiellonian University in Krakow, Poland
Dr. Deena Metzger, Teacher/Writer, Daré, USA
Dr. JP Sapinski, Assistant Professor of Environmental Studies, Université de Moncton, Canada
Dr. Els van Ooijen, Psychotherapist, Nepenthe Consulting, Netherlands
Dr. Supot Chunhachoti-ananta, Lecturer, Srinakharinwirot University, Thailand
Dr. Tomáš J Oberding PhD, Teaching Faculty, University of Phoenix, USA
Dr. Sandra Niessen, founding member, Research Collective for Decolonizing Fashion, Netherlands
Dr. Metje Postma, Lecturer, Leiden University, Institute of Cultural Anthropology and Development Sociology, Netherlands
Dr. Jörn Altmann, Professor, Seoul National University, South Korea
Dr. Heather Sullivan-Catlin, Professor of Sociology, State University of New York – Potsdam, USA/Germany
Dr. Martin Siefkes, Research Associate, University of Technology Chemnitz, Germany
Dr. Johannes Scheppach, Doctor, Charité University Medicine Berlin, Germany
Dr. Peter Choate, Professor Social Work, Mount Royal University, Canada
Dr. Noel B. Salazar, Professor in Social and Cultural Anthropology, KU Leuven, Germany
Dr. Philippe Ricordeau, public health doctor, France
Dr. Marshall Tuttle, Lecturer in Music, Retired, Langston University, USA
Dr. Ghislaine Bouvier, Assistant Professor, Bordeaux University, France
Dr. Richard Parncutt, personal, University of Graz, Austria
Dr. László A. Rampasek, CEO, OurOffset Nonprofit LLC, Hungary.
Dr. Haris Shekeris Researcher, SUCH (Sustainable Change Research Network)
Dr. Etienne-Pascal Journet, Researcher in Agronomy, CNRS, France.
Dr. Rebecca Johnson, Consultant Clinical Psychologist, University Hospitals Birmingham, UK
Dr. Jeremy Jimenez, Assistant Professor of Education, SUNY Cortland USA.
Dr. Sylvain Weill, Assistant professor, ENGEES, Strasbourg, France
Dr. Steven Salmony, Pittsboro, AWAREness Campaign on The Human Population, USA
Dr. Stef Craps, Professor of English Literature, Ghent University, Belgium
Dr. Stephen Martin, Visiting Professor in Learning for Sustainability, University of the West of England, UK.
Dr. Stephen Sterling, Emeritus Professor of Sustainability Education, University of Plymouth, UK
Dr. Cédric Sueur, Professor, Université de Strasbourg, France.
Dr. Jake Farr, Psychologist, Leading Through Storms, UK
Dr. Dietmar Weinmann, Physicist, CNRS, France.
Dr. Dalila Bovet, Ethologist, Université Paris Nanterre, France.
Dr. Philippe Marquet, associate professor, univ. Lille, France.
Dr. Aimee Maxwell, Psychologist, Deep Adaptation Forum, Australia.
Dr. Irene Malvestio, postdoc, Universitat de Barcelona, Spain.
Dr. Hedy Bryant, Facilitator and educator, HARK Facilitation Services, Australia.
Dr. Andrew Mathewson, Biologist, University of Washington, USA.
Dr. Elspeth Crawford, retired lecturer, University of Edinburgh, UK.
Dr. Arthur Weaver, independent scientist.
Dr. Ruth Irwin, Professor of Education, RMIT University, Australia.
Dr. Martin Weinel, Research Associate, Cardiff University, UK.
Dr. Yin Paradies, Professor of Race Relations, Deakin University, Australia.
Dr. Sean Kelly, Professor and author, California Institute of Integral Studies, USA
Dr. Carr Everbach, Chair of Environmental Studies; Engineering Professor, Swarthmore College, USA.
Dr. Shawn Rosenheim, Professor of English, Williams College, USA.
Dr. Elizabeth Manchester, researcher, independent
Dr. Matt Colborn, Tutor, Alef Trust, UK.
Dr. Chong Kee Tan, Founder, Labishire Homestead Commons, USA.
Dr. Andrew Boswell, Independent Scientist & Consultant, Climate Emergency Planning and Policy
Dr. Freya Higgins-Desbiolles, Adjunct Tourism Management, University of South Australia, Australia.
Dr. Marco Massetti, Responsable técnico de energía y sostenibilidad, FUNDACIÓ FICAT, Barcelona, Spain.
Dr. Fred Rohrer, Lecturer, Pedagogical University St.Gallen, Switzerland.
Dr. Judith McNeill, Retired, University of New England, Canada.
Dr. Joel Dubin, Professor, University of Waterloo, Canada.
Dr. Cathy Fitzgerald, Founder-Director, Haumea Ecoversity, Ireland.
Dr. David Phillips, Professor, University of Southampton, UK.
Dr. Greg Lennon, Scientist, CarLen5050.
Dr. Caroline Smith, Adjunct in science education, University of Tasmania, Australia.
Dr. Shana Melnysyn, Research Grants manager, University of California Humanities Research Institute, USA.