8 historic events against climate change and their impact
Severe droughts, worsening storms, destruction of habitat: it is the predominant effects of climate change that continue to prompt people to act. While the protests against climate change have varied in number and impact, the demand of the population has remained the same: to put the health of our planet first. Below are eight major protests that have shaped the environmental movement today.
A growing global concern
Global concern for climate change began in 1972 when several scientists at the United Nations Conference on Human Development in Stockholm presented on development climate over the century. In 1979, climate conferences were organized and led to the creation of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) by the United Nations in 1988. The IPCC is now one of the leading organizations providing countries with scientific data to create informed policies.
Earth Day (1970)
Over five decades ago, the first major environmental event took place on April 22, resulting in 50 years of Earth Days. After years of unsuccessful appeals to other congressmen on environmental issues, Senator Gaylord Nelson has rallied the people. He offered education on college campuses to protest environmental issues and their effects, to inspire anti-war protests of the 1960s. In the hope of garnering that same energy, a day was chosen which was most convenient for the students.
Senator Nelson’s call to action resulted in the participation of approximately 20 millions people and thousands of events. A national team of 85 helped smaller groups organize events across the country, culminating in the largest protest ever.
The size and its decentralization showed lawmakers how important environmental causes were to the public, which helped form the Environmental Protection Agency, followed by several environmental protection laws including the National Environmental Education Act, Occupational Safety and Health Act, Clean Air and Water Acts, and Endangered Species Act.
Kyoto Rally (2001)
The first decade of the 21st century brought events dedicated specifically to climate change. In 2001, President George Bush chose to withdraw from the Kyoto Protocol. The objective of the protocol was to get industrialized countries to commit to reducing greenhouse gas emissions. In response to the abandonment of the international agreement by the United States, the British organization Campaign Against Climate Change organized a demonstration. It would be the biggest event in response to President George Bush’s decision.
This event would be the first of many rallies organized by this group. Ultimately, this would lead to the first national climate march in 2005, an event that would bring thousands of people to protest in conjunction with the annual United Nations climate talks.
Global Day of Action (2005)
Although not the largest event, the 2005 Global Day of Action was the first of several annual events to take place. Also known as March for Kyoto’s climate, the idea was to collect the collective energy of groups around the world. Started with Campaign for climate action, it would use their national climate march as an event for the UK, while allowing other organizations to participate simultaneously in their respective countries. Each Global Day of Action takes place at a time that coincides with United Nations climate summits.
One of the first globally recognized protests took place in Copenhagen in 2009. Halfway through the UN environmental summit on December 12, tens of thousands of climate activists marched through the streets to demand an effective environmental policy . It was part of the Campaign for Climate Action’s annual Global Day of Action, and it ended up being the biggest event to take place – estimates range from 25,000 to 100,000 people. What caught the attention of the media was the violence sparked by some during the demonstration and the arrests that followed.
People’s March for the Climate (2014)
Over time, the individual protests would become more important. In September 2014, approximately 400,000 demonstrators would meet in New York for an event that would greatly exceed the number of protests in Copenhagen. This event was important because even if the environmental movement gained ground with the creation of Earth Day, polls would show the United States ranked second to last in public knowledge of climate change. The Popular March for the Climate is said to be known for its various participants, who all came together under the slogan “To change everything, everyone needs”.
People’s March for the Climate (2017)
While not as big as the 2014 march, the 2017 People’s Climate March would draw a large number of people to Washington DC after the first 100 days of former President Donald Trump’s first year. 200,000 people showed up in the nation’s capital and 370 events are said to take place across the country, bringing the number of attendees to 300,000. After the former president’s election campaign was funded by climate deniers and energy leaders fossils, the march brought together enthusiasts who hoped jobs, justice, and effective climate solutions.
School strike for the climate (2018)
Inspired by school strikes by student survivors of the Parkland shooting, Greta Thurnberg started skipping school to protest the climate crisis outside the Swedish parliament. Within three months she had sparked a movement and was talk to world leaders at the United Nations climate summit.
This protest would be get an opinion for the large number of young people who participated in its organization. In response, several youth organizations were formed, including Fridays for Future. Fridays for Future credits Thurnbergs group with creating the hashtag #FridaysForFuture which has now registered 98,000 corresponding events in 210 countries.
Global Climate Strike (2019)
After Earth day, the only other climate event with events over a period of several days would be the global climate strike in September 2019. Over 8 days, 7.6 million people would join forces across the world to demand action from world leaders. It would become one of the largest coordinated protests globally since the anti-war protests of 2003.
The strikers called for the phasing out of fossil fuels, an end to deforestation in the Amazonian and Indonesian rainforests, and the transition to renewable energy. The voices of people in 185 countries have been joined by celebrities such as Leonardo DiCaprio, Chris Hemsworth, Jaden Smith, Gisele Bündchen and Willow Smith.
The number of climate change organizations appears to be increasing. From government organizations to nonprofits, more and more leaders are starting to see the urgency by working to heal the planet at its source. Many organizations such as Extinction Rebellion, Campaign against climate action, and Fridays of the future were created for the sole purpose of using civil disobedience and peaceful marches to push for climate action. It remains to be seen how effective these methods will be, but it appears that these methods increase public support.