The Second Demand

This is the second in a series about the 4 Demands of the Extinction Rebellion movement.

The Government must enact legally binding policies to reduce carbon emissions to net-zero by 2025 and take further action to remove the excess of atmospheric greenhouse gases. It must cooperate internationally so that the global economy runs on no more than half a planet’s worth of resources per year.

The Second Demand

“Climate procrastination requires back-to-back all-nighters to catch up.”

Clayton Aldern

The more you procrastinate, the more you have to speed up.

The Second Demand confronts what must happen when the governments of the world (plus multinational corporations and other large entities) deny, stall, dodge, sign non-binding agreements, and otherwise fail to take action on the greatest threat to humanity, ever.

“We’ve left it too late,” as a young XR woman in a London demo in 2019 lamented, and now to avert global collapse (the climate crisis is already happening), greenhouse gas emissions must be brought down, and FAST. The 2018 IPCC report states that “Global net human-caused emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) would need to fall by about 45 percent from 2010 levels by 2030, reaching ‘net zero’ around 2050” to keep global climate temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Centigrade. (What is “net zero”? Read this.)

However, the Extinction Rebellion movement is demanding a transition to net zero by 2025 because industrialized nations have a responsibility to bring down their (our) vast and historically overwhelming emissions more than less developed nations.

With just over 1°C rise, the world is already experiencing vast, nonlinear environmental destruction: springtime wildfires in Siberia, massive typhoons and cyclones in Asia, unprecedented heat and sea ice melt in the Arctic, and on and on. Here in Oregon, we face wildfire seasons that start earlier, fires that burn hotter and farther, and tougher firefighting conditions during a pandemic – among many other impacts.

What would that quick transition get us? The prevention of the extinction of thousands of species who would otherwise perish from intolerably high temperatures and drought, for starters. For more detail on sustaining global biodiversity by quickly bringing down greenhouse gas emissions, please read this article by Carbon Brief.

The name of the international movement of which XRPDX is one small part can be heard as a question and answer: Extinction? Rebellion!

What would a transition on this scale look like? Senior Fellow at the Post Carbon Institute Richard Heinberg has put out a call just last week for a serious plan, going beyond basic talking points and slogans, and starting by transitioning an entire city as a demonstration project:

“[it] should identify ways to reduce energy usage substantially, sector by sector, and not just through efficiency gains. A serious energy transition goal would describe, in detail, a smaller economy that nevertheless meets people’s genuine needs.”

Think it’s impossible? Check out this very incomplete list of changes that seemed impossible…until they happened:

  • Prohibiting cigarettes from public spaces.
  • The end of the apartheid regime in South Africa.
  • Same sex marriage and other rights for LGBT people.
  • A woman president of the United States (well, OK, that one is still in development).

We’ve got a deadline, folks. The laws of physics and chemistry don’t negotiate and they don’t listen to excuses. But we don’t have to either. As Aled Jones, Director of the Global Sustainability Institute at Anglia Ruskin University, says, “Net zero by 2025 is not physically impossible.”

All we need is the political will to make it happen. Join us!


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