Climate Change Protests Inspire Bystanders

The issue of climate change is fast-approaching points of no return within the next decade, which will severely impact our planet’s biodiversity as well as human health, causing spikes in inequality and leading to increased levels of social conflict especially in the poorer regions of the world1.

In 2019, Extinction Rebellion alongside Greta Thunberg have been the key actors driving numerous public protests calling for climate change action, including transparent government policies addressed to effectively half global carbon emissions by 2030, with the aim to keep global warming temperatures below a 1.5C increase compared to pre-industrial levels2.

Participants march during a rally for global climate strike for future in Seoul, South Korea, Friday, March 15, 2019. About 150 students and other protesters attended a rally to protest their governments’ failure to take sufficient action against climate change. (AP Photo/Lee Jin-man)

Aside influencing governments’ agenda, climate change protests may also be essential to raise awareness and change public perceptions. Research published at the beginning of 2019, when climate change protests were beginning to gain momentum, suggested that this may be the case3.

The study, conducted by scientists at The Pennsylvania State University and Indiana University in the U.S., published in Frontiers in Communications, involved a survey to members of the general public just before and just after the People’s Climate Change March took place on the streets of Washington, D.C. in April 2017.

After the protests, bystanders’ perception on the role and efficacy of marches in achieving change increased, while negative impressions of the protesters decreased significantly. This means that even just witnessing protests may make people more likely to participate in them in the future.

While the concern of bystanders on the climate change issue did not increase following the march, greater participation to protests would expose new people to facts and knowledge, consequently bringing about more public awareness and concern.

Professor Don Wuebbles talks about the hard scientific truth behind climate change.

“Our results suggest that large, highly visible marches have the potential to enhance public participation in social movements by increasing perceived collective efficacy and diminishing negative impressions of marchers among the general public and possibly inspiring collective action”, the authors conclude.

Climate activists from the Extinction Rebellion group demonstrate during protests outside the Bank of England in London in April 2019 © Bloomberg. Image Credits: https://on.ft.com/2mgVLow

Millions of people around the world will be out on the streets once again on Friday 20 September 2019 to demand action on climate change from their leaders4. With the increasing number of such protests, more and more people may be likely to join in and become increasingly concerned about the climate change issue, ultimately adding their voice to the ones already demanding urgent action.

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References

  1. https://www.un.org/esa/desa/papers/2017/wp152_2017.pdf
  2. https://www.ipcc.ch/sr15/
  3. Swim, J.K., Geiger, N. and Lengieza, M.L., 2019. Climate change marches as motivators for bystander collective action. Frontiers in Communication4, p.4. https://doi.org/10.3389/fcomm.2019.00004
  4. https://globalclimatestrike.net/

Cover image credits: https://cnn.it/2FAL0BM

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