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Scientist and officer

Scientists glued their hands to the U.K. Department for Business, Energy, & Industrial Strategy in London on April 13, 2022. (Photo: Scientists for XR/Twitter)

Scientists Glue Hands to UK Business Dept. Demanding End to 'Fossil Fuel Madness'

"The government's insane, and I don't know what else to do, other than to do this, and to try and get the attention that we need to wake the public up," said ecologist Aaron Thierry.

Jessica Corbett

Over two dozen scientists on Wednesday glued scientific papers and their own hands to the windows of a U.K. government building in London to demand an end to fossil fuels.

"Releasing reports is no longer enough. We must take actions they cannot ignore."

The demonstration was part of a wave of Extinction Rebellion (XR) actions that launched last weekend and are scheduled through Sunday—a protest series that follows a worldwide mobilization of scientists last week, as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released its latest concerning report.

With his left hand glued to the U.K. Department for Business, Energy, & Industrial Strategy (BEIS), ecologist Aaron Thierry explained Tuesday that "I'm having to do this because our government is basically ignoring all the evidence and we have tried all the rational, normal, evidence-based policy approaches and they're just not acting according to it."

"The government's insane, and I don't know what else to do, other than to do this, and to try and get the attention that we need to wake the public up to understand that their government is acting completely in two faces," he continued in a video shared by The Guardian's Damien Gayle. "Like, the one hand they're saying, 'Oh, we're taking climate change seriously, we declared an emergency,' and then on the other hand they invest in fossil fuels."

"I'm terrified by what's going on on this planet," Thierry, who's studied climate in the Arctic, added in an XR video. "We are really running out of time. The new IPCC report has said that... it is now or never if we're to meet our climate targets, so we really need everybody to get out on the streets—rise up—because this government is taking all of us to hell and it's avoidable."

Gayle pointed out in his coverage of the Scientists for Extinction Rebellion action that it "came a week after the government published a new energy strategy that promised to continue the exploitation of North Sea oil and gas, failed to set targets for onshore wind, and gave nuclear a central role."

Microbiologist Abi Perrin addressed the various posters that the protesting scientists plastered on the BEIS building, saying that "they're all scientific literature that unequivocally describes our need to cut emissions now."

Glancing at one nearby poster, Perrin said that "this one's about the number and types of fossil fuels that we could extract to expect a liveable future for young people alive now and it basically says no more new extraction."

That finding, she noted, directly conflicts with the government's new energy strategy, "which is still going for increased extraction of North Sea oil and gas."

The scientists at BEIS held a banner that declared "End Fossil Fuels Now" and sported white lab coats emblazoned with "New Oil & Gas = Death," which Scientists for XR called "the simple equation driving our action today."

The action at BEIS led to some arrests—including Colin Davis, a cognitive psychologist at the University of Bristol, who spray-painted the XR symbol on the building and explained that "I'm doing this because our government is lying to us."

"We know that we can have no new oil and gas and we were told last week by Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change that it's now or never," Davis said as an officer arrested him. "The scientists are here today to say that the government must listen to the science and not destroy our future because they are in the hands of the fossil fuel industry. We have the solutions."

Charlie Gardner, a conservation scientist at the University of Kent, told The Guardian that "at both the domestic and international policy level there are very powerful actors who don't want our society to decarbonize."

"There are people who are very wealthy and powerful from the way that the world is set up now and they don't want that to change, they don't want to decarbonize because that will limit their opportunity to generate money from fossil fuels," Gardner said.

"As a result we have government departments making decisions that will lead us to calamity," he added, "and as a scientist, I know what impacts this has, I can see that coming, and I can't be passive, I can't just let that happen. I need to act."

The newspaper noted that a BEIS spokesperson said that "we are gradually driving down demand for oil and gas, but we cannot have a cliff edge by turning off our domestic source overnight."

"Doing so would put our energy security, British jobs, and industries at risk and simply increase foreign imports, not reduce demand," the spokesperson claimed. "Our British energy security strategy sets out a long-term plan to ramp up cheap renewables as we transition away from expensive fossil fuels."

Kwasi Kwarteng, the U.K. secretary of state for business, energy, and industrial strategy, echoed that message in a tweet directed at the XR scientists.

Responding on Twitter, Scientists for Extinction Rebellion told the Tory secretary that they were outside his department because the U.K. government "claims to be a global leader on climate change" but "after the recent IPCC report... announced it will license new oil and gas fields in the North Sea."

"This is moral and economic madness," the group declared, citing United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres' recent speech about the IPCC report—during which he also said that "climate activists are sometimes depicted as dangerous radicals. But the truly dangerous radicals are the countries that are increasing the production of fossil fuels."

In addition to the scientists' action targeting BEIS, XR members on Wednesday occupied the London headquarters of oil giant Shell to demand a meeting with CEO Ben van Beurden. Multiple activists glued themselves to the reception desk and the building's entrances, according to the group.

"The U.N. secretary-general has openly called out politicians and business leaders as liars," said XR's Tim Jones in a statement. "Shell is one of those liars. Rather than rapidly transitioning to renewables as it claims, it is continuing to make unspeakable profits from oil and gas—$19.3 billion last year."

"I am here to beg the employees of this company, who I am sure are good, caring people, to look at what they are doing, to look at this machine they are a part of, and consider what needs to change," Jones added. "Please, everybody, come with us: Walk away from a company leading us to destruction. It's not too late."


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