The activists, part of a climate change group called Extinction Rebellion that’s been staging protests throughout the city since last Monday, shut down the tube when they climbed atop a train in London’s Canning Town station in the middle of the morning rush hour to display a banner that read “Business as usual = death.”
Initially, commuters on the crowded platform waited patiently. A few of them hurled insults at the activists. One woman shouted, “The world is not coming to an end!”
But eventually the crowd grew restless—no doubt because most of them were trying to get to work—and forcefully pulled the activists off the train. One of the protesters appeared to be kicked and beaten after he was dragged off the train into a throng of bystanders.
There were similar disruptions at other stations throughout the city, where some activists glued themselves to a train, just as protesters had glued themselves to the ground earlier this week at Trafalgar Square as police tried to clear the area.
Extinction Rebellion vows to “peacefully occupy the centres of power and shut them down.” The group, which promised similar demonstrations in other cities across the world, began staging Occupy-style protests in London last week, and by Monday more than 1,400 had been arrested. Authorities have issued a blanket ban on Extinction Rebellion protests and on Thursday London Mayor Sadiq Khan condemned the group for disrupting public transportation.
Let’s Get Realistic About Climate Change
So far, the protests have been extremely unpopular. A YouGov poll on Thursday found 63 percent sympathized with the commuters who pulled the protesters off the train. Just 13 percent said they support the protesters.
It’s easy to see why. Even if one believes in catastrophic man-made climate change and supports policies to limit or reverse it, there’s only so much the average person is going to do. Skipping work to indulge extremists demonstrating on top of a train simply isn’t an option for most people. Neither is going without electricity or forgoing air travel.
In fact, most people are increasingly of two minds about climate change. On the one hand, they fear it and want something to be done. On the other hand, they’re not willing to do anything extreme. That’s what a recent poll by The Washington Post and the Kaiser Family Foundation found.
The vast majority of Americans — about 8 in 10 — said climate change is man-made, about half said urgent action is needed, and nearly 4 in 10 said it’s a crisis. At the same time, fewer than 4 in 10 said they were willing to make “major sacrifices” or pay for it out of their own pockets.
In that sense, the scene at that train station in London on Thursday morning is really the entire climate change debate in microcosm. When extremist climate change ideology conflicts with the facts of everyday life, like commuters needing to get to work, most people choose the latter.
If people aren’t willing to give up relatively minor things, they’ll never support the radical emissions cuts and structural changes to the economy espoused by advocates of the Green New Deal like Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Maybe that’s because most people know these changes would wreak economic devastation across the world and condemn millions of people to poverty.
Consider the aims of the group behind the London protests. Extinction Rebellion wants the U.K. government to declare a climate emergency, reduce carbon emission to net zero in six years, and form a citizen assembly to oversee the changes. Whether the group will admit it or not, reducing carbon emissions to net zero in six years would devastate the economy of the United Kingdom and plunge it into a pre-industrial dystopia. Simply put, most people aren’t on board with that.
Climate Change Hysteria Is an Insult to Working People
The visceral reaction of these London commuters exemplified one other aspect of the climate change debate, which is the disdain environmentalist elites have for ordinary people, especially for the world’s poor. The protesters believed, implicitly, that the commuters should suffer what they must for the sake of raising awareness about climate change—and they should have no say in the matter.
Here again, the scene at the train station was the climate change debate in microcosm. Those people were going to get on that train, climate activism be damned. In the same way, people without electricity in China and India and the Middle East will do anything to get it. They don’t care whether it contributes to global carbon emissions, their priority is being able to turn on the lights.
Indeed, the only way to reduce emissions on a scale that will appease climate change ideologues is if poor people stay poor. Not only that, but plenty of working and middle class people will have to become poor, whether they like it or not.
No wonder they pulled those guys off the train.
John is is the Political Editor at The Federalist. Follow him on Twitter.