Climate movement

The climate movement is the collective of nongovernmental organizations engaged in activism related to the issues of climate change. It is a subset of the broader environmental movement, but some regard it as a new social movement itself given its scope, strength, and activities.

Banner "System change, not climate change" at Ende Gelände 2017 in Germany.
Countries by Climate change performance Index


The climate movement has rapidly evolved in the first decades of the 21st century, starting as one of the many causes of the environmental movement.

Activism related to climate change began in the 1990s, when major environmental organizations became involved in the discussions about climate, mainly in the UNFCCC framework. In the 2000s several climate-specific organizations were founded, such as, Energy Action Coalition, and the Global Call for Climate Action.

Climate Camp or The Camp for Climate Action. Annual UK environmental and social justice movement. 2006 - 2010 Inspired other direct action camps in Europe, Africa and the US. Climate Camp Scotland re emerges. 2020.

Reclaim the Power 2010 - present.

Mobilization for Copenhagen 2009Edit

The 2009 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen was the first UNFCCC summit in which the climate movement started showing its mobilization power at a large scale. Between 40,000 and 100,000 people attended a march in Copenhagen on December 12 calling for a global agreement on climate.[1] And activism went beyond Copenhagen, with more than 5,400 rallies and demonstrations took place around the world simultaneously.[2]


Camp for Climate Action UK 2006 - 2021 Camp_for_Climate_Action

2014 People’s Climate MarchEdit

The People's Climate March 2014, brought together hundreds of thousands of people for strong action on climate change.

The climate movement convened its largest single event on 21 September 2014, when it mobilized 400,000 activists in New York during the People’s Climate March (plus several thousand more in other cities), organized by the People's Climate Movement, to demand climate action from the global leaders gathered for the 2014 UN Climate Summit.[3][4]

Fossil Fuel DivestmentEdit

As of 2021, 1,300 institutions possessing 14.6 trillion dollars divested from the fossil fuel industry.[5]

Fossil fuel divestment or fossil fuel divestment and investment in climate solutions is an attempt to reduce climate change by exerting social, political, and economic pressure for the institutional divestment of assets including stocks, bonds, and other financial instruments connected to companies involved in extracting fossil fuels.

Fossil fuel divestment campaigns emerged on campuses in the United States in 2011 with students urging their administrations to turn endowment investments in the fossil fuel industry into investments in clean energy and communities most impacted by climate change.[6]

By 2015, fossil fuel divestment was reportedly the fastest growing divestment movement in history.[7] In April 2020, a total of 1,192 institutions and over 58,000 individuals representing $14 trillion in assets worldwide had begun or committed to a divestment from fossil fuels.[5][8][9]

Institutional Climate ActivismEdit

There have been coalitions of institutional investors that have promulgated climate activism.[10] These initiatives have sometimes included expansive group efforts, such as Climate Action 100+ - a coalition over 300 institutional investors (including some of the largest greenhouse emitters).[11] Institutional activism is not uncommon, despite the common assumption that shareholder interests would be averse to such action.[10] However, industry-wide efforts to mitigate climate risks is often in the interest of heavily diversified firms, as climate change can have a strong effect on the global economy.[10]

Climate MobilizationEdit

Since 2014, growing portions of the climate movement, especially in the United States have been organizing for an international economic response to climate change on the scale of the mobilization of the American home front during World War II, with the goal of rapidly slashing carbon emissions and transitioning to 100% clean energy faster than the free market is likely to allow. Throughout 2015 and 2016, The Climate Mobilization led grassroots campaigns in the U.S. for this scale of ambition, and in July 2016, activists succeeded in getting text adopted into the Democratic Party's national platform calling for WWII-scale climate mobilization.[12] In August 2015, environmentalist Bill McKibben published an article in the New Republic rallying Americans to "declare war on climate change."[13]

School strikes for climateEdit

Maximum number of school strikers per country:

School Strike for Climate (Swedish: Skolstrejk för klimatet), also known variously as Fridays for Future (FFF), Youth for Climate, Climate Strike or Youth Strike for Climate, is an international movement of school students who skip Friday classes to participate in demonstrations to demand action from political leaders to take action to prevent climate change and for the fossil fuel industry to transition to renewable energy.

Publicity and widespread organising began after Swedish pupil Greta Thunberg staged a protest in August 2018 outside the Swedish Riksdag (parliament), holding a sign that read "Skolstrejk för klimatet" ("School strike for climate").[14][15]

A global strike on 15 March 2019 gathered more than one million strikers in 2,200 strikes organised in 125 countries.[16][17][18][19] On 24 May 2019, the second global strike took place, in which 1,600 events across 150 countries drew hundreds of thousands of protesters. The events were timed to coincide with the 2019 European Parliament election.[18][20][21][22]

The 2019 Global Week for Future was a series of 4,500 strikes across over 150 countries, focused around Friday 20 September and Friday 27 September. Likely the largest climate strikes in world history, the 20 September strikes gathered roughly 4 million protesters, many of them schoolchildren, including 1.4 million in Germany.[23] On 27 September, an estimated two million people participated in demonstrations worldwide, including over one million protesters in Italy and several hundred thousand protesters in Canada.[24][25][26]

2019 Global Climate StrikeEdit

Protest attendee numbers from 20–27 September 2019, by country.
  Small protests, unclear numbers

The September 2019 climate strikes, also known as the Global Week for Future, were a series of international strikes and protests to demand action be taken to address climate change, which took place from 20–27 September 2019. The strikes' key dates were 20 September, which was three days before the United Nations Climate Summit, and 27 September.[27][28] The protests took place across 4,500 locations in 150 countries.[29][30] The event is a part of the school strike for climate movement, inspired by Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg.[31][32] The Guardian reported that roughly 6 million people participated in the events,[33] whilst—a group that organised many of the protests—claim that 7.6 million people participated.[34]

The 20 September protests were likely the largest climate strikes in world history.[35][36] Organisers reported that over 4 million people participated in strikes worldwide,[35] including 1.4 million participants in Germany.[37][38] An estimated 300,000 protesters took part in Australian strikes,[39] a further 300,000 people joined UK protests[40] and protesters in New York—where Greta Thunberg delivered a speech—numbered roughly 250,000.[28][36] More than 2,000 scientists in 40 countries pledged to support the strikes.[41]

A second wave of protests took place on 27 September,[42] in which an estimated 2 million people took part in over 2,400 protests.[33][43] There were reported figures of one million protesters in Italy,[44] and 170,000 people in New Zealand.[45] In Montreal, where Greta Thunberg spoke, the Montreal school board cancelled classes for 114,000 of its students.[46][47] Hundreds of thousands of people, including several federal party leaders, joined the march in Montreal.[48]

Roles of other movementsEdit

The climate movement is closely connected to other parts of the environmental movement, in particular groups aiming for a sustainable society and sustainable energy. Also, the faith community has been active in the climate movement, both at an interfaith level (such as in Our Voices) and at the specific level of each denomination (such as the Global Catholic Climate Movement). With this movement, new youth international organizations have emerged to join the climate change movement such as Fridays for Future[49] or Extinction Rebellion.[50]


These are several approaches that have been used in the past by climate advocates and advocacy campaigns:

  • the provision of information,
  • framing of information about aspects of global climate change, and
  • challenging the terms of political debates.

All three of these methods have been implemented in climate campaigns aimed at the general public. The information about the impacts of global climate change plays a role in forming climatic beliefs, attitudes, and behavior, while the effects of other approaches (e.g. provision of information about solutions to GCC, consensus framing, use of mechanistic information) is yet mostly unknown.[51] The third approach is to create space for discussions that move beyond questions of economic interests that often dominate political debates to emphasize ecological values and grass-roots democracy. This has been argued to be crucial to bringing about more significant structural change. [52]

Climate disobedienceEdit

Climate disobedience is a form of civil disobedience, deliberate action intended to critique government climate policy. In 2008, American climate activist Tim DeChristopher posed as a bidder at an auction of US Bureau of Land Management oil and gas leases of public land in Utah, won the auction, reneged on payment, and was imprisoned for 21 months. In September 2015, five climate activists known as the Delta 5 obstructed an oil train in Everett, Washington. At trial, the Delta 5 were allowed the necessity defense, that is, breaking a law in the service of preventing a greater harm. After testimony, the judge determined the grounds for the necessity defense were not met and instructed the jury to disregard testimony admitted under the necessity defense. The Delta 5 were fined for trespassing but were acquitted of more serious charges.[53][54][55][56]

The first example of a judge accepting the climate necessity defense was on March 27, 2018 when Judge Mary Ann Driscoll acquitted all 13 defendants of civil charges from a protest held in 2016 in Boston, Massachusetts.[57]

Targeting of activistsEdit

The United States government through its domestic intelligence services targeted, as "domestic terrorists," environmental activists and climate change organizations, including by investigating them, questioning them, and placing them on national "watchlists" that makes it more difficult for them to board airplanes and that could instigate local law enforcement monitoring.[58] Unknown actors also secretly hired professional hackers to launch phishing hacking attacks against climate activists who were organizing the #ExxonKnew campaign.[59]

See alsoEdit


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  2. ^ "International day of demonstrations on climate change". CNN. 26 October 2009.
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  4. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2014-10-14. Retrieved 2014-12-30.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  5. ^ a b "Divestment Commitments". Retrieved 11 April 2020.
  6. ^ Gibson, Dylan; Duram, Leslie (2020). "Shifting Discourse on Climate and Sustainability: Key Characteristics of the Higher Education Fossil Fuel Divestment Movement". Sustainability. 12 (23): 10069. doi:10.3390/su122310069.
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  10. ^ a b c Condon, Madison. "Externalities and the Common Owner". Washington Law Review. 95.
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