Watch: Extinction Rebellion Spokesperson: ‘Alarmist Language Works’

Climate activists having their lips taped hold placards as they take part in a 'Global Rebellion extinction protest' in Islamabad on October 9, 2019, as part of a planned series of protests around the world by the Extinction Rebellion movement. (Photo by Aamir QURESHI / AFP) (Photo by AAMIR QURESHI/AFP …
AAMIR QURESHI/AFP via Getty

A spokesperson for the climate change activist organization Extinction Rebellion (XR) said the group makes unsubstantiated predictions of billions of deaths within just a few years because “alarmist language works.”

Grilled by Andrew Neil on the BBC, XR spokesperson Zion Lights found herself admitting there is indeed no scientific basis for claims that billions of people are going to die from climate change.

“I’ve seen some of your activists claim on TV that billions of people are going to die in quite short order. One of your founders, Roger Hallam, said in April, ‘Our children are going to die in the next ten or twenty years.’ What’s the scientific basis for these claims?” Neil asked.

“So, these claims have been disputed, admittedly,” Ms. Lights replied. “There are some scientists agreeing and some scientists saying they’re simply not true but the overall issue is that these deaths are going to happen. We don’t know exact numbers and actually it’s a little bit concerning to focus on just how many deaths. There will be deaths and suffering and any amount is enough as far as we are concerned.”

But billions of people dying, “I don’t know where the scientific validity comes for that. How would they die?” Neil pressed.

“Mass migration around the world already taking place due to prolonged drought in countries, particularly in South Asia, wildfires in Indonesia, the Amazon rain forest, Siberia, you know, the arctic…” Lights said.

“These are all really important problems and they can cause fatalities, but they don’t cause billions of deaths. They don’t mean our young people will all be dead in twenty years,” Neil said.

“Perhaps not in twenty years,” Lights conceded.

“You talk weather-related disasters. There seem to be a lot of them around at the moment and people die from them,” Neil said. “But in the latest figures I’ve seen, 100 years ago weather-related disasters killed half a million people a year. Today’s it’s 20,000 a year. It’s still 20,000 too many but it’s a reduction of 95 percent. It does not lead to the death of billions.”

“You’re scaring people with this rhetoric, aren’t you?” he asked.

“I think there’s a danger of scaring people simply because we’re not taking it seriously enough and people are feeling really desperate that we’re heard on this and unfortunately, alarmist language works,” Lights said.

“But does it work?” Neil asked. “I’ve seen young girls on television crying because they think they’re going to die in five or six years time, crying because they don’t think they will ever see adulthood, and yet there is no scientific basis for the claims that your organization is making.”

“Weather extremes may be on a downward trajectory but scientists are telling us that they will be on the increase,” Lights later declared.

“We’re using language that we feel is appropriate to the situation,” she said.

Neil noted that one critic of efforts to reach a target of zero carbon emissions by 2030 has said that “it would mean the confiscation of petrol cars, state rationing of meat, and limiting families to one flight every five years. Do you agree with that?”

“I agree that we need to do whatever it takes to bring emissions down, to allow young people to have a future, to be able to have some hope for the future,” Lights said.

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