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Extinction Rebellion and the Birth of a New Climate Politics

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Not that long ago, you could count on the world’s Establishment institutions to give you a comforting if mistaken assessment of the risk of climate change. You could choose to see those demanding radical action to take hold of global warming as, by definition, extremists. And you could be reassured by the fact that none of the planet’s most powerful “responsible” parties were really freaking out much about the state of the crisis.

Somewhat all of a sudden, that is no longer the case. Very much no longer the case. Last week, the power company PG&E preemptively cut power to 700,000 Californians to cut down on wildfire risk (at least one man using a breathing machine has died) and the San Francisco airport announced its intention to build a $587 million seawall to protect the airport from flooding. You probably haven’t heard much about it, but the Army Corps of Engineers has developed a preliminary plan to build a 30-foot seawall to entirely enclose New York harbor, and last week the state of Arizona announced that Pinal County, which includes parts of greater Phoenix and greater Tucson, does not have sufficient groundwater to support its growing population. This summer, the U.N.’s secretary-general, António Guterres, called climate change “a battle for our lives.” Joe Biden, whom climate activists consider the Democratic candidate for president most hopelessly retrograde on climate, says it is an “existential threat.”

This story began with the U.N.’s “Doomsday” IPCC report from last October, which produced an unprecedented wave of protest movement — Greta Thunberg and her school strikes being only the most global example. The two global strikes she helped organize last month, bracketing the feckless U.N. Climate Action Summit, drew over 7 million protesters. Earlier this month, in Bolivia, as many as 1.5 million marched in the streets of Santa Clara to protest Evo Morales’s indifference to wildfires — roughly 10 percent of the country’s population, an astonishing show of climate anxiety, though it went almost uncommented-upon in American media.

One striking feature of........

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