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Disobedient scientists | S4F AT

by Martin Auer

More and more climate scientists are coming to the conclusion that it is not enough to make the results of their research available to governments, writes Daniel Grossman in the latest issue of the journal nature1. They are outraged and despondent that increasingly dire forecasts and increasingly severe extreme weather events are not prompting the necessary action. As an example, the article cites geoscientist Rose Abramoff and astrophysicist Peter Kalmus, both of whom risked arrest and the loss of their jobs with spectacular actions.

In April 2022, for example, Kalmus and three colleagues blocked access to a branch of the JP Morgan bank in Los Angeles, which invests large sums in fossil fuel companies. He was arrested for criminal trespass. Together with Abramoff, he disrupted an American Geophysical Union conference with a Scientist Rebellion banner. Abramoff lost her job at Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee. Kalmus was only given a warning by his employer, Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

Abramoff's political awakening came in 2019 when she reviewed various chapters of the IPCC report. The neutral tone of the document, which did not do justice to the magnitude of the impending catastrophe, outraged them. On April 6, 2022, she chained herself to the White House fence during a climate protest. She was arrested on the same day as Kalmus on the other side of the continent. Since then, she has carried out 14 spectacular actions, seven of which led to arrests.

These are just two examples of an ever-growing group of scientists who no longer want to be content with publishing their shocking findings in neutral terms in papers and journals. A recently published study by Fabian Dablander (University of Amsterdam)2 found that 90 percent of 9.220 researchers surveyed believe that “fundamental changes to social, political and economic systems are necessary.” For the study, researchers in 115 countries who had published in scientific journals between 2020 and 2022 were surveyed. The survey was sent to 250.000 authors. Study author Dablander admits that there is probably an imbalance in favor of politically minded authors because they would be more willing to fill out the questionnaire and send it back. 78 percent of respondents had discussed climate change issues outside of their colleagues. 23 percent had taken part in legal protests and 10 percent - almost 900 scientists - in actions of civil disobedience. The difference between scientists working on climate issues and researchers in other disciplines is clear: they took part in protests 2,5 times as many climate researchers as non-climate researchers. Climate researchers outnumbered participants in civil disobedience actions 4:1.

Another study by Viktoria Cologna (University of Zurich)3 of 2021 showed that of 1.100 climate scientists, 90 percent had been publicly involved in climate issues at least once, for example through press interviews, briefings for decision-makers or on social media. Scientists often fear that they will lose credibility if they make political statements. But Cologna's study, which also included non-scientists, found that 70 percent of Germans and 74 percent of Americans welcome it when scientists actively advocate for climate protection measures.

Cover photo: Stefan Müller via Wikimedia. CC BY – Activist from Scientist Rebellion, is led away by the police using pain grips after a bridge blockade.

1 Nature 626, 710-712 (2024) doi:

2 Dablander, F., Sachisthal, M. & Haslbeck, J. Preprint at PsyArXiv (2024)

3 Cologna, V., Knutti, R., Oreskes, N. & Siegrist, M. Environ. Res. Latvian 16, 024011 (2021).

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