Non-governmental organizations and the environmental movement: Challenges in climate change framing

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

Abstract / Description of output

Non-governmental organizations are important players in the making, shaping, and implementation of climate policies and practices. They campaign at coal mines and fracking sites, and they devise ways to exert pressure at international climate talks and they seek to influence public opinions around climate issues. Across the world, New Climate Movement groups (such as Extinction Rebellion) have appeared in the last few years focusing on non-violent direct action techniques such as sit-ins and road blocking. But even these groups, whose public profile is so confrontational, seek to show that scientific evidence is on their side. This is because climate policies depend on claims about changes in the atmosphere and oceans which usually need to be detected and measured through scientific means. This close relationship to scientific evidence confers advantages on environmental NGOs but can be a source of difficulties too – for example, if evidence takes a long while to produce or if campaigners want to disagree with scientific experts on other topics (on nuclear power or GMOs for example). Accordingly, environmental NGOs have experienced some ambivalence about their ties to scientific results, and found some alternative platforms for their campaigns. They may simply pick up on governmental climate targets and try to hold governments to their commitments (without specifically raising the question of the correctness of those commitments). Or, they may look at ways of avoiding carbon emissions by, for example, getting universities and colleges to avoid investing in coal or fossil fuels. Furthermore, in initiatives such as the famous school strikes and Fridays for Future, campaigners focus on generational differences. University students and all younger people were likely not born at the time of the last major climate treaty (the Kyoto Agreement) so this generation can reasonably deny the climate guilt of many of their forebears. Nonetheless, these campaigns too tend to assign a central role to science. And (older) current political leaders are attacked for not paying sufficient heed to the scientific evidence.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationClimate, Science, and Society
Subtitle of host publicationA Primer
EditorsZeke Baker, Tamar Law, Mark Vardy, Stephen Zehr
Number of pages9
ISBN (Electronic)9781003409748
ISBN (Print)9781032530161, 9781032530178
Publication statusPublished - 13 Dec 2023


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