Science Museum event targeted by Extinction Rebellion and Greta Thunberg over fossil fuel sponsors - Extinction Rebellion UK

Science Museum event targeted by Extinction Rebellion and Greta Thunberg over fossil fuel sponsors

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This evening (Thursday, 1 February) protesters from Extinction Rebellion, including medical doctors and scientists, targeted a panel debate organised by the Science Museum on scientific predictions for 2024 [1]. They were joined by climate activist Greta Thunberg who had just left the first day of her trial at Westminster Magistrates court [2].

For the duration of the sold out event a member of Health for XR [6] stood next to the panellists in silence, holding a banner saying “2024 – MORE DROUGHTS, FLOODS AND DEATHS FUELLED BY SCIENCE MUSEUM OIL AND COAL SPONSORS”.

The event became chaotic when the museum’s Science Director Roger Highfield started talking about climate change and he was challenged from the floor by a restive audience over his hypocritical support of the museum’s coal sponsor, Adani. 

While the organisers tried to bring the event to an end, not allowing questions, Greta was forced to shout from the audience to challenge the museum’s partnership with coal giant Adani for their role in the escalating climate crisis: “The science is clear. During an escalating climate crisis, is it responsible for a public body like the Science Museum to invite Adani to sponsor its Energy Revolution gallery? Adani has just invested 16 Billion Australian dollars in a new coal mine and, as your own due diligence revealed, is accused of environmental crimes, human rights abuses and corruption.”

Highfield refused to answer Greta’s question and left with the other panellists to a chorus of “Shame On You!

At the start of the event, Dr Katherine Fallon, a retired GP from Cheshire announced that the activists did not intend to stop the debate but intended to remind the audience and the panel of experts that the Museum’s sponsors BP, Equinor and Adani were still investing in new oil, gas and coal projects, despite advice and warnings from climate scientists [3], the International Energy Agency [4] and the United Nations [5] that this is incompatible with keeping global average temperature rise within the Paris Agreement target of 1.5°C.

Fallon said: “We love the Science Museum but we are here to protest against the museum accepting sponsorship from companies that are planning to continue new expansion of fossil fuels. You do not have to be a rocket scientist or a doctor to know that in 2024, fossil fuel induced climate change will bring more droughts, floods and deaths. Despite advice from climate scientists, the Science Museum sponsors, Adani, BP and Equinor carry on drilling for new coal, oil and gas, bringing misery, death and extinction to the world.”

Dr Kush Naker, infectious disease specialist from London who took part in the action said, “As a doctor it is my responsibility to warn people when their health is being threatened. The sponsors of the science museum are the greatest threat to the health of my patients. They are polluting the air we need to breathe, driving famines, droughts, and the spread of deadly infectious diseases. Accepting money from these companies is totally unacceptable, and that is why I am part of this protest.”

A letter was sent to all the Science Museum panellists in advance, asking them to reconsider their participation. As a consequence, award-winning science presenter and Associate Lecturer in Theoretical Astrophysics at the University of York, Dr Emma Osborne withdrew from the event “Time: all an illusion” taking place the same evening [7]. By doing so, she joins a group of scientists and artists who have previously pulled out of events [8], organised by the Science Museum, to protest against the management decision to continue accepting sponsorship from fossil fuel companies. 

This protest comes at a time when the UK is starting to feel the consequences of climate change [9], with more frequent and more severe flooding, affecting thousands of homes, infrastructure, farmland and wildlife; something [10] that other less fortunate countries have had to endure for years. As the impact of climate change intensifies, an increasing number of pressure groups are asking the Science Museum to cut ties with fossil fuel companies [11].

Dr Tristram Wyatt, Senior Research Fellow, University of Oxford, and member of Scientists for XR [12] who also took part in the event added “As we have seen this evening, the public is starting to join the dots. It’s not acceptable for the Science Museum to provide a space for fossil fuel companies to hypocritically claim to be clean energy producers, when the billions they still spend on fossil fuel extraction dwarf their investments in renewables”

[1] 2024: Science Predictions for the Year Ahead

[2] Climate activist Greta Thunberg set London court appearance

[3] Unextractable fossil fuels in a 1.5 °C world

[4] IEA chief slams climate ‘contradictions’ from oil companies

[5] New fossil fuels ‘incompatible’ with 1.5C goal, comprehensive analysis finds

[6] Health for Extinction Rebellion – Climate Crisis = Health Crisis

[7] I’ve decided to withdraw my participation in next week’s panel event in protest to the Science Museum accepting sponsorship from fossil fuel companies

[8] Science Museum cancels event as speakers withdraw over fossil fuel sponsorship

[9] UK and Global extreme events – Heavy rainfall and floods

[10] Mapped: How climate change affects extreme weather around the world

[11] The Science Museum faces a barrage of opposition over its stance on fossil fuel sponsorship

[12] Scientists for Extinction Rebellion

About Extinction Rebellion

Extinction Rebellion (XR) is a decentralised, international and politically non-partisan movement using non-violent direct action and civil disobedience to persuade governments to act justly on the Climate and Ecological Emergency.

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Time has almost entirely run out to address the climate and ecological crisis which is upon us, including the sixth mass species extinction, global pollution, and increasingly rapid climate change. If urgent and radical action isn’t taken, we’re heading towards 4˚C warming, leading to societal collapse and mass loss of life. The younger generation, racially marginalised communities and the Global South are on the front-line. No-one will escape the devastating impacts.

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