Climate Change is already harming America

Here is a photo essay from The Guardian that clearly demonstrates how climate change is impacting the United States.

How the climate crisis is already harming America – photo essay

Gina LachmanLast modified on Mon 24 Aug 2020 12.39 EDT

Climate change is not an abstract future threat to the United States, but a real danger that is already harming Americans’ lives, with “substantial damages” to follow if rising temperatures are not controlled.

This was the verdict of a major US government report two years ago. The Trump administration’s attitude to climate change was perhaps illustrated in the timing of the report’s release, which was in the news dead zone a day after Thanksgiving.

The report was the fourth National Climate Assessment (NCA), and is seen as the most authoritative official US snapshot of the impacts of climate change being seen already, and the estimate of those in the future.

It is the combined work of 13 federal agencies, and it warns how climate-related threats to Americans’ physical, social and economic wellbeing are rising, and will continue to grow without additional action.

Here we look at the regions of the US where it describes various impacts, with photography from these areas showing people and places in the US where climate change is very real.

Alaska – unpredictable weather

Children play on melting ice near the Yupik Inuit village of Napakiak on the Yukon Delta.
Children play on melting ice near the Yupik Inuit village of Napakiak on the Yukon Delta. Photograph: Mark Ralston/AFP/Getty Images
The Calving Hubbard Glacier near Yakutak.
The Calving Hubbard Glacier near Yakutak. Photograph: Michael Melford/National Geographic Image Collection

If there was a ground zero for the climate crisis in the US, it would probably be located in Alaska. The state, according to the national climate assessment, is “ on the front lines of climate change and is among the fastest warming regions on Earth”.

Since the early 1980s, Alaska’s sea ice extent in September, when it hits its annual minimum, has decreased by as much as 15% per decade, with sea ice-free summers likely this century. This has upended fishing routines for remote communities that rely upon caught fish for their food.

The thinning ice has seen people and vehicles collapse into the frigid water below, hampering transport routes. Roads and buildings have buckled as the frozen soils underneath melt. Wildfires are also an increasing menace in Alaska,with three out of the top four fire years in terms of acres burned occurring since 2000. The state’s residents are grappling with a rapidly changing environment that is harming their health, their supply of food and livelihoods.

Last year was the hottest year on record in Alaska, 6.2F warmer than the long-term average.

North-east – snowstorms, drought, heatwaves and flooding

Photographs of Snow storms, drought, heatwaves and flooding in the NortheastLeft: A house pushed into marshland almost a month after Hurricane Sandy, in Staten Island in November 2012. Photograph by Adrees Latif/Reuters Right: Sheila and Dominic Traina pose for a photo amid the remains of the house they had lived in for 43 years. Photograph by Mike Segar/ReutersPhotographs of snow covered cars and a flooded roller coaster in the Northeast.Top left: A house pushed into marshland almost a month after Hurricane Sandy, in Staten Island in November 2012. Photograph by Adrees Latif/Reuters Top right: Sheila and Dominic Traina pose for a photo amid the remains of the house they had lived in for 43 years. Photograph by Mike Segar/ReutersBottom left: Snow-covered cars by the Massport Terminal in Boston. Photograph by David L Ryan/Getty Bottom right: A rollercoaster in the Atlantic Ocean after the pier it sat on was destroyed by Sandy. Photograph by Mark Wilson/Getty

The north-east, home to a sizable chunk of the US population and marked by hot summers and cold, snowy winters, is undergoing a major climatic upheaval.

The most rapidly warming region of the contiguous United States, the north-east is set to be, on average, 2C warmer than the pre-industrial era by 2035, decades before the the global average reaches this mark.

These rising temperatures are bringing punishing heatwaves, coastal flooding and more intense rainfall. Snow storms may decrease in number but increase in intensity, while the warming oceans are already altering the composition of available seafood – lobsters, for example, are fleeing north to the cooler waters of Maine and Canada.

High-tide flooding will soak about 20 north-east cities for at least 30 days a year by 2050, scientists predict, with the region also hit by stronger hurricanes and storms. These changes will “threaten the sustainability of communities and their livelihoods”, the national climate assessment warns.

A major challenge for the north-east will be adaptation to this hotter, more turbulent world. As home to some of America’s oldest cities, such as New York and Philadelphia, the region has plenty of ageing, inefficient housing that ill-equipped to deal with extreme heat.

Northern Great Plains – flash droughts and extreme heat

A lone lodgepole pine in the Beaverhead-Deerlodge national forest in Montana.
A lone lodgepole pine in the Beaverhead-Deerlodge national forest in Montana. Photograph: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Water is the crucial issue in the northern Great Plains, a vital resource largely provided by the gradual melting of snowpack that builds up in the colder months.

Rising temperatures are set to increase the number of heatwaves and accelerate the melt of snow, leading to droughts. At the same time, rainfall intensity is growing, with downpours in winter and spring to increase by up to a third by the end of the century.

This is set to lead to a see-sawing effect where severe droughts will be interspersed by flooding, a scenario that played out in 2011, when major floods were followed by drought in 2012. This, the national assessment states, represents a “new and unprecedented variability that is likely to become more common in a warmer world”.

Midwest – heavy rains and soil erosion

Photographs of droughts and flooding in the Midwest.Left: Part of a skeleton of a dead cow lies on parched grasslands on the plains of eastern Colorado. Photograph by John Moore/Getty Right: Floodwater surrounds a farm near Craig, Missouri. Photograph by Scott Olson/Getty

The US midwest, home to 60 million people, is the agricultural heartland of the country, growing the bulk of corn, soy and other commodity crops produced on US soil.

The climate crisis is starting to play havoc with established farming routines, however, with increasing heat and pounding rainfall causing the erosion of soils and introduction of harmful pests and diseases. Overall yields are set to drop, with the productivity of the midwest set to drop back to 1980s levels by mid-century.

Forest health is declining, while the extra heat is helping spawn algal blooms in lakes that can effect tourism. The Great Lakes, which contain 20% of the world’s surface fresh water, are experiencing a decline in seasonal ice cover and growing loss from evaporation.

Worsening air quality, again caused by the heat, is expected to cause up to 550 extra deaths a year in the midwest by 2050.

South-east – flooding in Louisiana

A flooded yard in Intracoastal City in the aftermath of Tropical Storm Barry last year.
Downed trees and power lines in Panama City following Hurricane Michael in 2018.
Top A flooded yard in Intracoastal City in the aftermath of Tropical Storm Barry last year. Photograph: Seth Herald/AFP/Getty Bottom Downed trees and power lines in Panama City following Hurricane Michael in 2018. Photograph: Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images

Communities in the south-east are set to suffer the largest losses from climate change, research has suggested, due to its existing racial and economic disparities. Soaring temperatures, rising humidity and a raft of new diseases are expected to fall heaviest on poorer people and people of color.

Cities such as Birmingham, New Orleans and Raleigh are experiencing more and longer heatwaves, with diseases such as West Nile expected to spread in the region as mosquito activity increases.

Huge hurricanes such as Irma, which slammed into Florida in 2017, are “expected to become more common in the future due to climate change”, the national assessment warns, with

Southern Great Plains – Hurricane Harvey

Photographs of flooding from Hurricane Harvey in Texas.Left: People wait to be rescued from their flooded homes after Hurricane Harvey, August 2017. Photograph by Joe Raedle/Getty Right: A driver abandons his truck in Houston. Photograph by Brendan Smialowski/Getty

Hurricane Harvey’s landfall on the Texas coast in 2017 was “one of the costliest natural disasters in US history”, the national assessment said. It ravaged Houston, America’s fourth largest city.

Estimates of the economic impact of the hurricane, which tore through the Caribbean, Texas and Louisiana, have been at least $90bn in loss of property and livelihoods. It was also the cause of scores of deaths.

Some new research earlier this year, based on a radical assessment, put the price tag directly linked to climate breakdown, which is making hurricanes stronger, at $67bn, far more than the previous estimates of a $20bn loss attributable to climate change, rather than natural weather conditions.

The storm made landfall 200 miles from Houston and dropped as much as 60in of rain over parts of the metropolitan area. It killed at least 68 people and flooded more than 300,000 structures in south-east Texas alone.

Harvey was Houston’s third serious flooding event in as many years.

South-west – drought in the Colorado river basin reduced Lake Mead by more than half since 2000

Aerial photograph of high tide in the Sea of Cortez flooding the dry Colorado River delta.
High tide in the Sea of Cortez floods the dry Colorado River delta. Photograph: Pete McBride/National Geographic Image Collection

The US south-west is experiencing a boom in its population, placing even greater stress on its overstretched water resources.

The Colorado River is a critical water supply for seven states but is suffering from years of overuse to irrigate crops as well as a reduction in flow coming from the gradual melting of snow as rising temperatures shrink the snowpack. The volume of water in Lake Powell and Lake Mead, two critical catchments, has dropped by half in the past two decades.

Fire has long been part of this landscape, but the climate crisis is fueling larger outbreaks, with scientists estimating the area burned in the US west since the 1980s was double what it would have been had humans not heated up the planet. These wildfires can often turn deadly, as seen in 2018 when fires in California razed the town of Paradise and threatened coastal communities.

North-west – wildfire increases and associated smoke

Photograph of firefighters monitoring a fire in California.
A man evacuates horses as the Easy Fire approaches on October 30, 2019 near Simi Valley, California.
Top Firefighters battle a wildfire in Ventura. Photograph: Mario Tama/Getty Bottom A man evacuates horses near Simi Valley. Photograph: David McNew/Getty Images

The north-western corner of the US is renowned for its clean air, pristine water and tracts of lush forest, but the climate crisis is beginning to take its toll even here.

Rising heat is reducing snowpack and introducing new pests to the north-west’s forests, threatening the key tourism and timber industries. Commercial fisheries, too, face losses, with the warming of river waters hurting the migration and spawning of salmon.

Air quality is set to decline, with the residents of Seattle given a glimpse of this in 2017 and 2018 when smoke from distant wildfires shrouded the city.

Hawaii and Pacific islands – coral bleaching

Photographs of coral bleaching in Hawaii.Left: A green sea turtle swims near coral in a bay on the west coast of the Big Island. Photograph by Brian Skoloff/AP Right: Fish swim over a patch of bleached coral in Hawaii’s Kaneohe Bay off Oahu. Photograph by Caleb Jones/AP

The sprawling Pacific islands under US jurisdiction are major draws for tourists, but face increasingly perilous conditions as the world heats up.

Increasingly powerful cyclones menace the region, while rising sea levels threaten to bring salt water inundation to places that have limited freshwater supplies. Hawaii, for example, has seen a significant reduction in rainfall over the past century.

The bleaching and dying of coral reefs, caused by the warming oceans, is an unfolding disaster for the Pacific.

Caribbean – hurricanes

The High Rock neighborhood in the eastern part of Grand Bahama Island after Hurricane Dorian caused huge damage in 2019.
Puerto Ricans in San Lorenzo in the river after Hurricane Maria destroyed the town’s bridge, October 2017.
Top The High Rock neighborhood in the eastern part of Grand Bahama Island after Hurricane Dorian caused huge damage in 2019. Photograph: Angel Valentin/Guardian Bottom Puerto Ricans in San Lorenzo in the river after Hurricane Maria destroyed the town’s bridge, October 2017. Photograph: Alvin Báez/Reuters

A large proportion of people on Caribbean islands live near the coast and rely on a narrow climatic range to grow crops such as coffee and mangoes, meaning sea-level rise and soaring temperatures pose a major challenge to people in the region.

Fiercer hurricanes are also a growing threat, as evidenced in 2017 when Hurricane Maria crunched into Puerto Rico, resulting in thousands of deaths, crippling the power grid and causing billions of dollars in damages.

  • This article was amended on 20 August to correct to the preferred term for Inuit people.

A Devastating US ‘Dust Bowl’ Is Twice as Likely Now Than During The Great Depression

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Due to global warming, the United States is today more than twice as likely to endure a devastating “dust bowl” scenario than during the Great Depression, researchers said Monday.Nearly a decade of heatwaves and massive dust storms across the US Great Plains in the 1930s ruined agricultural land and drove tens of thousands of farming families far and wide in search for food and work.”The 1930s Dust Bowl heatwaves were extremely rare events that we might expect to see occur once in a hundred years,” said Tim Cowan, a researcher at the University of Southern Queensland in Australia, and lead author of a study in Nature Climate Change.”Under today’s levels of greenhouse gases, they are more than twice as likely to occur, with their period-of-return reduced to once in around 40 years.”Even in the 1930s, the finger print of global warming was perceptible, although the impact on weather and climate was then extremely small.Nearly a century later, the signature of human-induced climate change is unmistakable, and portends even more dire consequences, said senior author Friederike Otto, acting director of the Environment Change Institute at the University of Oxford.”If extreme heatwaves and drought reduce the vegetation as they did in the 1930s, heatwaves could become even stronger,” threatening global food supplies, she said in a statement.”This scenario is more likely than ever, and should urge us to develop and implement more ambitious adaptation and mitigation plans.”Mitigation refers to reducing the source of greenhouse gases, which are produced overwhelmingly by the burning of fossil fuels.US west in a ‘megadrought’Otto is a world leader in the growing field of attribution science, which uses observational data and simulations based on computer modelling to tease out the impact of global warming from natural variations in weather and climate.Her warning is backed up by research published in March which shows that a multi-year Dust Bowl-type drought in the US could deplete US grain stores and have a cascading effect through the world’s food system.”A four-year decline in wheat production of the same proportional magnitude as occurred during the Dust Bowl greatly reduces both wheat supply and reserves in the United States and propagates through the global trade network,” a team led by Alison Heslin at Columbia University reported in Frontiers in Sustainable Food Systems.By the fourth year of such an event, US wheat exports would fall by half, and the country would exhaust 94 percent of its reserves, they calculated.The year 1936 still holds the record for the hottest year in the continental United States, but the country is tracking toward ever-warmer summers.A study last month in the journal Science concluded that the western United States has likely entered a period of megadrought – the fourth in 1,200 years – that could last decades, even a century.Globally, 19 out of 20 of the warmest years on record have occurred this century.Average global surface temperatures – including over oceans – have increased by about 1.1 degrees Celsius since the pre-industrial era, the standard benchmark for global warming.© Agence France-Presse

Extinction Rebellion: The New Eco-Radicals

The fiery activists of Extinction Rebellion reject the environmental protests of old for campaigns of mass civil disobedience and disruption

Josh Eells April 1, 2020 10:48AM ET

THE HAGUE, NETHERLANDS, DECEMBER 20, 2019:Several climate activists with eyes painted in their palms during the demonstration.People from several climate organisations gathered with eyes painted on their hands symbolising 'We are watching you'. From there they walked to the Tweede Kamer, to demand radical climate action. In front of the Tweede Kamer, the group Extinction Rebellion carried out the performance Blood of our children is on the governments hands.- PHOTOGRAPH BY Ana Fernandez / Echoes Wire/ Barcroft Media (Photo credit should read Ana Fernandez / Echoes Wire / Barcroft Media via Getty Images)

One Monday morning last April, an Englishman named Simon Bramwell glued himself to a glass door at Shell’s London headquarters and refused to leave.

Bramwell, 47, is a co-founder of Extinction Rebellion, a two-year-old climate-activist group dedicated to the belief that real change will only come through mass civil disobedience. For the next 10 days, XR, as the group is known for short, launched a series of coordinated actions targeting several sites throughout London — blocking traffic outside the stock exchange, interrupting train service at Canary Wharf, and generally bringing the city’s business to a snarling standstill.

The atmosphere was more jovial street fair than window-smashing anarchist mob. Activists brought potted trees to the middle of Waterloo Bridge and danced to a samba band while shutting down Parliament Square. More than 1,000 people ended up being arrested — teenage students, octogenarian retirees, teachers, construction workers, doctors and nurses, and a 41-year-old marine biologist who was seven-months pregnant — many of them for the first time.Top articles1/5READ MOREWho’s Zoomin’ Who? Songwriters Try Remote Collaboration in the Social Distancing Era

Extinction Rebellion is part of a new generation of activists treating global warming not simply as an environmental problem, but an existential one — and amplifying their tactics accordingly. Though their public demonstrations are now on hold because of the coronavirus, there is no doubt that they will be back at it as soon as the pandemic passes. With the science growing increasingly dire, and the world’s governments still refusing to act (or worse, denying there’s a problem), marches and calls to Congress, these groups say, aren’t enough. “Unfortunately, people just don’t pay attention to petitions,” says Liam Geary Baulch, 26, an action coordinator with XR. “Movements win by causing disruption.”

Or as another activist put it: “You can have a million people marching each week and no one cares. But you block a road, people take notice.”

XR has positioned itself in explicit opposition to older, more established groups like Greenpeace and the Sierra Club, whom XR views as insufficiently confrontational for the crisis at hand. One of XR’s very first actions was to occupy Greenpeace’s office in London, where protesters delivered cake and flowers to the staff while simultaneously imploring them to up their game. “Failure to do things differently, when everything is failing,” an XR statement said, “can only be described as complicity.”

Greenpeace, of course, is no slouch in the law-breaking department, with a long history of provocative actions and hard-won victories. But even some leaders acknowledge that their more targeted, small-scale approach — while effective — has been outpaced and dwarfed by the sheer enormity of the problem. “The movement has evolved because it wasn’t working,” Annie Leonard, executive director of Greenpeace USA, has said. “The science is stronger than ever, and we’re still losing.” Now, even Greenpeace is starting to take a page from XR’s civil-disobedience book, co-organizing Jane Fonda’s Fire Drill Fridays, in which the actress and her supporters get arrested the first Friday of each month.

At first blush, the concept of a “rebellion” to combat climate change might sound extreme. But given both the incomprehensible scale of the catastrophe and the inertia we must overcome, it also seems almost comically pointless to, for example, stand outside a grocery store holding a clipboard, asking people if they have a minute for the environment. If society is going to change as drastically and urgently as we need it to, some level of painful disruption seems necessary.

But how much? At one end of the spectrum, emails and petitions seem too easy to ignore. But disrupt too much — start getting people fired because they can’t make it to work on time, or prevent an ambulance from reaching a hospital — and you risk turning off the exact people whose support you need. What, then, is the proper degree of nuisance for a climate activist? How far is too far — and how far is not nearly far enough?

In some ways, this new breed of aggressive climate activists hearkens back to the earliest environmental radicals who broke the law in defense of the planet. Although groups like Earth First! and the Earth Liberation Front had much narrower goals (wildlife conservation, stopping animal testing) and much more destructive tactics (vandalism, firebombing), the challenge they faced was more or less the same. “It is not enough to write letters to congressmen, deliver sermons, make speeches, or write books,” author and activist Edward Abbey wrote way back in 1983. “The Earth that sustains us is being destroyed.… We need more heroes and heroines — about a million of them.”

“Yes … we must continue to take part in political action,” Abbey added. “But at some point we must also be prepared to put our bodies on the line.”

Extinction Rebellion was started in Stroud, a quaint, bohemian town (population 30,000) in the rolling hills of southern England. Several members had roots in the Occupy movement; others were vets of anti-fracking and air-pollution campaigns. But they all agreed that what they’d been doing wasn’t working. They devised a name for their group that would be alarming on purpose, to jar people out of complacency. For a logo, they chose the extinction symbol: an hourglass, as in, time is running out.

“I think [XR] really came out of a sense of frustration and a deep grief that so many different environmental groups had tried so many things, and it’s still getting worse,” Baulch says. “Maybe it’s time to take bigger risks.”

From the start, the group set out to adopt the so-called civil-resistance model — forcing change by peacefully breaking the law. According to its research, history’s most successful mass uprisings — from the American civil rights movement to the British suffragettes to the Arab Spring — had some key things in common. First, they were absolutely nonviolent. Second, they involved a critical mass of people gathering in a capital city, where the media and power reside. And third, they broke the law and got arrested.

“Politicians seem to be much more afraid of large numbers of people getting arrested than a small number of people doing a higher-risk thing,” says Baulch. “The idea was, how can we get people to move from being concerned, to saying, ‘I’m going to make a sacrifice. I’m going to risk legal action and sit down in the road.’ In a way, we were lowering the bar for entry by saying you don’t need special skills like driving a boat. So rather than have people saying, ‘Oh, those environmentalists over there, they’re really brave, they’re doing it for us,’ this was about ‘How do we make this everyone’s concern? How do we make it so everyone is implicated.’”

“There’s something materially different about going on a march on a Saturday morning versus going out and getting arrested,” says Clare Farrell, 37, another XR co-founder. “It’s about calling out the government — saying the social contract is broken, and this is a dereliction of your primary duty to protect your citizens.”

XR’s strategy is most fully laid out in a manifesto by co-founder Roger Hallam, called Common Sense for the 21st Century. Hallam, a 53-year-old organic-farmer-turned-academic, did his doctoral work on the history of civil disobedience and radical movements — from Gandhi and the struggle for Indian independence to the revolution in Ukraine. (He’s joked that he has a Ph.D. “in how to cause trouble effectively.”) “We have to be clear,” Hallam has written. “Conventional campaigning does not work. Sending emails, giving money, going on A-to-B marches. Many wonderful people have dedicated years of their lives to all this, but it’s time to be honest.… You cannot overcome entrenched power by persuasion and information. You can only do it by disruption.”

“We need to get arrested,” Hallam writes in his book. “Tens of thousands of us. No more protests or petitions. Instead, nonviolent disobedience, lots of it and on a large scale. Close down cities until the politicians take action.”

XR’s public debut came in October 2018, when a few dozen activists, including Greta Thunberg, gathered in front of a crowd of 2,000 at the U.K.’s Parliament and issued a “Declaration of Rebellion.” They had three demands: First, that we as a society collectively tell the truth about how fucked we are. Second, that the government commit to reducing greenhouse emissions to net-zero by 2025. And third, that Britain establish a democratic Citizens’ Assembly — free from corruption and special interests — to best decide how to deal with the threat of climate change.

Baulch was one of a dozen XR activists arrested that day. “It was really important that we showed our strategy from the beginning,” he says. But it was six months later that XR truly entered the mainstream, with its massive protests in April 2019. Tens of thousands of regular people, from elementary schoolers to nonagenarians, helped lock down locations throughout London. “To be honest, I didn’t think we’d be able to occupy any of the sites for more than a day,” Baulch says. “And somehow we managed to occupy all of them for at least a week.”

The campaign cost London more than $20 million in police overtime, plus untold millions more in lost productivity. The action won huge attention for XR and, more important, widespread public support. Within a month, Parliament had given into their first demand and declared a climate emergency.

There are three key things to note about the civil-resistance model as practiced by XR. First, it isn’t all doom and gloom. The actions are planned to be fun and inviting, so people want to participate. “We try to think about how can we disrupt these roads in the most nonviolent, loving way possible,” says Baulch. “Crowds of people planting trees, singing songs, and waving colorful flags look inviting, as opposed to a purely angry mob.” As Hallam writes, “The general atmosphere should be: ‘We’re going to take down the government and have fun doing it.’”

Second, the actions are designed to be disruptive, but not too much. For instance, XR canceled plans to shut down Heathrow airport, and it tries to work with police in advance to make sure it isn’t blocking emergency routes or risking the public’s safety. The goal is to find the sweet spot at which XR is not endangering or alienating people yet still causing enough headaches that it can’t be ignored. “The process of political change involves people getting pissed off,” Hallam once said. “So the key issue is not whether they get pissed off, it’s whether them getting pissed off leads to attitude change.”

Finally, and perhaps most important, civil resistance doesn’t require a majority in order to be successful. According to XR, there’s a tipping point at which a movement’s momentum will carry it to success. “We should not make the mistake of thinking ‘the people have to rise’ in the sense of the majority of the population,” Hallam writes. “We need a few to rise up, and the rest will be willing to ‘give it a go.’”

This strategy is based in large part on the work of Harvard professor Erica Chenoweth, the co-author of a book called Why Civil Resistance Works. Chenoweth studied more than 300 movements since the turn of the 20th century, and according to her research, the magic number for success is surprisingly small: only 3.5 percent. Which is to say, every nonviolent movement she looked at that had the active participation of just 3.5 percent of the population was a success.

In other words, if just a few hundred thousand people can mobilize in New York City, it might be enough to spark massive structural change. “There’s lots of people who disagree with what we do,” says Baulch. “But you don’t need the whole population to act. You just need a majority of the population to not be against you.

“If you look at the polling that was done after our big rebellion in April,” he adds, “you saw a huge increase in the number of people in the U.K. who thought climate change was one of the top issues we need to focus on right now. And you saw the media start to cover climate change as if it’s an emergency. So even if people disagree with our tactics, they still might realize, ‘Oh, shit. I actually do want my kids to have a future.’”

Extinction Rebellion is growing worldwide, with nearly 800 branches in more than 57 countries. Here in the U.S., where there are dozens of chapters from Montana to Miami, XR members in New York shut down Times Square last October, and more than 60 people were arrested. A good start — though far from a revolution.

Stateside, the most successful new group is the Sunrise Movement — a self-described “army of young people” taking a more traditionally political route. Sunrise, which was born in 2013 inside a borrowed office at the D.C. chapter of the Sierra Club, grew out of the campus divestment movement, where students pushed their colleges and universities to stop investing in fossil fuel. It made its first big splash in November 2018, when 51 young people were arrested after taking over Nancy Pelosi’s office and calling on her to support the Green New Deal. A just-elected Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez stopped by to show her support, and the videos went viral.

Sunrise has boomed in part because it’s been savvy about communicating with Gen Z’ers and millennials: The group is fluent in Twitter-speak, handy with memes, and knows how to engineer a viral moment, like a subsequent sit-in at Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s office where the 85-year-old California moderate lectured the kids on political realism but mostly succeeded in winning more converts to Sunrise’s cause.

So far, the movement has devoted most of its energy to organizing politically: pressuring lawmakers, advocating for legislation, and helping get out the vote. In January, Sunrise endorsed Bernie Sanders, and its top priority this year is mobilizing young voters in November. But according to the group’s five-year plan, while 2020 is about winning the election, 2021 will be dedicated to “engag[ing] in mass noncooperation to interrupt business as usual.”

As of a few weeks ago, Extinction Rebellion was gearing up for another worldwide campaign, starting May 23rd — one that it hoped would be even bigger. “We’re calling it a rolling rebellion,” said Clare Farrell at the time. “The goal is sustaining it for six weeks. We’ve done quite well at ringing the alarm. Now we’re focused on mobilizing as many people as possible. Our ambition is to get a million people activated this year.”

Obviously, the coronavirus hit pause on all that. Extinction Rebellion NYC recently announced they were postponing their major spring protests until at least the summer, and for the foreseeable future, XR actions everywhere — like so much of life these days — are migrating online. In late March, Extinction Rebellion UK issued a new set of suggestions for how to mobilize during the pandemic, including growing the movement digitally and planning actions for a drastically changed world. “There will come a time,” a statement read, “for us to be out on the streets together again.”

Dr. Sweta Chakraborty

Presentation at Generations Uniting to Address Climate Change, Virginia Wesleyan University.

Dr. Chakraborty is a Policy and Communications Fellow, Center for Climate and Security, a Member EcoHealth Alliance’s Young Professionals Council and a Board of Directors Member, Serendipity Foundation.