Climate Movements: Changing Course Over the Years - Daily Current Affair Article


  • From the first utterance of the term "global warming" to environmental activism spilling out onto streets around the world, it has took a long time for the common masses to relate, understand and showcase climate activism.
  • Climate activism — often driven by young people — has played a huge role in informing the world about the risks of the climate crisis.
  • The recent times has shown such deterrence towards climate change that even the pandemic situation can't even contain their spirits. For example:
  • Young climate activists involved in the #FridaysForFuture movement have been determined not to allow the worldwide coronavirus lockdowns curb their momentum.
  • The weekly school strikes sparked by Greta Thunberg to inspire action on the climate crisis have moved online — thousands have been involved in virtual events, and in raising awareness about climate change on social media using the #climatestrikeonline hashtag.



  • Scientists on the US President’s Science Advisory Committee, in 1965, for the very first time, put forward concerns about a “greenhouse effect”.
  • The year 1975 witnessed the term “global warming” coming out in the International domain; coined by geoscientist Wallace Broecker — and it took years before the issue reached mainstream understanding.
  • Based on research by some scientists, the year 1988 was designated hottest ever on record — and crucially, linked this rising heat level to "global warming."

Earth Day

  • Inspired by the anti-war movements and to raise awareness of concerns such as pollution and toxic waste, US started the celebration of first ever 'Earth Day' almost exactly 50 years ago on April 22, 1970.


  • The United Nations (UN) , then, launched its Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in 1988.
  • The expert panel was given the job of assessing the developing science on climate change and providing up-to-date information to governments and the famous reports- IPCC's reports- are still to date used as an unavoidable reference point in international climate negotiations.

The Rio Earth Summit

  • The first time that the issues of economy, climate, and international development were considered together was The Rio Earth Summit — an international conference on sustainable development held by the UN in 1992 — established a set of principles for improving and protecting the environment adopted by 178 countries.

The Kyoto Protocol

  • In 1997, developed nations gathered in Kyoto, Japan, to agree on a historic climate plan — it was the first agreement between nations to mandate the reduction of greenhouse gases.
  • The protocol named on the place of agreement "Kyoto Protocol" proposed pledge for industrially-advanced countries to reduce emissions by an average of 5% by the period 2008-12.


  • In the 2000s, large-scale demonstrations calling for action on climate change became regular events.
  • Organisations and International pressure groups such as were established due to rising fuel consumption even though researchers claimed nine of the hottest years ever recorded took place between 2000 and 2019.
  • In 2005, the first Global Day of Action took place during the UN climate talks in Montreal — with people taking part in Canada and around the world, from Bangladesh to Australia.
  • In 2011, student groups in the US and later the UK and around the world began pressuring universities to divest from fossil fuels.
  • As a result, by 2014, 837 institutions and individual investors had committed to divestment, although only 13 of these were US-based. That same year, the University of Glasgow became the first British university to divest.
  • From giant hands pulling down buildings at the 2017 Venice Biennale, to ice sculptures melting outside London’s Tate Modern in 2018, art was fueling climate activism everywhere.
  • August 2018 witnessed Greta Thunberg protesting for inaction on the climate crisis which eventually led to worldwide support and "Fridays for Future" campaign.

Successes of these movements

  • Due to an environmental agreement called the Montreal Protocol, the amount of chlorine and bromine in the atmosphere has been greatly reduced, which has resulted in the overall shrinking of the ozone layer hole.
  • Action to sharply reduce our global warming emissions can greatly curtail the costs of climate change, especially over the longer term
  • The solar industry estimates that it created more than 15,000 jobs in 2007 and 2008, and the wind industry boasts of having created more than 35,000 new direct and indirect jobs in 2008.
  • Reducing our emissions through a shift to cleaner forms of energy will not only help slow global warming but will also improve air quality, reducing the cases of asthma and other respiratory illnesses that result from high levels of ozone and airborne particulates, thus improving the health of the citizens.

Failures of these movements

  • The level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere—280 parts per million before the industrial revolution—is now 400 parts per million.
  • The conference which was supposed to find a replacement for Kyoto—Copenhagen in 2009—was a comprehensive failure.
  • Fossil fuels continued to be used as a major and primary energy source.
  • Occasionally, as with the Montreal Protocol, international cooperation to solve an environmental problem through economic self-denial is successful.
  • Keeping national interests superior to the Environmental issues.
  • From more frequent and extreme weather events to melting glaciers, and rising sea levels.


Bishnoi Movement 1700s

  • In Khejarli, Marwar region, Rajasthan state,a movement led by Amrita Devi along with Bishnoi villagers in Khejarli and surrounding villages, aiming to save sacred trees from being cut down by the king’s soldiers for a new palace.
  • This reflects Indian climate activism even in historical times.

Chipko Movement 1973

  • Chipko movement in the Garhwal Himalayas, shoved aside urban armchair naturalists.
  • Led by Chandni Prasad Bhatt and Sunderlal Bahuguna, it was a people’s revolt against mindless deforestation. And they did it simply by hugging trees when the woodmen came to axe them.

Jungle Bachao Andolan. 1980s

  • Jungle Bachao Andolan, that began in Bihar and later spread to states like Jharkhand and Orissa.The tribals of Singhbhum district of Bihar bubbled up a protest when the government decided to replace the natural sal forests with highly-priced teak, a move that was termed “a greed game, political populism”.

Narmada Bachao Andolan 1985

  • Narmada Bachao Andolan announced the arrival of the India Greens, protesting against destructive development.
  • One of the largest and most successful environmental campaigns, Narmada Bachao Andolan began with a wide developmental agenda, questioning the very rationale of large dam projects in India

Appiko Movement 1983

  • It can be said that the Appiko movement is the southern version of the Chipko movement. The Appiko Movement was locally known as “Appiko Chaluvali”. The locals embraced the trees which were to be cut by contractors of the forest department. The Appiko movement used various techniques to raise awareness such as foot marches in the interior forest, slide shows, folk dances, street plays etc.


  • To help people and species prepare for—and adapt to—the impacts of climate change.
  • Identify actions that help communities and nature continue to thrive in a warming world.
  • To put pressure on the Government to take appropriate actions on the climate issues.
  • To put forward important researches on climate issues.


  • International action against global warming needs to be different. The action required involves a series of domestic economic revolutions—transferring the source of energy from fossil fuels to clean alternatives in a relatively short time. This necessarily involves some sacrifice of national self-interest in the short and the medium term. Immediate, radical cuts in greenhouse gas emissions are expressions not of national interest as commonly understood but rather of national altruism.
  • Progress in combating climate change requires acts of good global citizenship. Only a handful of advanced economies—Germany, Denmark, Norway most notably—have acted thus. Other nations too need to move forward, especially the developed nations need to focus on themselves plus paving way for the developing economies to follow.

● Global Citizen
● India today
● Down to Earth magazine
● The Guardian

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