Critics have long argued that climate change protestors cause more harm than good.
But an editorial published by a group of the world's top climate change biologists has found activism actually drives interest in climate change science.
The editorial highlighted how global movements of climate change civil disobedience were playing an important role in increasing public awareness and engagement with issues of climate change.
Lead authors and Global Change Biology editors, Professor Sharon Robinson (University of Wollongong), Professor Pete Smith (University of Aberdeen) and Ms Rhea Bruno (University of Illinois), co-led the analysis looking at trends in reporting of climate change in online and broadcast media.
They found that the keywords "climate action" and "climate emergency" were generally not searched for in the past, but their use increased 20-fold in 2019.
The climate protests have given us hope, that this wave of public opinion is finally enough to produce the change we need.- UOW Professor Sharon Robinson
"As scientists, we are often told we aren't doing enough to publicise the consequences of climate change - as though the reason for a lack of action on climate change is because we have not been compelling enough," Professor Robinson said.
The study shows spikes in search terms such as "climate action" and "climate emergency" accompany major global protests.
"Scientists are always very cautious about being emotive and we have boundaries around displaying concern and using language like 'crisis' and 'emergency', but as the science seeps further into the public domain, particularly through younger generations, it is now something that the public is finally talking about," Prof Robinson said.
Her colleague Prof Smith added that much of the civil action since 2018 has been led by the generation who will be affected most by failure to achieve net zero emissions by 2050.
"A distinctive feature of movements such as the School Strikes for Climate is that they are led by young people, a group that is informed about and accepts the science," he said.
Prof Robinson added the science has been clear to editors publishing and reviewing research on climate change and how it affects life on the planet.
"It has really been a question of how to translate that into action," she said.
"For decades, it has been a political, social and economic issue, and the inaction was quite depressing.
"The climate protests have given us hope, that this wave of public opinion is finally enough to produce the change we need.
"Both science and activism are needed for great societal change. Student movements are giving scientists hope that political and economic change will come."
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