WITH their private-school accents and peppermint tea-stained beards, the Extinction Rebellion brigade are an easy target for ridicule. Look up the word “trustafarian” and you may recognise many of those seen gluing themselves to things (including Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn’s fence) over the last week as the climate change protests in London and Edinburgh continue to cause disruption.

London’s Waterloo Bridge, inspiration for The Kinks’ 1967 masterpiece Waterloo Sunset, was blockaded over the weekend, cutting off one of the city’s major arteries. The song’s young lovers, Terry and Julie, would have had a nightmare trying to meet up.

It’s easy to sneer at the seemingly naïve certainty of the (mostly) young protestors, especially the posh ones whose parents probably drive gas-guzzling SUVs round the streets of Fulham. But when you take the time to find out the organisation’s demands, it’s hard to argue against any of it. The messenger might be a bit annoying, but the message itself is valid and deserves credence.

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Basically, the protestors want politicians, governments and institutions to tell the truth about the scale of the disaster facing humanity because of global warming and join together to reduce carbon emissions to zero by 2025. They also want a citizens’ assembly oversee the changes. Granted, zero emissions by 2025 would be very tough to achieve, but they are right to demand drastic action.

It’s not only trustafarians making such demands, of course. School children in Scotland and around the world have been going on strike to protest against the lack of action for months. And anybody who watched Sir David Attenborough’s BBC documentary Climate Change – The Facts last week can be in no doubt as to the depressingly stark realities facing us all, here and now. In the programme Sir David, hardly a hippy, described global warming as “our greatest threat in thousands of years” and outlined how the world faces irreversible change and the collapse of societies.

For at least the last decade his documentaries have focused on how the natural world is struggling to cope with the climate changes forced upon it by humans, whether in the deadly plastics found in the bellies of whales or, as we watched in horror earlier this month, the terrible sight of walruses falling off cliffs to their deaths in northern Russia because so much of the ice there has melted.

If we are horrified by this, we must also accept that if we don’t act now the consequences will be dire, with eco-systems already failing, and floods and droughts forcing mass movements of people around the globe. Inevitably, those who suffer most from climate change and pollution, at home or in developing countries, are and will be the poorest, whether they are losing their homes in sub-Saharan Africa or struggling with bad health and rising food prices in the UK.

For me, then, the biggest question raised by the Extinction Rebellion protests is this: how the heck do we get the vast majority on board with their aims, demanding and accepting the sort of changes needed to make a difference? It shouldn’t only be school kids, posh hippies and 92-year-old naturalists demanding action, it must be the rest of us, too.

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We also need to stop framing climate change, an issue which transcends party politics, as a left-wing cause, especially since business, both big and small, will play such a key role in developing and selling the technological, societal and lifestyle changes that lay ahead of us. As for how on earth we even start to tackle the ire of the motorist, it makes my head hurt just thinking about it. Indeed, the anger expressed by drivers in London last week reminded me of the rage and panic in 2000 when lorry drivers brought the country to a standstill over Tony Blair’s attempts to increase petrol and diesel duties to discourage use of fossil fuels.

We have to face facts – there is no easy and pain-free way to lower emissions. Stopping using fossil fuels is going to be hugely inconvenient for most of us. And we can’t postpone this much longer. But the least we can and should do is demand that the pain and inconvenience is more fairly distributed.

Yes, Scotland has made some progress on green targets and is doing better than many other parts of the UK. But it’s a drop in the ocean. Scottish and UK governments of all political persuasions need agree on and put forward more radical, even brutal policies - free public transport for all, vast expansions in public transport networks, road tolls, plastic taxes – while offering incentives to businesses that come up with greener products and technologies.

At the same time, those of us who have spent our lives contributing the current climate catastrophe, however ignorantly and unintentionally, must now examine our behaviour. If we can’t man the barricades, we must find a way to accept and embrace the pain and inconvenience to come. And, even if we can’t do that, the least we can do is stop mocking those who are genuinely trying to change.