Thu, Sep 20, 2018 - Page 9 News List

The masses are mobilizing as the effects of climate change escalate

By May Boeve and Christiana Figueres

This year, extreme weather conditions have ravaged our planet, subjecting vulnerable communities around the world to the ever-increasing effects of climate change. With each passing day, we learn more about — and experience directly — the dangerous consequences of extracting and burning fossil fuels. Floods, droughts and wildfires are becoming deadlier, and weather patterns more severe.

Later this year, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the UN’s scientific task force on the subject, is to deliver its first major report in four years. It is to outline in detail the devastating consequences that await us if we do not keep average global temperatures within 1.5°C of the pre-industrial level.

Despite government and industry commitments, we have already reached the 1°C mark and the effects are terrible. We need urgent change.

Fortunately, immediate action to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions confers immediate benefits. When eight coal and oil-fired power plants were retired in California between 2001 and 2011, the fertility rate in mothers living close to each facility increased within just one year.

To usher in a new era of clean air and better health, communities around the world are speaking out, making it clear to decisionmakers that a fossil-fuel-free economy is what the public wants. They are to continue to demand action to keep fossil fuels in the ground and to deploy more just and sustainable forms of energy.

The science on climate change is sound, the technologies for addressing it are already available and the necessary financing is being mobilized. In addition, a rapidly growing social movement has been inspired by the universal benefits of a clean energy future: People are ready to be the change they want to see in the world.

Rise for Climate, a global mobilization of 250,000 people taking part in more than 900 events in 95 countries took place on Sept. 8. It has set the tone for a series of upcoming political events to address climate change, including this month’s Global Climate Action Summit, the One Planet Summit and the UN Climate Change Conference in Poland in December.

In each case, policymakers will be challenged to recognize the unvarnished reality of the climate crisis and step up their actions to tackle it.

What this international mobilization of cities, civil-society groups, businesses and individuals across five continents shows is that people power works.

It has been the driving force behind civil rights victories from the abolition of chattel slavery to the contemporary movement to secure the rights and dignity of LGBT people, and it has emerged at key moments in the effort to combat climate change — an effort that is very much a part of that larger struggle for justice.

In 2014, the first People’s Climate March in New York brought together 400,000 people and set the stage for escalating interventions around the world in the years to follow. Civil society helped convince world leaders to sign the Paris climate agreement in 2015, and they have brought pressure to bear on the policymakers responsible for meeting national emissions-reduction targets.

Meanwhile, individuals and civil-society groups continue to demand that companies, universities and other institutions divest from fossil fuels and invest in renewable energy. These movements have created the space for forward-thinking politicians to take action.

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