Why Governments Can’t Ignore Global Warming

This past September, a historic number of people gathered across the world to march for climate change. The People’s Climate March took place in Manhattan, London, Berlin, and several other places, gathering hundreds of thousands of people. In Manhattan alone, as many as 400,000 people marched, calling on politicians to take greater action. The marchers ranged from environmentalists to doctors to young children. Labor unions, religious institutions, community activists and universities are just some of the 1,500 groups represented. For example, doctors marched in protest of global health effects of climate because pollution leads to asthma, heart disease and cancer.

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Marchers take to the streets of New York to speak up against fossil fuel pollution. Credit: Moms Clean Air Force

Organizers of the march planned the coincidental timing the UN Climate Summit, in order to affect greater change at the meeting. Politicians and officials themselves took part in the march, including UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and former US Vice President Al Gore. According to the founding executive director of Avaaz, which organized the march, “the solution is clear. It’s to get to a 100% clean energy power society and economy.” This will not be easy to achieve, as the oil and coal industry, as well as politicians who profit from subsidies, revenue and influence, will resist.

However, the change is possible with new green technology. Already, 22 percent of the world’s electricity comes from clean energy. Yet, this is not moving fast enough in order to prevent irreparable damage from occurring. A quarter of the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere comes from industries, and oceans are acidifying ten times faster than ever before. “Each of the last three decades has been successively warmer at the earth’s surface than any other decade since 1850,” reports UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Chairperson Rajendra Pachauri. In fact, we are already nearing the dangerous two degrees Centigrade mark that would result in unacceptable consequences. Ki-moon remarked that the by the end of the century, we must be carbon neutral in order to prevent irreversible future damage.

Given strong public sentiment in favor of cutting back on greenhouse gas emissions, several countries have taken on a new pledge at the UN Climate Summit to make responding to climate change a top priority moving forward. The People’s Climate March proved that this problem is very important to the people, and thus the politicians must respond. Several countries also pledged to give money to the Green Climate Fund. This fund will pool together money from different rich countries to help poorer countries invest in clean energy. Moreover, almost 40 companies and several countries agreed to work towards slowing and ultimately stopping deforestation by 2030. Industries are finally recognizing and contributing to the fight against climate change, which will help encourage more effective carbon mitigation policies.

Despite this progress, many skeptics still question the effectiveness of the People’s Climate March and Climate Summit. “This meeting [by itself] will not solve the problems. This meeting is to raise awareness,” economist Jeffrey Sachs, an advisor to Ki-Moon, told reporters. “Our governments do not take care of the future, they’re short-term, short-sighted.” Whether this is true remains to be seen. However, it is clear that the people care more about solving the climate problem more than ever before. Hopefully our governments will respond accordingly.