The Climate of Our Climate—Marching for Action, Jobs and Justice by Marcia Robbins, May 18 2017, 0 Comments

On Saturday, April 29th, more than 300,000 people marched for climate action, jobs and justice in Washington, DC and in 370 cities around the country. The Peoples Climate March marked the 100th day of Donald Trump’s Presidency—the man who holds the power to decide our country’s participation in the landmark Paris Climate Agreement.

This land is your land, this land is my land. From California, to the New York Island. From the Redwood Forest, to the Gulf Stream Waters. This land was made for you and me. -- Woody Guthrie.

At the march, uncertainty hung over the crowds on whether the US will take a leadership role in climate change action and alternative energy innovation, or whether we will retreat into a fossil-fuel filled haze of our past. On an August-like day above 90 degrees Fahrenheit, we walked in DC under a “big tent” of diverse humanity with people of all ages and backgrounds from around the country. 

In DC, the marchers formed various clusters centered around the following:

  • Environmental activists
  • Climate justice advocates
  • Scientists and educators
  • Fossil fuel opposition parties
  • Individual and institutional rights advocates
  • Religious and interfaith groups
  • Kids to elders fighting for the lives of future generations

The Peoples Climate Movement, organizers of the march, is a project of over 50 organizations leading a large coalition of over 500 partner organizations.

Leading off at the Capitol, the mass of people sauntered down Pennsylvania Avenue in the heat to encircle the White House and call for climate action, ending at the Washington Monument. The mood was both festive and deadly serious.

Will the US pull out of the Paris Climate Agreement forged by nearly 200 countries? Seventy-one percent of Americans favor staying in.

On Tuesday of last week, Donald Trump canceled a critical meeting (for the second time), with his White House team to decide if he will make good on campaign threats to pull out of the Paris Agreement on climate. The Obama administration signed this complex agreement, which was negotiated among almost 200 countries over nine years. The accord sets benchmarks for every country.The common goal is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and limit global temperature rise this century to below 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial levels, but to pursue efforts to limit the rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius. As the 2nd leading global producer of greenhouse gases, the US is a critical participant. The law went into effect November 4, 2016, after meeting a threshold of signatories accounting for 55% of global emissions. Currently, 146 countries have signed the agreement, representing 83% of global emissions.

Following last week’s meeting cancellation, White House press secretary Sean Spicer said the US decision on the Paris Agreement would not come until after the Group of 7 (G7) meetings, May 26-27, of the major industrialized countries.

During his campaign last year, Donald Trump said repeatedly that he would “cancel” the Agreement and that climate change is a hoax started by the Chinese.

Reports from various news organizations suggest a split in views among key White House advisors. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Energy Secretary Rick Perry support continued participation in the global accord, along with Ivanka Trump, Jared Kushner and White House economic advisor Gary Cohn. Remaining in the climate agreement may not be a hardy endorsement of the accord, but just an opportunity to stay at the table and renegotiate US terms agreed upon about a year ago.

Advocating in favor of breaking our commitment and pulling out of the accord entirely are Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Head Scott Pruitt, Chief Strategist Steve Bannon and Chief Counsel Don McGahn.

Over 1,000 US companies and investors endorse the Paris Agreement

One thousand companies and investors have now signed the Business Backs Low-Carbon USA statement sent by 365 companies last November to President Obama, then President-elect Trump and Members of Congress. All of the signees endorse the Paris Agreement and promise to do their part to build an energy-efficient and low-carbon US economy. Some of the largest companies ($100 million or more in annual revenues), are urging we remain, including: DuPont, Levi Strauss, Unilever, Hewlett-Packard, Patagonia, Staples, Aveda, Nike, Mars Inc., Tesla, Starbucks, Johnson & Johnson, Eileen Fisher, Salesforce.com, Intel, Hilton, Campbell, Timberland, Gap, eBay, Kellogg and Virgin.

Paris accord will strengthen competitiveness, create jobs, reduce risk

Last week, Apple, Facebook, Google and Microsoft added their voices to some of the companies above in full-page ads advocating to remain in the Paris accord. The ads say the arrangement will strengthen competitiveness, create jobs and reduce business risk.

While not part of the above efforts, ExxonMobil also wants the White House to remain in the Paris Climate Agreement, calling it an "effective framework for addressing the risks of climate change" with the US “well-positioned to compete” under its terms.

The Opposition to Paris

On Monday, May 8, forty conservative groups sent a letter to the White House asking for the administration to pull out of the global climate agreement. These included the American Energy Alliance, a political group believed to be heavily funded by the Koch Brothers.

Over 97% of scientists say climate change is real and human action is contributing to global warming. So, what is our EPA doing?

The debate over climate change is over, except for a strident minority who argue for a false equivalency in a debate that shouldn’t be necessary any longer. Scott Pruitt, Chief of the EPA, was recently appointed to his position and approved by Congressional vote, with full disclosure of his record as a climate denier. As Oklahoma Attorney General, he sued the agency he now runs many times to limit its activities and reduce its authority.

A day before the Peoples Climate March, on April 28th, the EPA replaced its main climate page with "this page is being updated" and began to scrub additional references to climate change from its site—a reflection of the Trump administration's priorities. It has eliminated information present for decades through both Democratic and Republican administrations. The new leadership has deleted reference to President Obama’s Clean Power Plan, which aimed to reduce emissions from power plants—a plan the Trump Administration is rolling back.

On May 5, the EPA fired half of the scientists on an important scientific review board that oversees research of the agency. The scientists may be replaced by industry representatives.

The climate of our climate if we leave Paris

The direction that we travel to collaborate with almost 200 countries on global climate action, and how difficult it will be, depends on the actions of one person, namely Donald Trump. If he decides to revoke our participation in the Paris Climate Agreement, we cede world leadership to China and the European Union on the most critical issue facing the planet.

Our government’s stature will be reduced significantly on the world stage if we do not honor our participation in this global agreement. It will make trust harder to earn when our country pursues trade and defense negotiations, or cooperation on many other issues. While many of our industries, states and cities will not abandon their work to reduce carbon emissions should the US government exit out of the Paris Agreement, their work will be more difficult to manage without a unified governmental policy on climate action.

As one of the many signs waved about during the Peoples Climate March said:

There is No Planet B

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