It took hundreds of millions of years for Earth's fossil fuel deposits to form, but mankind has burned much of it in just a couple centuries—in geologic terms, that amounts to an explosion of carbon emissions.
Jane Kleeb is the founder of Bold Nebraska, a grassroots group that opposes the Keystone XL pipeline.
Before I left for Climate Week in New York, I was with a room full of volunteers in Nebraska, painting buffalo hides. Our painting was part of an honoring that will take place with Willie Nelson and Neil Young at the Harvest the Hope concert Sept. 27. The ceremony and the concert will be held near Neligh, Neb., directly on the proposed route of the Keystone XL pipeline.
The next day, I stood with the Cowboy and Indian Alliance—a group of farmers, ranchers and tribes opposing Keystone XL—in New York to ask for permission to be on the land of the Shinnecock Nation, through a water ceremony and exchange of gifts.
We marched proudly in the streets, holding flags, banners and signs from pipeline fighters back home. I marched with a flag displaying my husband’s family cattle brand, to make it clear I was there standing with folks who have deep roots to the land and will not let TransCanada or anyone else think they can walk all over our families.
As I marched in the street, instead of looking up at the massive buildings in New York, I was looking down to see the shoes of all those people marching against climate change and tar sands. Cowboy boots, moccasins, sneakers, work boots and, yes, Birkenstocks. It will take all of us marching together, not only in the streets, but also straight to the voting booth on Nov. 4.
This story was updated at 6:30 p.m. EST.
UNITED NATIONS, New York—From vanishingly small island states to the world's largest carbon economies, leaders of more than 100 countries pledged their support—at least in principle—to a new treaty addressing the global climate crisis. But many of them didn't weigh themselves down with concrete details.
In the session’s signature event, the United States and China said they would do everything in their considerable powers to achieve a binding, universal accord in Paris at the end of next year, but neither President Obama nor Chinese Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli set firm targets beyond the commitments they made after the faltering of treaty talks in Copenhagen five years ago.
The delegates also heard from nations who were making much more ambitious declarations, as well as from some who are in much more dire circumstances.
Sweden said it would eliminate its carbon emissions entirely by 2050. Tuvalu, in danger of elimination itself, called for an end to “pandering to the interests of the fossil fuels industry.”
But together, China and America give off half the world's carbon dioxide, and if there is to be a treaty, they will have to reach some kind of detente on its terms.
Yeb Saño is commissioner of the Philippines Climate Change Commission.
No one who was there–and survived–will ever forget Nov. 8, 2013. The strongest storm in the history of humanity devastated Tacloban and many other cities and towns in the Philippines. Three days after Super Typhoon Yolanda hit, I stood on behalf of the Philippines at the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Warsaw. I appealed to the whole world to take urgent action to address climate change.
Yolanda devastated communities and claimed thousands of lives. My own brother A.G. Saño, whose environmental and peace murals have adorned many walls around the country, was in downtown Tacloban when the storm hit. He bravely helped gather the bodies of the dead for several days. He is truly my hero. Every single person who works tirelessly on the ground to make people’s lives better joins the true heroes of our times.
When we talk about heroes and about saving humanity, it means humanity needs saving.
The flags of all its member states flutter outside the United Nations as world leaders gather for a summit meeting on September 23 to help shape a global treaty confronting the climate crisis. But not all of those nations have caught the same wind.
Neither the prime ministers of Canada nor Australia will speak at the summit, and the subordinates they have sent will not be offering the kind of “bold” new steps that UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is seeking on the way to a treaty in Paris late next year.
Instead, these two governments, with their energy-rich domains sprawling across opposite ends of the earth, will present strikingly similar defenses against what much of the rest of the world is offering. And their stance is earning them opprobrium among advocates of strong and immediate action.
While a consensus is forming around setting a price on carbon and urgently converting to a carbon-free economy, Canada and Australia have turned themselves into an axis of carbon. If they attract others, this axis could become a potent force standing in the way of progress toward a universally binding pact.
Dozens of faith leaders from across the globe gathered in New York City on Tuesday to discuss how to engage their constituents in the climate change debate. All acknowledged that religious groups are in a powerful, influential position to push forward climate action in their communities.
"Our political leaders are failing," said Ajarn Sulak Sivarksa, one of the founders of the International Network of Engaged Buddhists. "What sane people would see all of these signs, but not act? We must demonstrate how the world must be."
Charles Komanoff directs the Carbon Tax Center in New York.
This story was updated at 1:15 PM EDT.
Which is mightier—the obstacles to enacting a U.S. carbon tax, or the tax’s unique capacity to drive down global-warming emissions quickly, massively and equitably?
At the Carbon Tax Center we’ve bet on the latter. And our bet will only get better if the climate movement coalesces its advocacy and organizing around a carbon tax.
Making polluters pay to emit carbon isn’t just textbook economics and basic fairness—though it is those things. A carbon tax is the only way for the climate damage caused by burning fossil fuels to be brought inside the arc of individual and societal decision-making that determines how much of those fuels society uses and, thus, how much carbon it emits.
These decisions range from the immediate and quotidian: take transit vs. car, refill at the tap vs. buy bottled water; to institutional and far-reaching: build airplane frames with ultralight composites vs. aluminum, locate in town vs. on the outskirts, contract with a wind farm vs. a coal generator.
Without a tax on carbon emissions, every choice like these―and billions are made daily―will remain so rigged that fossil fuels will never yield their central position in world energy supply—or at least not fast enough to keep climate change from spiraling out of control. But a tax gives us a fighting chance to keep climate tipping points at bay and stave off global warming’s most dire effects.
For as long as scientists and policymakers have been grappling with climate change, they've been up against two critical questions: How much extra carbon has mankind sent into the atmosphere? And how much more can be added before global warming becomes disastrous?
Climate researchers have spent decades tracking and quantifying the complex flows of carbon into and out of the atmosphere, but those questions couldn't be answered convincingly until 2009. That's when a group of European scientists published a groundbreaking and highly credible global carbon budget that filled the information void. Using a comprehensive climate model, the scientists determined the maximum amount of greenhouse gases mankind could send into the atmosphere without triggering catastrophe—and then found that more than a quarter of that budget had been spent by 2006.
InsideClimate News spent Sunday covering the People's Climate March. This story was last updated at 4:45 PM.
NEW YORK—They took the A train—or the B, C, or D, or the 1 or the 2. They piled off buses and ambled across Central Park. All along the Upper West Side, from Columbus Circle at 59th for at least 30 blocks north, the crowd poured in for what organizers had billed as the biggest public demonstration ever to push for action on the climate change crisis.
By midafternoon on Sunday, it was clear that prediction had been fulfilled. The crowd was so thick, and moving so slowly, that marchers at the rear of the line were fretting that if they made it in time to their bus pick-up spots on 34th Street it would be a miracle indeed. They had more than 50 blocks to go, and there were an estimated 310,000 people in front of them.
The marchers had started to assemble in mid-morning, and all afternoon they marched, danced, chanted, jostled and cheered themselves along.
At Columbus Circle they flowed by at a rate of about 10 people per second for hour after hour, holding signs and boogying to brass bands. Thirteen blocks uptown at 72nd Street pedestrian gridlock reigned supreme, as people who had hiked across Central Park lined up, waiting to join those already packed in place.
Next week will be a big one for climate change activity—and InsideClimate News will be there covering it.
Activists from more than 1,000 organizations will march through midtown Manhattan Sunday, Sept. 21 to call on world leaders to act on global warming. The event, known as the People's Climate March, is expected to be the largest gathering of disparate interests in the history of the climate movement, with estimates ranging as high as 100,000 people.
InsideClimate News will be there on the ground, providing breaking news updates, videos and pictures throughout the day. We'll travel with protesters as they stream into the city. We'll watch as the march route gets assembled and stay until the last buses leave. You can find the latest news from our reporters at InsideClimateNews.org, and on Twitter and Facebook.